Soaring petrol costs drive inflation to 30-year high

The UK inflation rate rose to 7% in the year to March, the highest rate since 1992. Pensions for 2022/23 rise by 3.1%, nowhere near. Locally, Alison Henandez has also increased your bill for policing by 4.2%.

No doubt Boris Johnson and the richest man in government, Rishi Sunak, have the matter in hand.

Maybe we should all have a party to celebrate? – Owl

Prices are rising at their fastest rate for 30 years, driven by a sharp increase in petrol and diesel prices.

The UK inflation rate rose to 7% in the year to March, the highest rate since 1992 and up from 6.2% in February.

Prices are rising faster than wages and there is pressure on the government to do more to help those struggling.

The cost of living is expected to rise even further after the energy price cap was increased, driving up gas and electricity bills for millions.

Inflation is the rate at which prices rise. If a bottle of milk costs £1 and that rises by 5p, then milk inflation is 5%.

Fuel had the biggest impact on the inflation rate with average petrol prices rising by 12.6p per litre between February and March, the largest monthly rise since records began in 1990, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This compares with a rise of 3.5p per litre between the same months of 2021.

Diesel prices also rose by 18.8p per litre this year, compared with a rise of 3.5p per litre a year ago.

The rise in the inflation rate was higher than the 6.7% expected by analysts and was also driven up by furniture, restaurant and food prices.

Since late last year, prices have been rising fast as pandemic restrictions have been eased and firms face higher energy and shipping costs which they have passed on to consumers.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is now adding to the pain, as the price of oil and other commodities climb higher.

Russia is one of the world’s largest oil exporters and demand for oil from other producers has increased since the invasion, leading to higher prices.

Although the UK imports just 6% of its crude oil from Russia, it is still affected when global prices rise.

Ukraine and Russia are also the world’s main suppliers of sunflower oil and the war has hit prices.

In the UK, the price of oils and fats for food increased by 7.2% in March, according to the ONS.

The inflation figures for March do not yet reflect the average 54% increase in energy bills that took place from 1 April when the energy price cap was raised.

‘I’m paying £120 more a month for petrol’

Sara Gerritsma, a student from Leicestershire with a partner and six year-old child, said she may have to give up her paramedic degree due to the rising cost of fuel.

The 32-year-old only started the three-year course in October but she has a 2.5 hour roundtrip each day to get to university in Northampton, and her petrol costs have shot up by about £120 a month.

“It would be really frustrating giving up my course. It was a big decision changing my career at 32,” Sara told the BBC.

“But recently we have sat down and gone through everything and thought, can I afford to be a full-time student?”

Sara said the family was also using less energy and has reworked its food budget to save money.

The sharp rise in prices is also putting pressure on businesses.

Paul White, who owns the pizzeria 6/CUT in Manchester, said the increase in the minimum wage, the end of VAT relief, and rising fuel and food prices have all hit his company. The restaurant is also spending £500 more a week on its energy bills.

“We need to find an extra £1,400 a week to cover the costs of everything that’s come on in the last few weeks,” he told the BBC .

He says he will have to put up prices, and is looking to charge each customer about 50p to £1 extra to cover his rising overheads.

But he is also worried people might start eating out less as their budgets are squeezed.

“Next six months there’ll be a lot of [restaurants] shutting down, they won’t be making enough money to cover the costs of everything,” he said.

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Analysis box by Kevin Peachey, Personal finance correspondent

This is no longer a cost of living squeeze, but a financial throttling for many people. Price rises are accelerating and their wages, benefits and pensions are failing to keep pace.

So, at home, families will be discussing how best to cope with this situation, which is expected to last a while.

In the words of the ONS, there were “no large offsetting downward contributions” to the inflation rate. In other words, nothing is getting significantly cheaper.

So avoidance of price rises is impossible. Even if you do not have a car and are avoiding surging fuel costs, lots of other necessities are getting more expensive.

Experts say the only option is trying to budget as best we can, across every part of our lives. Most importantly, they also stress the importance of seeking early, and free, help before falling into unmanageable debt.

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Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, which focuses on those on lower incomes, warned the cost of living crisis would “continue to worsen before it starts to ease at some point next year”.

