Cost of living latest: Rent prices hit record high; electric blanket warning over shock risk; job centre strikes planned (2023)

Key points
  • Rent prices have hit record highs across the UK
  • Job centre and benefits workers will strike for a total of 20 days over pay
  • Cheapelectric blankets are putting customers at risk of an electric shock
  • Chancellor hints at more 'tough decisions' and economic 'discipline' in the March budget
  • Ian King:We are paying a 'very high price' for elevated energy bills - the reason is two-fold
  • Tom Clarke:400,000 Octopus customers took part in National Grid turn-off scheme on Monday - but is it enough to secure UK supply?
  • Money saving hacks:How to haggle for the best broadband | Saving money on pets| How to ask for a pay rise
  • Live reporting by Brad Young


Nursery fees 'cost more than most people earn, forcing parents out of work'

Nursery fees can be higher than the UK's median income, forcing parents out of work, according to a journalist's analysis.

Jeremy Hunt said workforce expansion was "vital" to business growth during a speech today, but his words may mean little to parents who can't afford childcare.

Sara Benwell took to Twitter yesterday to share her experience trying to find a nursery, with one near her home charging £71 for half a day and £113.60 for a full day.

That adds up to £18,460 part-time annually or £29,536 full-time, the latter of which is more than the median UK salary after tax, she wrote.

"This is critical. It is not just lower earners who are priced out of work by childcare," wrote Ms Benwell.

"Unless the government is prepared to urgently tackle the prohibitive costs of childcare, no amount of letter writing, advertising or empty promises will allow parents (mostly mums) back into the workforce.

"Many people don't choose not to work, they are forced out."


Central bank expected to raise interest rate as recession 'virtually unavoidable'

The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates again on Thursday in one "last hike".

Disposable income is forecast to fall by 3% this year, making recession "virtually unavoidable", according to international bank Investec.

Markets believe the Bank’s monetary policy committee will raise interest rates from 3.5% to 4%.

Financial service group Societe Generale Global Economics predicts it to be the penultimate rise before rates peak at 4.25-4.5%, but Deutsche Bank suggested Thursday would mark the final "forceful" hike.

(Video) Rental crisis: Young people struggling to find homes, some forced out of big cities

Investec made a forecast somewhere in between, anticipating a smaller increase to 3.75% next week, before a 4% peak in March.

Philip Shaw, Investec's chief economist, said: "In the UK, we are set for another year where real household disposable incomes are set to fall by about 3%, which will continue to squeeze spending and make a recession virtually unavoidable."


HS2 will reach central London, promises Chancellor

This morning we reported how HS2's Euston station may not open until 2038 and could be axed completely due to the project's price tag increasing amid inflation (see our 9.57am post).

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has responded to the news, first reported by The Sun, saying he did not see "any conceivable circumstances" in which the high-speed railway would not reach central London.

Asked whether ministers were committed to the Euston station by BBC News, Mr Hunt said: "Yes we are, and I don't see any conceivable circumstances in which that would not end up at Euston."

"And indeed I prioritised HS2 in the autumn statement."


Holidaymakers taking staycations and shorter breaks as wallets tighten

Halfof people are planning to reduce their holiday costs or cut out trips altogether this year, according to a survey.

Around one in six will not take a break and 34% of holidaymakers plan to spend less, with the most popular tactic proving to be staycations, insurer Aviva found.

Others plan to travel outside peak season (26%), shorten their holidays (25%), and eat away from tourist attractions (13%).

Airbnb and online safety experts Get Safe Online have warned holiday bargain hunters to watch out for scams.

Fraudsters use fake holiday adverts and websites to lure people into paying them by bank transfer.

People may want to check whether a company is a memberof the AssociationofBritish Travel Agents.

(Video) Cost of living crisis: UK inflation hits 40-year high of 9%


Got a question on your consumer rights? Facing a financial dilemma? Ask our experts

Whether you're in a consumer-related dispute, have a financial dilemma or simply need advice during the cost of living crisis, our question form is now open above.

Sky News cost of living reporter Megan Baynes will pick a selection to answer.


Delays on tax helpline as deadline for filing returns approaches

If you're self-filing your tax returns, there is under a week until the deadline, 31 January.

And those who are unsure of what to do are facing a 27-minute wait for the HM Revenue & Customs' self-assessment helpline.

This is slightly lower than the average waiting time in December - 28 minutes - a letter from HMRC chief executive Jim Harra in response to the Treasury Committee claims.

It said the self-assessment helpline is exceptionally busy each January, and staff have been redeployed to help HMRC focus on the highest-priority self-assessment calls.

