Beware the Bills of March - and Prime Ministers Seeking Early Votes

The Birmingham Post (England), February 16, 2005 | Go to article overview

Beware the Bills of March - and Prime Ministers Seeking Early Votes


Byline: NEVILL BOYD MAUNSELL

Your next gas bill is likely to be 16 per cent more than the one this time last year. Electricity will be the best part of 12 per cent up. If they are less you have a good deal - don't bank on it lasting. If you live in the country and stuck with oil central heating, the damage is upwards of 25 per cent.

It is the same with the underlying cost of petrol, though you barely notice. It is masked by its enormous tax, and Chancellor Brown's nervous decision to waive the extra 3p a litre he proposed in last year's Budget. But if your car needs anything much in the way of professional care you may be surprised to learn that the cost of motor maintenance has risen only 6.3 per cent since last winter. All round, indeed, motoring is a smidgeon cheaper, if you believe National Statistics, thanks to lower used car prices, and a recent dip in insurance premiums.

The first question is 'do we believe National Statistics and its finding that prices have risen by just 1.6 per cent over the past year, or 3.2 per cent, or 2.1 per cent?' - depending on which index you choose. The message from them all is that a mini-spurt in inflation starting in October has stalled or else gone into reverse.

The second is 'how on earth does this square with a 9.5 per cent jump in the prices industry is paying for its fuel and raw materials?' The answer there is that industry has taken it on the nose.

Quite a few West Midland companies claim they are now passing a fair bit of these costs on to their customers, albeit after a time lag. …

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