He said with wages not keeping pace with rising prices, people were facing “the biggest squeeze since the mid-70s.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I know this is a worrying time for many families, which is why we are taking action to ease the burdens by providing support worth around £22bn in this financial year, including for the most vulnerable through our Household Support fund.”

But Labour called on the chancellor to “show the leadership the country needs”.

“Labour has a plan to cut energy bills through a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producer profits. Meanwhile, the Chancellor has increased taxes for working people to their highest levels in 70 years,” shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden said.

Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey called for “unfair tax hikes” to be immediately reversed and said people needed “urgent help” with energy bills.

Cornwall estate sells off homes leaving tenants devastated

One of Cornwall’s grandest estates is selling off a number of properties that some local tenants have called home for decades, leaving them devastated.

Lisa Letcher 

The four properties, located within the 6,000 acre Port Eliot estate, in St Germans, have been put on the market by the Estate trustees’ management team at Savills. All tenants were issued a Section 21 notice on March 24 – extended to three months instead of two.

One resident told CornwallLive that while people are not begrudging the Estate’s decision that it was “totally unexpected” and couldn’t have come at a worse time. It’s as a widespread housing crisis is impacting much of Cornwall. Some of the affected residents have lived in the homes for as many as 20 years.

At least one has stipulated that they believed they were “guaranteed” as long term rentals – having invested thousands into maintenance and renovation of the properties through the years. Savills has however confirmed that all those issued notice were on an assured shorthold tenancy – meaning it can issue notice at any point without giving a reason.

One of those affected said: “I have been a tenant at Port Eliot for many, many years, and I’ve lived in a couple of properties and our understanding at the time was that the trust wouldn’t be selling the properties on. As time has gone by we got a Section 21 notice just pushed through our letterbox a couple of weeks ago to say they are selling our home.

“it was a no fault eviction and basically we had three months to find somewhere else to live and move out so I’m quite aggrieved because we’ve ploughed a lot of money into the house. We spent an awful lot of time making it a nice place and the estate is going to benefit from it basically.”

She explained that she shared her story – believing it to be a single case – to a local Facebook page at which point things “ballooned”. She had numerous other people reach out explaining they too were being evicted.

“Myself and my next door neighbour are being evicted,” she said. “And I know another person who is moving on their own as they have purchased a house and I’m pretty sure they will sell that as well. It could be a whole street that’s going.”

She added that she knows it’s not ‘her property’ at the end of the day but that with the housing crisis it’s no doubt going to leave people without homes to go to. “We were hoping that maybe the Duchy of Cornwall might look into buying some more property here like it has in the past but really we don’t know what’s going to happen yet,” she continued.

The house is within an estate of 6,000-acre which extends into the neighbouring villages of Tideford, Trerulefoot and Polbathic. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Eliot family invested substantially in the estate by building farmhouses, fishermen’s cottages and other homes throughout the land. Many of these properties remain part of the estate to this day and are rented out to local residents and friends of the family.

Some properties – like the ones mentioned here – have been sold over the years. The Duchy of Cornwall estate purchased the southern portion of the Port Eliot estate in 2014 as part of the most substantial purchase of farmland made in Cornwall since The Prince of Wales became Duke of Cornwall in 1952. The Duchy of Cornwall does not own any of the properties currently being sold.

Another affected tenant said they were being “turfed out” after 13 years and were “heartbroken” as a result. A third said they were struggling to find a property with the ongoing housing crisis, and having pets which makes finding a property even more challenging in the current climate.

Savills has now confirmed that four properties total have been impacted by the notice period served on March 25 as it was instructed by the trustees. Port Eliot is the ancestral seat of the Eliot family, whose present head is 17-year-old Albert Eliot, 11th Earl of St Germans. His father was found dead in the bath, aged 40, after an epileptic fit in 2006 and the estate is being managed by trustees until he comes of age.

A Savills spokesperson said: “The Port Eliot Estate has decided to sell a small number of its properties occupied on assured shorthold tenancies. The family is working to try and find alternative accommodation on the Estate.

“The tenants were served notice on 25th March and the notice period has been extended to at least three months instead of the statutory two months. The proceeds from the sale of these properties will facilitate reinvestment into the remaining Estate.”

