Awful April strikes as household bills rise another £700 so fight back
Martin Lewis explains how to check if you are due a council tax refund
April’s annual price hikes are always a blow but this year will be more awful than ever, adding an eye-watering £700 a year to average household spending.
Council tax, water, broadband, mobile, energy and NHS prescriptions are just some of those rising from yesterday, while Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s latest tax hikes strike on Thursday.
It’s time to fight back and see where savings can be made.
This weekend has been dubbed “April the Worst”, as bill increases coincide with rising inflation and an 18.2 percent jump in food prices, said cost-of-living champion Greg Marsh, founder of household finances app Nous.co.
Price hikes could push millions of families who are just about managing over the edge and not just the poorest. “Even families with two incomes and above average earnings will struggle.”
The following bill hikes will make a typical family £682 a year worse off, Marsh calculates.
Council tax is up an average 5.1 percent, increasing the typical Band D charge in England from £1,966 to £2,064 a year, a rise of £98.
Adults living alone should make sure they claim their 25 percent discount, while those on low incomes should see if they qualify for the Council Tax Reduction.
Mobile and broadband users face price hikes of up to 17.3 percent in April, adding £76 to the typical broadband contract and £66 for a mobile, or £142 in total.
Ofcom figures show one in three were already struggling to pay in October and now it will get even tougher, said Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at Interactive Investor. “If you’ve been with your provider for a while and your introductory offer has expired, shop around for a better deal.”
Buying a combined broadband, mobile and digital TV bundle could save you money.
Those on low incomes may qualify for low-cost social tariffs. EE, Virgin and Vodafone offer connectivity from £12 a month, with no set-up fees or mid-contract price increases.
NHS prescriptions rise 30p to £9.65 per item, an increase of 3.21 percent, costing the average household an extra £10.70 over the year.
Those who need regular prescriptions should consider buying an annual NHS prescription prepayment certificate (PPC), although this also costs more, up £3.50 to £108.10.
Remember that many people, including children and the over-60s, get free NHS prescriptions.
Households face the biggest jump in water bills for almost 20 years, a rise of 7.5 percent. This adds £31 to the average bill in England and Wales taking it to £448.
You cannot switch water companies but low users might consider getting a meter installed, Jobson said. “That way you pay for the water you use instead of a set price based on the size and rateable value of your property.”
If struggling to pay, ask your water company what help it can offer.
The Energy Bill Support Scheme, which handed every household £67 a month for six months, ended on Friday, leaving the typical household £400 a year worse off.
There is better news, here, though as the Energy Price Guarantee runs for a further three months. This caps the typical household energy bill at £2,500 a year
Turning down the thermostat, buying energy-efficient bulbs, switching appliances off standby, draught proofing and washing laundry at a lower temperature may help, Jobson said. “At least warmer weather is on the way and energy bills are forecast to fall below £2,000 by the summer.”
If struggling to pay, first contact your energy supplier for support, he added. “It is obliged to find a solution, such as a payment plan that considers how much you can afford to pay.”
Around eight million claiming means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit, Pension Credit and tax credits will qualify for the £900 Cost of Living Payment, which goes direct to bank accounts in three separate payments arriving this spring, summer and in spring 2024.
There is a further disability payment of £150 due this summer, and another £300 pensioner payment.
Vulnerable households could also secure a grant through the government’s Household Support Fund which is distributed through local councils. “If you need further help, talk to a debt advice charity such as StepChange or Turn2Us,” Jobson said.
Britons face a perfect storm of rising costs but things may ease if inflation starts falling as predicted and at least the state pension rises by a record 10.1 percent from April 10.
Fingers crossed that next April will be a little less awful.
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