Spring (statement) forward…fall back

When everything you do, you do too long, and do too late, you can’t expect to find the people still there.

It’s a cliché, true, and one that regular readers of this column will know I am inordinately fond of, but once again, a UK Chancellor has delivered a curate’s egg of a statement: good in parts, but overall, a bit – meh.

The fuel duty reduction of 5pence means almost nothing when you’re talking a reduction from £180p to £175 a litre, saving me a whole 50p on a tank. And that’s assuming that every petrol company is passing that reduction on to the forecourts. Which they aren’t. On the face of it, from a construction industry point of view, the zero-rating of energy efficient products is a big tick in the box. All that lovely fluffy  insulation, those scrummy heat pumps, those shiny solar panels which will become so much more attractive for householders to purchase now that they can be bought without having to add that pesky 20% VAT on the top.

So, all’s good then? No so much. OK, it is in the right direction in terms of our journey towards net zero, but we’re talking baby steps here, not the great strides we should have been making way before this.

Domestic fuel costs are the highest they have been, certainly in my living memory, and they are still only moving upwards. I know that, on paper, the best way to ensure that you don’t spend too much on energy is to use less of it. And the best way to use less of it is to ensure that your home is properly insulated and ventilated, and uses the most efficient methods of heating. But after the crappiness of the last couple of years, I don’t think I know anyone who, with a few grand in their back pockets, would prioritise installing a heat pump or loft insulation, ahead of a fortnight’s self-catering in Lanzarote.

That’s assuming that they have any money left after the hikes in fuel bills that is. As well as the external forces pushing up prices – the cost of wholesale gas, Russian pipelines, Ukraine etc etc, is this also a case of comparison site chickens coming home to roost? For years we have heeded the advice of the sainted Martin Lewis and diligently shopped around to get our monthly energy bills down. It’s often bothered me, as I put in my details to a comparison site that then spits back a discount on whatever it was I said I’d been paying a month, usually without any understanding of my house structure or lifestyle: how did Splonson Energy know that it could save me £20 a month on what I was paying Biggins Energy? Turns out it didn’t it was all guess work, speculation and, from last year, it all unravelled.

So, while it’s nice that Dishi Rishi, with his sharp tailoring, his £180 insulated coffee mugs and his willingness to play photo-op at Sainsburys with the hoi-polloi, has committed to increasing the incentives for improving the fabric of our homes for the next five years, it’s an empty gesture while so many people are going to get a horribly nasty shock from the end of this month. Especially as the weather looks like it’s on the turn. Then there’s the rise in NI which, taking effect from the beginning of the 2022-2023 tax year, will bring another shock come April payday. Oh sure, theres been some tinkering around with the levels, but with the general costs of everything else rising, with inflation at 8%, that’s all it is.

It’s so depressing I might just go back to watching the progress of the war on Twitter. And put another sweater on.


2 Rishi Sunak tax cut vow as living standards plummet
Look, look, I can do this! I ‘m just like the poor people.



About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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