Households, businesses, and organisations who are “off the gas grid” to receive energy bill support over the coming weeks
From Monday last week, households across Great Britain who don’t use mains gas for heating started to receive £200 towards their energy bills as the Alternative Fuel Payment (AFP) scheme launched. Most will get the £200 AFP automatically as a credit on their electricity bill, but some customers will need to apply for the support later this month.
Nearly 2 million households who use alternative energy sources such as heating oil, biomass, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to warm their homes will receive the support.
The vast majority, including many homes in rural areas, will get it automatically through their electricity supplier as a credit on their bill throughout February. A small minority of customers, such as those living in park homes or on static houseboats with no direct energy supplier, will need to apply to receive the payment through an online portal that will launch later this month.
Meanwhile, energy suppliers are also able to start making payments to businesses and both public and voluntary sector organisations that use alternative fuels to heat their buildings. A credit of £150 will be provided to eligible customers across the UK through the Non-Domestic Alternative Fuel Payment scheme (ND-AFP). Suppliers will deliver this support up to 10 March, with most customers expected to receive it later this month. There is no need to contact your supplier.
New law gives employees and other workers more say over their working hours
The UK government has supported the recently introduced “Predictable Terms and Conditions” Bill, which will bring forward changes for tens of millions of workers across the UK.
The move, which would apply to all workers and employees including agency workers, comes after a review found many workers on zero hours contracts experience ‘one-sided flexibility’.
This means people across the country are currently left waiting, unable to get on with their lives in case of being called up at the last minute for a shift. With a more predictable working pattern, workers will have a guarantee of when they are required to work, with hours that work for them.
If a worker’s existing working pattern lacks certainty in terms of the hours they work, the times they work or if it is a fixed term contract for less than 12 months, they will be able to make a formal application to change their working pattern to make it more predictable.
The move comes as part of a package of policies the UK government is supporting to further workers’ rights across the country, such as:
- supporting parents of babies who need neonatal additional care with paid neonatal care leave
- requiring employers to ensure that all tips, gratuities, and service charges received must be paid to workers in full
- offering pregnant women and new parents greater protection against redundancy
- entitling unpaid carers to a period of unpaid leave to support those most in need
- providing millions of employees with a day one right to request flexible working, and a greater say over when, where, and how they work.
The government states that these policies will increase workforce participation, protect vulnerable workers, and level the playing field, ensuring unscrupulous businesses don’t have a competitive advantage.
HMRC late payment interest rates to be revised after Bank of England increases base rate
The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee announced on 2 February 2023 that it would increase the Bank of England base rate to 4% from 3.5%.
HMRC interest rates are linked to the Bank of England base rate.
As a consequence of the change in the base rate, HMRC interest rates for late payment and repayment will increase.
These changes will come into effect on:
- 13 February 2023 for quarterly instalment payments
- 21 February 2023 for non-quarterly instalment payments.
Late payment interest is set at base rate plus 2.5%. Repayment interest is set at base rate minus 1%, with a lower limit – or ‘minimum floor’ – of 0.5%.
The differential between late payment interest and repayment interest is in line with the policy of other tax authorities worldwide and compares favourably with commercial practice for interest charged on loans or overdrafts and interest paid on deposits.
A guide to fair work for businesses
Making work fairer, safer, and better for all is better for workers and better for business. That is why the Welsh Government acts to promote fair work at every opportunity as part of its mission to build a fairer, greener, stronger, and more successful Wales.
Fair work is for everyone, no matter your business size, sector or where you currently are on your fair work journey. In response to what the government has heard from business, they have produced a short guide intended to demystify fair work, highlight its benefits, and provide some examples of ways in which you can embed fair work into your business.
Student loan interest rates
The Welsh Government has to ensure that interest rates on student loans do not exceed the prevailing market rate.
They have acted several times in the past two years to cap the rate on student loans to protect students. Most recently, the government confirmed a cap at 6.5% for another three months from 1 December 2022. These caps were also announced by UK Government for English students.
As interest rates remain high, the rate on loans taken out by undergraduate students since 2012, and by postgraduate students, will be capped at 6.9% between 1 March 2023 and 31 May 2023. Further rate caps may be applied if the prevailing market rate continues to be below student loan interest rates after that date.
Changes to interest rates do not affect monthly student loan repayments, which are charged as a fixed proportion of income. Loan repayments are income contingent. Students repay their loan only if they earn above a threshold, and remaining debts are written off after thirty years.
Wales’ Draft Budget was debated last week in the Senedd
The Welsh Government’s Budget is worth up to £3 billion less over the 3-year spending review period than when it was originally announced, with the 2023-24 Draft Budget worth up to £1 billion less. Wales also faces a £1.1 billion shortfall in funding because of the UK government’s post-EU funding arrangements.
The draft budget allocates a further £165 million for NHS Wales to help protect frontline services as well as £18.8 million for the Discretionary Assistance Fund, providing lifeline emergency cash payments to people facing financial hardship.
An additional £227 million is also being provided to local government to help safeguard the services delivered by councils, such as schools and social care. This funding also helps provide a £460 million 2-year business support package, which provides 75% rates relief and ensures there will be no inflationary impact in the amount of rates businesses are paying.