Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) today announced that its typical dual fuel energy bill will rise in price by 8.2 per cent in November.
SSE is blaming the price hike on increases in wholesale energy costs, network distribution charges and changes to the government schemes energy companies pay into. SSE’s own figures, however, show the biggest increase in any component of the bill comes under other costs at its end including profit margins.
A few weeks ago, the Financial Times leader column – the voice of the newspaper – issued a fairly damning verdict on the Information Commissioner’s Office about its weak enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act. Big central government departments – particularly the Cabinet Office – routinely flout the law. The ‘paper wrote:
The Cabinet Office scarcely pretends to comply. And why would it? Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, is responsible for enforcing the act – and he has proved to be a paper tiger. He has the power to investigate, demand documents and prosecute the non-compliant. But his preferred regulatory tool is forbearance. So the worst that departments have to fear from refusing to follow the law is being asked to have another go at answering requests at some later date.
Mr Graham replied fairly grumpily on our letters page.
…we served a decision notice against the Department for Education, clearly setting out our position in general and on the specific point that the secretary of state’s private email was caught by the act (in the circumstances of that case). We also served a further decision notice ordering the Cabinet Office to comply with a request for information relating to the prime minister’s use of non-GSI email accounts. Non-compliance with the commissioner’s decision notice is contempt of court.
The record shows that the Information Commissioner’s Office regularly makes difficult decisions that challenge Whitehall – and we are not afraid to make them
It was not terribly convincing – and was filleted by others fairly comprehensively. But last week, the Information Commissioner’s Office released some documents in response to a FoIA request about the letter. The surprising part of the release is that it suggests the ICO’s staff not only wrote the letter, but are convinced by their arguments. Given that, it is worth unpacking the claims it makes – not least for their benefit. Read more
US economic growth has been revised upwards to 2.5 per cent. A pretty impressive rate, given that the UK is currently stagnating at just 0.7 per cent. On the other hand, it looks less impressive when compared to China’s booming 7.6 per cent (even though, for China, that’s a slowdown).
But wait a minute. Economists across the land are howling in pain at this jumble of misinterpretation. These rates aren’t comparable at all – because they’re all measuring different things. Read more
The number of working-age households in the UK has fallen for the first time since data collection began nearly 20 years ago, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Household growth has been fairly steady over the past two decades, with the overall population continuing to grow, and this is the first time figures* have actually dropped. Pressures such as low real wage growth and rising housing costs have created economic constraints in recent years which could help to explain the dramatic shift.
In particular, the numbers of single-person and lone parent households have fallen, hinting at housing affordability pressures. The number of couples with dependent children (under 18s) rose year-on-year, suggesting that families may be staying together rather than separating. Read more
One of my perennial moans about Britain is the lousy state of its badly funded thinktanks: there are noble exceptions, but too few. This weekend, the Centre for Policy Studies published a piece arguing that the BBC was not impartial in its choice of stories nor its presentation of them; leftier thinktanks, it reckoned, get more coverage than rightier ones and an easier ride. I claim no expertise in that. I was more interested by the maths: the conclusions may well be right, but the analysis is bizarre.
The work relies upon a ranking of how left- or rightwing thinktanks are, which is drawn from the number of mentions of those thinktanks in articles in the Guardian (for the left) and the Telegraph (on the right). There are many, many things wrong with the analysis. Read more
House prices in Britain may be booming once more.
But unlike the bubble of the last decade, this one is very narrowly focused. In fact, it’s really only London that’s seen any growth since the previous national average house price peak in 2008.
Good news for Londoners. But they should put down the champagne: in fact, most of them haven’t benefited that much at all.
Most areas have seen some price growth since 2008. But there are just a handful of stand-out winners. And – yes, even in London – some people have actually seen their house prices fall.
The clearest winners are the two historic cities: London and Westminster. Yes, prices there really have soared since 2008. The average house price in Westminster topped £1m for the first time last year and is now at £1.3m; up from £746,000 five years earlier.
Perhaps more surprisingly, two rather more down-at-heel boroughs, Southwark and Hackney, are also seeing booming prices. They’ve even managed to push perhaps the most desirable borough of them all, Kensington & Chelsea, into fifth place. Read more