Cost of Living Updates: Energy bills can be 'significantly lower' in the summer; Tesco sells home test kits that can detect colon cancer and thyroid problems (2023)

Important points
  • Households will still pay more after the energy price cap falls, but bills are likely to be "significantly lower" by summer.
  • Warnings of rising energy bills will be a 'hammer blow' for households
  • Analysis by Gurpreet Narwan:A Treasury win on power bills also puts it under pressure
  • Tesco sells home test kits for thyroid problems and colon cancer
  • Interest rates likely to rise again in June
  • Live coverage by Emily Mee


Is all for today

Tomorrow we bring you more updates on the cost of living again.

Before you go, here's a quick reminder of what happened today:

  • Ofgem has announced a reduction in its energy price cap, but households will still pay around £500 more on average
  • Increased pressure on the government to extend its support for household energy bills
  • Analysts say the Bank of England could raise inflation rates again in June, although the bank previously said it hoped no further increases would be needed.


A man starts the Potato Mondays oven share program with his neighbors

A smart Londoner has found a way to save energy with his neighbors.

Adam Walters, who lives in Walthamstow, has encouraged his neighbors to take part in 'Potato Mondays', where people in the group take turns cooking roast potatoes for everyone else on Monday nights.

Neighbors enter their wishes via a shared Google document and the weekly cook then delivers the potatoes.

Mr. Walters has also created a Facebook page and WhatsApp group called the CULE Zone (Community Ultra Low Emission Zone) where people can post ideas to reduce energy consumption within the community.

"It's such a simple idea, but it works as a quantifiable way to reduce our neighborhood's carbon emissions," said Mr. Walters.

“The more people participate, the less CO2 is emitted. It's very easy to set up and I'd love to see more communities start their own programs.

"We're saving our energy bills, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting a sense of community. What's wrong with that?"


Primark owner forecast better-than-expected profit as Brits start buying early for summer

Brits appear to be buying luggage and beachwear early, boosting sales at clothing retailer Primark.

Associated British Foods (ABF), which owns Primark, said its full-year profit will be higher than expected thanks to the recovery.

“We believe that our offering of excellent quality at affordable prices and an attractive shopping experience will become increasingly attractive to existing and new customers alike,” the group said.

"The first reactions to our spring and summer ranges have been very positive."

John Bason, ABD's chief financial officer, said people are planning or have planned their holidays this year.

“Last year we talked about people who really wanted the holidays they hadn't had during the lockdown,” he said.

"Well, it seems to me that they definitely want another one this year."

ABF expects group sales to rise 20% year-on-year in the six months to early March.

This is backed by a 19% increase in sales for Primark.


Savings tips for vegans

As more and more people adopt a vegan diet, spending on vegan products increases.

Supermarket chains are starting to stock up on vegan-friendly groceries. But while the number of vegans is rising, retail prices show no signs of slowing down.

So how can you save money while on a vegan diet? Here we take a look at some of the ways you can go vegan and save money, courtesy of

Avoid vegan ready meals

Vegans spend more on groceries than the average carnivore, according to a report by, and part of the problem is the rise of new plant-based prepared foods.

There is now also a wide range of vegan takeaway options that don't come cheap.

One way to cut costs is to avoid mass-produced products.

Look for items along the international aisle

The international aisle of a supermarket is a great place to find a selection of herbs and spices for vegan dishes.

Items in this aisle can also be up to 75% cheaper than their household equivalents, thus helping you save those pennies.

Buy items wholesale

Buying items in bulk can cut the cost of your monthly purchases in half. So why not search for products worth buying in bulk?

If you're not sure if buying wholesale is worth it, look at how much you're spending on small repeat deals and compare that to a great wholesale deal.

You can also check out cash and carry companies like Costco that offer discounted grocery prices.


Homes "will still need energy support this winter"

Energy bills this winter will still be much higher than before the energy crisis, according to an energy poverty campaigner.

Power bills are expected to drop significantly in the summer months as the power price cap should reflect falling wholesale gas prices.

But Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, told Sky News: "The reality is we need to see not just additional financial support now, but also a plan to support people for next winter."

He said that by winter, Britain "will still be in a situation where people are paying significantly more than they were a few years ago."

On top of that, wages are rising just a little and inflation is at a record high, he said.

"People will need additional support well into next winter," he said.