In the letter, Mr Harra said: "Despite our helplines being busy, all callers who need to speak to an adviser can do so but they may have to wait longer than usual for their call to be picked up, or at exceptionally busy times they may have to call back.

"The average waiting time on the self-assessment helpline in December was 28 minutes and so far in January it is 27 minutes.

"Our customers have told us that they prefer not to receive a busy tone when call wait times are long but rather they prefer to be able to choose to wait to speak to an adviser.

"Therefore, we do not routinely restrict the time that callers can choose to wait."

HMRC said yesterday that more than three million people still need to submit their tax return before the 31 January deadline.

Meanwhile, more than eight million taxpayers have already done it.

(Video) ‘It keeps me awake at night’ - how the cost of living crisis is affecting everyday life


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By sending us your video footage, photographs or audio you agree we can publish, broadcast and edit the material.


Rent prices hit record highs across UK - with 'more hikes to come'

Rent prices have hit record highs across the UK, according to Rightmove figures released today.

Landlords asked for £1,172 per month on average outside of London in the last three months of 2022, while inner London renters were told to hand over more than £3,000 for the first time.

Rightmove predicts rent prices will rise a further 5% in 2023, despite competition for rental homes easing, because the imbalance between demand and supply remains high.

"Although the fierce competition among tenants to find a home is starting to ease, it is still double the level it was back in 2019," saidRightmove’s director of property science, Tim Bannister.

"Letting agents are seeing extremely high volumes of tenant inquiries and dealing with tens of potential tenants for each available property."

The real estate company reported some positive short-term changes. The number of people looking for a rental property rose by 7% and the number of available homes went up by 13% compared with December 2021.

But since 2019, the amount of homes available to rent has declined by 38%, and the number of people inquiring about a property to rent increased by 53%.

James Redington, sales and lettings director at Douglas & Gordon, said: "There is no sign of the rental market slowing down due to the continuing imbalance between supply and demand.

"We’ve seen the highest rent increases we’ve seen for decades, and we don’t expect this to slow down in the short term."

Rightmove figures showed the average asking rent for greater London reached £2,480 per calendar month - an increase of 5.8% compared with the previous quarter.

(Video) The European Cost Of Living Crisis!


Job centre and benefit workers to strike for 20 days over pay

Workers at job centres and benefits offices will strike for a total of 20 days over pay and conditions.

The first walkout is set to take place on Wednesday (1 February) by 100,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which says its members are "scraping by on the minimum wage".

Union members from four jobcentres in Liverpool, a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contact centre in Stockport, and a benefits centre in Bolton will stage further strikes between 9 February and 3 March.

"It's a scandal that the government pays its own workforce so little they have to rely on the national minimum wage uplift to get a pay rise," said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.

"There was a time when it would have been unthinkable that civil servants would be scraping by on the minimum wage.

"That low pay blights some sectors of the civil service shows the contempt with which consecutive governments have treated their own workers."

He called on the government to give members a 10% pay rise.

Teachers, university lecturers, train drivers and security guards are also striking on 1 February.


TSB to close nine branches: Is yours on the list?

TSB will close nine bank branches in England and Scotland as customers turn away from in-person banking.

More than 90% of their transactions are currently made digitally, according to the bank.

At the same time, TSB is set to open more "banking hubs" run by the Post Office, where customers can withdraw and deposit cash and make bill payments.

"We’ve looked carefully at some of our branches and we’ve taken the decision to close a small number of them," reads a statement on the bank's website.

(Video) Scottish Government Debate: Programme for Government - 6 September 2022

"But we remain committed to face-to-face services through a branch network that covers the whole country."

TSB will close branches in the following locations:

  • Keynsham: High Street-2 May
  • Evesham:Bridge Street - 4 May
  • Newark:Castlegate - 9 May
  • Pemberton:Ormskirk Road - 11 May
  • Aberfeldy: Bank Street - 16 May
  • Pollok: Braidcraft Place - 17 May
  • Kirkwall:Broad Street - 24 May
  • Luton:Manchester Street - 30 May
  • Banbury:High Street - 31 May


1. Stage 3 Proceedings: Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill - 6 October 2022
(The Scottish Parliament)
2. How's the Fed Feeling? | Bloomberg Surveillance 01/23/2023
(Bloomberg Markets and Finance)
3. Killer Smiles After Father Attacks Him For Killing His Daughter
(ABC News)
4. Scottish Government Debate: Programme for Government – Cost of Living - 7 September 2022
(The Scottish Parliament)
5. Stage 1 Debate: Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill - 4 October 2022
(The Scottish Parliament)
6. Cost of Living Debate: how bad is it going to get?
(Channel 4 News)
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