UK News

Thousands respond to energy standing charges review | UK | News UK News

Thousands of people have responded to a consultation about standing charges for energy bills.

Ofgem said 20,000 people have responded before the review deadline, showing the frustration faced by billpayers. The regulator now wants to encourage debate over the charges.

At the moment, energy customers pay a fixed daily price for covering the cost of connecting to the supply network. Customers have however been angered by increasing fees and the inability to reduce what they pay.

The standing charge varies depending on where a customers lives. The amount paid for the standing charge is irrelevant to how much energy is used.

The charge has doubled over the last two years, says the BBC, although it is capped by the regulator. Typically it would be 53p for electricity or 30p for gas, meaning households stump up an extra £300 a year.

The cash helps to cover costs such as dealing with the failures of some suppliers. Ofgem urged billpayers, charities and businesses to share their thoughts about the charges.

An Ofgem spokesman told the BBC: “We know that with wider cost of living pressures, people are concerned about their bills so we will now use these responses to inform how we approach this complex issue. and set out next steps in due course.”

Ofgem, along with some consumer groups, say merely shifting the fee onto usage charges would risk penalising a different group of vulnerable customers. It comes at a time when consumer group Which? raised concerns about customer service among energy firms.

It said the cost of bills and lack of chances to switch meant “good customer service is more important than ever”.

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This notice was published: 2024-01-19 02:52:00

UK News

Jeremy Vine guest blasts British expats getting the vote while the ‘rest of us graft’ | UK | News UK News

Mike Parry ripped into the idea of British expats who have lived abroad for over 15 years voting in UK elections.

He issued a scathing rant on the Jeremy Vine Show and suggested British citizens should lose the right to vote the first day they leave the country.

This comes as a new law introduced this week has removed a 15-year time limit on the eligibility of British expatriates to vote in UK elections.

The move is set to extend the right to vote to 3.5 million people living abroad ahead of a potential general election this year.

However, Mr Parry took issue with the law, complaining that selfish Brits “lazing on a sun lounger in Marbella” can vote on the way the country is run.

READ MORE: Insider brilliantly lays bare why Farage is ahead of Sunak in immigration poll

He said: “I’m totally against expats having the vote at all.

“I didn’t know they could do it for the first 15 years and now they can do it ad infinitum.

“I think it is a disgrace!”

Mr Parry brought up a friend who “packed up and bought a villa in Spain”.

He explained: “He could not only have his company pension paid out there, his state pension paid out there – we pay state pension to people overseas!

“Once you leave our shores and go to another country, as far as I’m concerned, your loyalty lies to that country.”

He claimed that many British expats leave the UK “to benefit themselves” while the rest of Britons work hard to make the country function.

Mr Parry added: “He is luxuriating in front of his swimming pool while I’m still working my socks off in this country.

“He thinks he has the right to come back and vote on the way the country is run, while he is lazing on a sunlounger in Marbella.”

Fellow guest Jenny Kleeman disagreed, saying British expats are “still affected by what the British government decides”.

She pointed to the risk of conscription for many expats as well as the consequences of foreign policy decisions.

The law states that expats will be eligible to vote in the constituency they lived in before they moved abroad, and it will be up to local councils to check their past connection to the area.

Expats will now also be able to donate to political parties and campaigns.

During the debate of the Election Act in Parliament in 2022, Labour rebuked the change.

At the time, shadow minister Alex Norris argued that “wealthy donors who have not lived in the UK for decades will find it easier to contribute”.

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This notice was published: 2024-01-18 20:13:00

UK News

Post Office scandal: Fujitsu announces it will compensate Horizon victims | UK | News UK News

Japanese technology firm Fujitsu has said it plans to compensate sub-postmasters wronged in the Post Office Horizon scandal. The company has been under pressure in recent weeks following the release of the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office which highlighted the scandal triggering a massive spike in interest from the public.

In a statement on Thursday, the company said: “The Fujitsu Group regards this matter with the utmost seriousness and offers its deepest apologies to the sub-postmasters and their families.

“The UK statutory public inquiry, to which our UK subsidiary is providing full cooperation, is examining complex events that have unfolded over many years, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to this cooperation.