The Minister of Food summons supermarket managers due to a shortage of lettuce

The heads of the supermarkets have been called to a meeting with the food secretary to explain "what they are doing to restock the shelves."

Shoppers are currently facing purchase restrictions on fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers, as supermarkets struggle with supply issues and empty shelves.

Food Secretary Mark Spencer said: "The current situation, caused by recent bad weather in North Africa, shows how dependent we can be on certain trade routes for some types of food.

“I know that families expect the fresh produce they need to be on the shelves when they do their weekly grocery shopping. So I'm calling supermarket bosses to find out what they're doing to restock the shelves and to describe how we can prevent a repeat."

Retailers have said the supply problems are due to extreme weather affecting harvests abroad.

However, the National Farmers Union (NFU) said shortages of fruit and vegetables in UK supermarkets could be "the tip of the iceberg" and warned that reliance on imports had left the UK vulnerable to "shock weather events".


Listen to Ian King's Business Podcast: Energy Prices, Regional Differences and Umpire Body Cams

Moderator Ian King talks to our business correspondent about the new energy price cap and what it means for households.

You'll also hear from EY's UK chief economist how cost-of-living pressure is likely to deepen regional divisions.

And the CEO of body camera maker Reveal Media joins the show to discuss why the technology is being tested at the grassroots level.


Your dilemma: Why doesn't my rent count toward my mortgage application?


How come you can pay £12,000 a year for rent in Richmond but can't get a mortgage? You can rent for many, many years and you can still afford it, how come banks don't lend it to you?

Megan Baynes, Cost of Living reporter, says:

While most people rent for a period before buying their first home, high UK house prices have left an entire generation unable to get a mortgage because they can't save for a deposit or meet the affordability criteria. Property prices are currently at an all-time high, but rental prices are still higher by comparison.

Many applicants understandably argue that if they could afford high rent, they could afford a high mortgage.

While this is true, lenders must assess your ability to pay the mortgage beyond the % of payments, along with other costs such as maintenance, home insurance, and land rent, if applicable. It's also different to assess your affordability over a typical 25-year mortgage term versus a few years' rent.

But that doesn't mean it will always be like this.

A recommendation from the Policy Exchange think tank says that if the government is really serious about helping people get started on housing, the government should add rent payments to mortgage applications.

A briefing paper prepared by Gerard Lyons, a senior member of the think tank, argues that changes need to take place to help convert generation rent into generation purchase.

The biggest hurdles for first-time buyers are the down payment and determining the buyer's annual income.

Saving for a deposit is particularly difficult for those who pay a large portion of their salary in rent each month, Lyons said. He says it should be required for people with a long history of paying rent on time, perhaps for "three years," to use as evidence to improve their credit score.


Santander announces increases in savings rates

One of the UK's most popular banks has confirmed that it will raise interest rates on a number of savings accounts.

The increases come in response to repeated Bank of England base rate increases and mean customers can get more out of their savings.

Santander had previously announced that it would increase interest rates on accounts tied to the base rate, such as the B. Rate for Life and Good for Life savings products.

Starting March 2, another wave of increases is planned for new and existing clients, including raising the Junior ISA rate to 2.50% from 2.25% starting next month.

Other rate changes for existing customers only will take effect the same day and include:

  • Flexible Child Savings Account - 1.50% to 1.75%
  • First savings account - 1.90% to 2.15%
  • Help to buy ISA - 1.90% to 2.15%

It also increased the balance interest rate on its 1I2I3 checking, Select and personal accounts.


What salad items are affected by shortages and where are the limits in supermarkets?

We mentioned in our previous post that Lidl has become the latest supermarket to limit some salads for customers.

Supermarkets have experienced shortages due to extreme weather conditions affecting harvests abroad.

What foods are affected?

Tomatoes seem particularly hard to come by, but many other fruits and vegetables are also in short supply.

These include lettuce plants like cucumbers and lettuce, citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, and vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

According to the Spanish association of producers FEPEX, aubergines and courgettes are also affected.

What limits have supermarkets placed?

Most of the larger supermarket chains have now set limits per customer.

  • Asdarestricts customers to a maximum of three pieces of tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and broccoli. Customers can also buy just three bags of lettuce, cauliflower and raspberries
  • Morrisonsets a limit of two per customer for tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers
  • Tesco, AldiYLidlthey have set a limit of three per customer for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.


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