There were some questions over who was actually responsible to the decision with some claiming that Savills had full management responsibilities of the estate but that has been confirmed as untrue. Savills manages the Port Eliot Estate on behalf of its trustees. Savills is therefore the primary contact for estate management queries, however it takes instruction from the trustees.

Port Eliot Estate declined to comment saying that the sale of the properties is being dealt with by Savills.

New Plymouth leader says “don’t worry” about climate change

Right wing views of Plymouth Council’s new Tory Leader.

Philip Churm, local democracy reporter 

A video has emerged of Plymouth City Council leader Councillor Richard Bingley saying the world should not worry about climate change and suggesting people should adapt to “living in barren, sandy landscapes.”

The comments, recorded in June 2020, were made on the YouTube channel of right-wing think tank New Culture Forum (NCF) and posted on the website of the climate science denial group, Net Zero Watch (NZW).

Also taking part in the debate was James Delingpole, London editor of the far-right Breitbart website, along with outspoken climate change denier Dr Benny Peiser.

Net Zero Watch was previously known as the ‘Global Warming Policy Foundation’ of which Dr Peiser is as a director.  

The prominent climate change denial organisation was rebranded as NZW last year.  

Plymouth City Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and pledged to make the city carbon neutral by 2030.

But in the video, Cllr Richard Bingley says: “I’m not really feeling that we should worry too much about climate change in itself.”

He dismisses concerns about the extent of climate change and suggests countries should simply adapt to harsher environments.

“You get to sort of 30 or 40 years time where the world may be liveable; it may not be,” he says.

“I mean, for example, some countries, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia have adjusted for many years to living in barren, sandy landscapes.”

Recorded less than a year before being elected Conservative councillor for Plymouth’s Southway ward, Cllr Bingley describes himself as “a Londoner” and hits out at the increase in cyclists, many of whom are choosing to ditch cars in favour of greener transport. 

Speaking about his East London home, he says: “Now you try and walk the dogs by a canal path or something, you end up almost losing your legs or the dogs do. And it’s actually not very pleasant.

“You know, there’s too much cycling going on. So I think that needs addressing.” 

Green Party candidate for Plympton Chaddlewood, Ian Poyser, said: “There’s a clear scientific consensus on the facts about the climate crisis and ecological decline, which is happening right now in this country.

“The government’s own 2021 State of Nature report has shown that since the 1970s 41 per cent of all UK species surveyed have declined, while 15 per cent  of species within the UK are said to be threatened with extinction. 

“The population of the UK’s priority species, have declined by a shocking 60 per cent.

“Given the overwhelming scientific evidence and public support for climate action from across society, it’s irresponsible to politicise the issue and sow division, at a time we need to pull together as a nation.

“I’m tired of politicians that paint a simplistic view of the world.”

Later in the video discussion Cllr Bingley dismisses covid s as “a mildly severe flu pandemic” and says the reaction is “a social media mass crisis response.”

By late June 2020, the time of these comments, nearly nine million cases of the virus had been recoreded worldwide, leaving almost 490,000 dead. 

Cllr Bingley was approached about his comments on the Net Zero Watch site but has not responded. 

A link to the video is on this page of Net Zero Watch. Radio Exe is not responsible for the content of external websites:

Covid threat being ignored in England for ideological reasons, say NHS leaders

Ministers should reconsider England’s “living with Covid” plans, health leaders have said, while accusing the government of ignoring the ongoing threat for ideological reasons.

Kevin Rawlinson 

The NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, has accused No 10 of having “abandoned any interest” in the pandemic, despite a new Omicron surge putting pressure on an already overstretched NHS.

“The brutal reality for staff and patients is that this Easter in the NHS is as bad as any winter,” said Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation.

“But instead of the understanding and support NHS staff received during 2020 and 2021, we have a government that seems to want to wash its hands of responsibility for what is occurring in plain sight in local services up and down the country. No 10 has seemingly abandoned any interest in Covid whatsoever.

“NHS leaders and their teams feel abandoned by the government and they deserve better.”

Taylor later told BBC Breakfast: “In our view, we do not have a ‘living with Covid’ plan, we have a ‘living without restrictions’ ideology, which is different. We need to put in place the measures that are necessary to try to alleviate the pressures on our health service while this virus continues to affect [it].”