“Based on the findings of the inquiry, we will also be working with the UK government on the appropriate actions, including contribution to compensation.”

It added: “The Fujitsu Group hopes for a swift resolution that ensures a just outcome for the victims.”

The reason Fujitsu is in the spotlight is because it developed the Horizon software involved in the controversy which caused hundreds of sub-postmistresses and sub-postmasters to be unjustly prosecuted for stealing.

The Horizon software was first deployed by the Post Office in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the software was found to be at fault rather than the Post Office employees.

Earlier this week, Fujitsu Europe’s boss Paul Patterson admitted the company had a “moral obligation” to compensate victims of the scandal. Soon after, the global chief of Fujitsu, Takhito Tokita, apologised in Davos.

Mr Tokita told the BBC: “This is a big issue, which Fujitsu takes very seriously. Yes, of course. Fujitsu has apologised for the impact on the postmasters’ lives and their families.”

In London, Mr Patterson said he was “truly sorry” for the damage done to the lives of the victims because of the faulty software. He added that Horizon had known about the “bugs and errors” early on.

He admitted: “We were involved from the very start. We did have bugs and errors in the system and we did help the Post Office in their prosecutions of the sub-postmasters.

“For that, we are truly sorry.”

Mr Patterson also revealed that the firm gave evidence which contributed to innocent Post Office employees going to prison. He explained: “The information shared with the Post Office as part of our contract with them was very clear – the Post Office also knew there were bugs and errors.”

As to why Fujitsu didn’t act at the time when it knew there were glitches in Horizon, Mr Patterson said he didn’t know.

Campaigner Alan Bates, who has fought for justice for the innocent Post Office employees said it was taking too long for compensation to make its way to victims who were suffering and dying.

He said: “There’s no reason why full financial redress shouldn’t have been delivered by now. It’s gone on for far too long, people are suffering, they’re dying – we’re losing numbers along the way – and it just seems to be tied up in bureaucracy.”

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This notice was published: 2024-01-18 11:43:00

UK News

Entire housing estate torn down just after being built leaving developers with £40m bill | UK | News UK News

Bulldozers have begun the mammoth task of demolishing 88 properties on a huge new housing development on the edge of the Cambridge today after developers discovered fatal defects – just after it had been built.

Barratt David Wilson Homes Cambridgeshire last year revealed last year that the homes, at the Darwin Green site in Cambridge, needed to be flattened after problems were identified with their foundations – at an eye-watering cost of £40million.

Four houses were knocked down today, and work is anticipated to continue on the site over the course of the next 12 weeks.

In a planning application submitted to Cambridge City Council for the demolition last autumn, the developers said tiles and other materials, including doors, windows, sanitary and kitchen equipment, would be salvaged wherever possible, while concrete and brick will be crushed on site and reused.

A statement issued by Darwin Green Construction earlier this week confirmed it had received permission to begin the “phased demolition”.

It explained: “To provide clarification, 36 homes currently at the roof stage of construction are scheduled for demolition and in addition to this, remediation will be undertaken on a further 47 plots, each at different stages of partial construction.

“Barratt and David Wilson Homes remains committed to ensuring that mitigation measures are in place to ensure that there is as little impact as possible to residents and the environment.”

A series of what were called “comprehensive measures” would be implemented to mitigate the impacts of the demolition works, the statement continued.

It added: “Seven monitoring stations will be strategically placed throughout the development, as per the approved plans, to monitor and control levels of noise, dust and vibrations.

“Additionally, fencing will be installed to screen existing residents from the works and water cannons are to be used to help dampen the ground conditions.”

No demolition works would be carried out at weekends, Darwin Green Construction has pledged.

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This notice was published: 2024-01-17 20:13:00

UK News

Home Office says no more barges to house asylum seekers | UK | News UK News

Ministers last year touted accommodation vessels as a way of cutting the cost of housing migrants in hotels, which has hit £8 million a day.

But it is understood that efforts to secure new barges have been abandoned amid struggles to find ports willing to take them.

It comes as the Bibby Stockholm, the only accommodation barge commissioned so far by ministers, has faced a series of setbacks.

An Albanian asylum seeker died while living on board the barge moored off the coast of Portland in Dorset in December and is thought to have taken his own life.

The discovery of dangerous bacteria led to its evacuation last summer just days after the arrival of the first asylum seekers, and it remained vacant for two months.

More than £22 million of taxpayers’ money is being spent on the giant barge, while conditions on board have been criticised by campaigners.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We continue to look at a range of alternative accommodation sites to house asylum seekers, including vessels which have been used safely and successfully by Scottish and Dutch Governments, and former military sites.”

But as first reported by the i and the Sun, it is understood to no longer be a priority to secure further barges.

The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is being wound down by ministers, with the number to be cut by 50 by the end of January.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier this month said ministers had “cleared” the asylum backlog of 92,000 legacy cases, although the claim is being investigated by the official statistics watchdog after allegations from opponents that it is a “barefaced lie”.

Meanwhile more migrants arrived in the UK on Wednesday as Channel crossings resumed, with groups of people pictured being brought ashore by Border Force in Dover, Kent.

It comes after five people died while trying to make the journey from France on Sunday, a day after the first crossings of the year took place.

Some 263 migrants have arrived in the UK so far in 2024, according to Home Office figures.

The number of migrants crossing the Channel has fallen year-on-year for the first time since current records began in 2018, with the total arrivals in 2023 down more than a third on 2022.

The provisional annual total for the year, 29,437, is 36% lower than the record 45,774 crossings for the whole of 2022. But it is still the second highest annual total on record, above the figure for 2021 (28,526).


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This notice was published: 2024-01-17 20:18:00

UK News

Children under 10 are being increasingly targeted by pedophiles, data indicates | UK | News UK News

Children under 10 are increasingly being targeted by paedophiles online, figures suggest.

The Internet Watch Foundation received 392,660 reports of possible abuse images on websites last year, of which, 70% was found to contain such material.

Of those, 39% involved images of children under 10, up from 25% in 2022.

Some 92% featured self-generated content, where children are made to, or tricked into, taking obscene self images.

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This notice was published: 2024-01-17 08:35:00

UK News

Huge new £1bn dual carriageway will link up two of UK’s most famous cities | UK | News UK News

The Government is pumping £1billion of investment in a new road in a bid to help grow the economy across central and eastern England.

Upgrades to the iconic Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet route on the A428 will also, it is hoped, reduce congestion and improve journey times by creating a new 10-mile dual carriageway. The road is notorious for its lengthy delays, especially in rush hour, though road users are forced to use it for lack of alternatives.

National Highway estimates the new scheme will cut journey times by more than a third at peak times and save drivers up to 10 minutes. The number of vehicles using the road each day is expected to rise from around 25,300 to 32,900 by 2040 because of new housing in the area and the creation of more jobs.

Several existing junctions will also be improved, while access to the town of St Neots and its railway station will be enhanced in what will be the UK’s most expensive road upgrade.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “I’m delighted we have marked the start of works on the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet project, a huge investment by the government to grow the economy in the region and reduce congestion for drivers.

“This government is backing drivers by investing in much-needed road projects like this, using savings from HS2 to resurface roads across the country, and introducing a long-term Plan for Drivers to slam the brakes on anti-car measures.”

Construction was supposed to begin in late 2022 but delays saw the work stalled until December 12, 2023.

It came after transport campaign group Transport Action Network challenged Mr Harper’s plans over concerns about how the climate and nature were being considered.

While the Court of Appeal refused the application last May, some devolved nations like Wales scrapped all major road-building projects over environmental concerns in February.

Mr Browne said it was crucial for schemes to continue as long as they employed construction methods that were “as carbon neutral as possible”, like using equipment powered by electricity rather than diesel.

“There’s a broader question about cars. Yes, we’re still going to carry on driving in this country. We are moving to net zero cars,” he said.

This year, at least 22 percent of new cars sold by car manufacturers in the UK must have no tailpipe emissions under the government’s zero-emission vehicles mandate. These vehicles are essentially purely electric.

This threshold will rise each year until it reaches 100 percent by 2035.

Nicola Bell, executive director for National Highways, described the start of the construction works to the Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet route as a “momentous occasion”.