He said ministers should restate advice promoting mask-wearing on public transport to try to cut the number of infections and, consequently, the demand on the NHS.

“We need to renew the call for people to have vaccinations and booster vaccinations – there are still a lot of people out there who are not up to date with the vaccinations that they could have,” he said.

“We need to resource the health service. At the moment, for example, the health service is providing free tests for its staff, which it needs to do because staff absences are really high in the NHS because of Covid. But the NHS has to pay for those tests. So, we need to put the resource in. Because we’re behaving as if this pandemic is over, but it is not over in relation to the challenges facing the health service.”

A new Omicron wave has been putting immense pressure on the NHS. Last week, health bosses in England issued an extraordinary plea for families to help them discharge loved ones – even if they were Covid-positive – saying the service faced a “perfect storm” fuelled by heavy demand, severe staff shortages and soaring cases.

“Our concern is that there is a lack of awareness and engagement with the pressures health service is under. And it’s particularly felt in hospitals [and] in the ambulance service – but it’s actually across the system as a whole,” Taylor said.

“Although, of course, we’re much better at dealing with Covid than we have been in the past – fewer people die, fewer people end up in intensive care – it is still a disease that puts immense pressure on the health service. It is … adding to the demand which already exists – partly to do with the number of people who are waiting for treatment, which built up during Covid.

“So we have a situation in our health service now which is as bad as any winter, even though we’re approaching Easter.”

Taylor said that to make matters worse, the Treasury had “taken bites out of the already very tight NHS budget”, while soaring inflation meant the NHS settlement was now worthless. “It is now unclear that anyone in the centre of government feels the unfolding NHS crisis is their responsibility,” the FT quoted him as saying.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “There is no change to our guidance and our living with Covid plan still stands. Thanks to a combination of vaccination and treatment and our better understanding of the virus, we are now able to manage it as we do with other respiratory infections, so that remains the case with our approach. But, obviously, we continue to monitor any changes in the behaviour of the virus.”

Asked about the confederation’s view that NHS leaders felt abandoned by the government, the spokesperson said: “We are incredibly grateful to NHS staff who worked flat out throughout the pandemic and continue to do so in the face of Covid backlogs.”

Boris Johnson and Rushi Sunak: timeline of denials

There have been so many denials about partygate that Owl’s advice is to bookmark this list for future reference. Even so, it doesn’t list them all, e.g semantic reference to “gatherings”, or the number of occasions the Police said “nothing to see here”.

Tom Ambrose 

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak receiving fines for breaking lockdown laws is the fact the pair have publicly denied any wrongdoing.

Here is a look back at some of the denials made by the prime minister and his chancellor.

1 December 2021

After the Mirror’s first story about Christmas parties in Downing Street broke, Johnson responded to the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, who had asked if a party was held at No 10 on 18 December 2020.

Speaking at prime minister’s questions, he said:

What I can tell the right honourable and learned gentleman is that all guidance was followed completely in No 10.

2 December 2021

When asked on Sky News why he would not explain his account of the allegations, Johnson said:

Because I have told you and what I want to repeat … that the guidance is there and I am very, very keen that people understand this.

7 December 2021

When asked about alleged Downing Street parties held in December, the prime minister told BBC News:

All the guidelines were observed.

8 December 2021

After footage of Allegra Stratton joking about a Christmas party was released, Johnson told the Commons:

I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken.

13 December 2021

When asked again about alleged Downing Street parties by Sky News, Johnson replied:

I can tell you once again that I certainly broke no rules … all that is being looked into.

15 December 2021

At a No 10 press conference, the prime minister told journalists:

On your point about rules, I follow the rules.

20 December 2021

After the Guardian revealed pictures of people, including the prime minister, at drinks in the Downing Street garden on 15 May 2020, Johnson said:

Those were people at work, talking about work. I have said what I have to say about that.

12 January 2022

The prime minister apologised to parliament and admitted attending a gathering but at this point he continued to stress that he thought it was a “work event”.

He said:

I believed implicitly that this was a work event, but with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside.

11 February 2022

In an interview with Sky News, when asked if he broke lockdown rules, Sunak replied “no”, adding that Johnson had his “total support”.