She said: “As we break ground today, we embark on a journey that will transform transport in this region, easing congestion, improving connectivity and fostering economic growth.  

“This project highlights National Highways’ commitment to delivering major projects that make lasting impacts for people, communities and businesses. The start of construction represents a culmination of meticulous planning, collaborative efforts and a steadfast commitment to enhancing the nation’s infrastructure. 

“We are proud to be part of a project that will lay the foundations for a more resilient and connected future.”

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This notice was published: 2024-01-16 15:12:00

UK News

The famous UK seaside town where you’re most likely to get parking ticket | UK | News UK News

A popular seaside town in the UK always bustling with tourists has issued the most parking tickets during the last financial year. The latest data shows that Brighton and Hove’s city council has made a staggering profit of £30 million from parking.

The data analysed by shows that Brighton & Hove fined parked cars more than any local authority outside of London. The data was collated by the government of UK of local authorities in England for the financial year 2022-23.

The stats also showed that on-street penalty notices in the popular seaside town reached £11.6 million last year. The council there made a profit of £30.2 million from all forms of parking charges, which is also the most of any council outside of London.

Portsmouth had the next largest fines revenue outside of London at £8.2 million, followed by Manchester at £7.3 million.

Last year, the parking charges on the seafront in Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, increased from £1.40 an hour to a whopping £5.60 an hour.

As part of several changes agreed at Budget Council back in February last year, the increases will apply to on-street parking charges.

The changes appeared on the PayByPhone parking app on October 30. Hikes to parking charges at Stanmer Park, East Brighton, and Preston Park car parks were introduced on November 3.

The proposed changes were criticised by several residents who called it a “daylight robbery” and “shocking greed” in the middle of a cost of living crisis, reported The Sun.

Janine Edwards, 45, told the publication: “This is the latest example of daylight robbery by the council. So many disabled and elderly people simply won’t be able to afford to go out.

“The rise is absolutely massive. It’s abhorrent profiteering. Why can’t they just put charges up by inflation? It is so unfair.”

The data does not drill down exactly what time of year each ticket is issued, but during the summer months the area becomes a bit of a tourist hotspot.

Some of the tourists who have been to the city have shared their parking woes on TripAdvisor. One user wrote: “I wonder if others have been caught out by parking charges for NCP Car parking in Brighton. I was aware that parking is expensive but tried to use the NCP parking app to pre book and so reduce the cost.

“I have the app but because it was less than 1 hour to my start time I was forced to pay the on the day rate. It was £17 for three hours. For comparison a 24 hour stay at short stay in Gatwick is only £22. I just hope that others visiting Brighton are aware and look around for better value options.”

Another wrote: “We were staying near Rye for the week and on a whim decided to go to Brighton for the day (by car). Not knowing the area we ended up on the sea front we just gritted our teeth and parked up at the NCP church street car park, and eventually paid £25 for the pleasure of parking five hours.

“We had a super day out in Brighton but the parking charge left a nasty taste in my mouth, and would have visited else where if we’d known the extortionate parking charges in advance. I cannot recommend Brighton as a place to visit with such charges. Avoid! There are plenty of other interesting places to visit and which don’t break the bank.”

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This notice was published: 2024-01-16 18:46:00

UK News

Fujitsu ‘told Post Office of Horizon glitches’ at ‘early stages’, boss claims | UK | News UK News

The Post Office were made aware of glitches in the Horizon system “at an early stage”, the boss of Fujitsu has said. Paul Patterson has said he is not aware why his company did not take action despite knowing there were glitches in the Horizon system.

Mr Patterson apologised to subpostmasters as he appeared before MPs today (Tuesday, January 16).

It comes as Alan Bates and other campaigners blamed red tape and bureaucracy amid anger over delays for subpostmasters accessing compensation.

When asked why Fujitsu did not take action despite being made aware of the issues, he told MPs on the Business and Trade Committee: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. On a personal level I wish I did know. Following my appointment in 2019 I’ve looked back at those situations for the company and the evidence I’ve seen, and I just don’t know.

“What I do know is the inquiry is looking at this very point of who knew what and when, and the action they did or did not take to draw attention to the concerns. I just don’t know.”

He added that he did not know exactly when bosses first knew of issues related to the Horizon IT software, but that it had bugs at a “very early stage”.

When asked when management first knew of issues, Mr Patterson said: “I can’t answer a month or a year. There were known bugs and errors in the system at a very early stage.

“I know there were bugs and errors when it was rolled out; in large IT projects there were will always be some bugs and errors, particularly of this scale. The important thing is what do we do with that information.

“Did we share that information with the Post Office? Yes, we did.” 

Mr Patterson has been in his current role since 2019 but has worked for Fujitsu since 2010.

Mr Read took over at the Post Office in September 2019, after the scandal emerged, and last year handed back around £54,000 in bonus payments linked to the firm’s co-operation with the public inquiry into the crisis.

The Commons Business and Trade Committee is examining what more can be done to deliver compensation for victims of what has been labelled one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history.

Earlier Alan Bates, the campaigning former subpostmaster at the centre of the ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, told MPs that compensation was “bogged down” and the pace of processing claims was “madness”.

Wrongfully convicted former subpostmistress Jo Hamilton said it was “almost like you’re being retried … it just goes on and on and on”.

Solicitor Neil Hudgell told MPs only three of his former subpostmaster clients who had been criminally convicted had received compensation.

He said: “Within the convicted cohort of clients that we have, of the 73, three have been fully paid out.”

He told the Business and Trade Committee: “It sounds perverse to say this, but I’m not sure that enough resources are thrown at it in terms of the right results into the right areas.

“For example, routinely with the overturned conviction cases it’s taking three to four months to get a response to routine correspondence.”

Post Office boss Nick Read appeared to concede that the organisation could face liabilities of around £1 billion due to the Horizon scandal and related compensation claims.

The £1 billion figure was put to Mr Read during his appearance in front of the Business and Trade Committee.

He began by saying he did not recognise the figure but, pressed again said: “I think what has been done in the last 10 days in terms of the potential to mass exonerate, that is going to obviously generate a lot of people coming forward.”

Asked for an assessment of the £1 billion estimate, he said: “I think it’s unlikely to be that size, but it may well be.”

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This notice was published: 2024-01-16 12:33:00

UK News

Government to make real-time fuel price data accessible to drivers | UK | News UK News

Drivers could soon get real-time fuel price data as part of Government plans to bring transparency and competition to the forecourts.

Under the proposals, forecourts across the country will be legally required to share live information on their pump prices within 30 minutes of any change in price.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said this could save drivers 3p per litre on fuel by helping them find the best deal at the pump.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “Our work on competition and transparency is working. Drivers are now paying the lowest average price at the pump for two years.”

“We are forcing retailers to share live information on their prices within 30 minutes of any change in price, helping drivers to find the best deal at the pump.”

“This will put motorists back in the driving seat and bring much-needed competition back to the forecourts.”

The hope is that drivers will be able to access the information via mobile apps, online mapping platforms, journey planning tools, price comparison websites and in-car devices.

The consultation, launched today, will seek views on the new Pumpwatch scheme from consumers, retailers and other organisations.

Simon Williams, RAC fuel spokesman, said: “This is a really important day as it should pave the way for fairer fuel pricing for everyone who drives.”

“Sadly, there have been far too many occasions where drivers have lost out at the pumps when wholesale prices have fallen significantly and those reductions haven’t been passed on quickly enough or fully enough by retailers.

“We badly need to see competition in the wider market match that of Northern Ireland where fuel prices are consistently 5p cheaper.”

Petrol prices have fallen to the lowest level since October 2021, figures show.

Higher food and fuel prices have been big drivers in the soaring cost of living crisis.

A report by the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) last year found that major fuel retailers are taking far bigger margins than they have done in the past.

The CMA revealed some retailers had failed to pass on savings in oil prices – charging drivers 6p more per litre for fuel, which amounted to £900 million in extra costs in 2022 alone.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “The brazen price disparity of sometimes 10p a litre or more between neighbouring towns had to end.”

“Pumping up profits by hanging on to the savings from lower fuel costs while consumers, businesses and inflation were denied the relief was quite simply unforgivable.”

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This notice was published: 2024-01-16 00:01:00