The latest fuel prices from the RAC motoring group show that the chancellor’s fuel duty cut of 5p per litre, plus 1p for VAT, hasn’t been passed on in full by petrol stations across the UK.
It said Rishi Sunak missed a trick – a VAT cut on fuel would have given drivers “an immediate and guaranteed reduction on their fuel bill”.
According to the RAC, the average petrol price was 167.01p per litre last Wednesday, when Rishi Sunak presented his spring statement (a mini-budget), and dropped to 163.30p yesterday – a fall of 3.71p. The average price of diesel dropped by 2.79p from 179.90p last Wednesday to 177.11p yesterday.
RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said:
Unfortunately, wholesale fuel prices were already rising before the chancellor made his announcement on fuel duty last week. This meant retailers were buying fuel in at a higher cost than they were a week earlier, which meant drivers may not have immediately and fully benefitted from the duty cut. Wholesale prices are currently falling, but it’s likely to be next week before we see what impact this has at the pumps.
Had the chancellor instead cut VAT on motor fuel last week, drivers would have seen an immediate and guaranteed reduction in their fuel bill next time they visited a petrol station. As things stand, drivers remain entirely dependent on what is happening on the wholesale market and the extent to which retailers are able or willing to pass on savings they make.
The UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is under mounting pressure over accusations that his wife, Akshata Murthy, is collecting “bloody money” in dividends from a family company that has refused to pull out of Russia, despite Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, writes my colleague Rupert Neate.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats are calling on Sunak to answer “very serious questions” over Murthy’s estimated $900m (£690m) stake in the IT services and consultancy company Infosys.
Infosys, which was founded by her billionaire father, NR Narayana Murthy, continues to operate in Russia while most big global IT and consultancy firms such as SAP, Oracle, PwC, McKinsey, Accenture and KPMG have all closed their Russian operations.
Sunak, who has repeatedly called on British companies to pull out of Russia in order to “inflict maximum economic pain” on Putin’s regime, refused to comment on his wife’s 0.91% stake in Infosys.
Here is a profile of Akshata Murthy. Money comes in from her 0.91% stake in Infosys, which is valued at about $900m (£690m), making Murthy richer than the Queen (£365m).
Our Guardian US reporter Lauren Aratani has looked at how America is embarking on the great new experiment of hybrid working.
It can be hard to remember what work at the office was like before the pandemic forced millions of Americans to start working from home. That shift was monumental and seemingly implausible, until it happened. But people soon adapted to saying “sorry, you’re on mute” on Zoom calls and wearing sweatpants all day.
This spring, workers are finally heading back to the office en masse and into another untested and ambitious experiment in work life: hybrid working.
“This is a brave new world – we’re doing something we’ve never done before, which is we’re going to go, en masse, hybrid,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford.
More than 7,000 finance jobs have moved from London to the European Union as a result of Brexit, according to consultants EY.
While the total is far less than the 12,500 job moves forecast by firms after June 2016, when Britain voted to leave the bloc, more could follow, EY said in its latest Brexit Tracker.
Paris scored highest in terms of attracting jobs from London, totalling 2,800, followed by Frankfurt at around 1,800, and Dublin with 1,200. Some £1.3 trillion of assets was also transferred from London to EU hubs.
EY said new local hires linked to Brexit total 2,900 across Europe, and 2,500 in Britain, where just over a million people work in the financial services sector.
Further relocations could result from European Central Bank checks on whether new hubs in the EU opened by banks which used London as their European base have enough staff to justify their new licences, EY said.
The Bank of England is scrutinising these to avoid banks in London being left with too few senior staff.
Omar Ali, financial services leader for Europe, the Middle East, India, and Africa at EY, said:
Staff and operational moves across European financial markets will continue as firms navigate ongoing geo-political uncertainty, post-pandemic dynamics and regulatory requirements.
The grocers are also adapting their pricing strategies in response to the rising cost of goods. One trend we’re already tracking is the move away from selling products at ‘round pound’ prices. The percentage of packs sold at either £1, £2 or £3 has dropped significantly from 18.2% last year to 15.9% this March.
Turning to the impact of the pandemic, he said:
Two years on since the first lockdown, we can assess what permanent changes the pandemic has made to the grocery landscape. The real story of Covid-19 has been the acceleration of online shopping, and retailers have built their digital capacity to match a seismic change in demand. 12.6% of sales were made online in March 2022 compared with just 8% three years ago. Shoppers over the age of 65 are leading the charge – the proportion of this demographic buying online has doubled from 9% to 18% over the past three years.
What we’re buying has shifted too and some of the recipes we learnt during the lockdowns have become firm favourites. For some, baking seems to have gone from fad to hobby as flour volume sales are 28% higher than in March 2019. The dry pasta market is also 17% larger compared with two years ago. There are hints too that people have become permanently more germ-conscious with liquid soap volumes up by 11%.
Grocery price inflation in the UK hit 5.2% in March, the highest since April 2012, according to the latest figures from data analytics firm Kantar.
As costs rise, consumers are turning to own-label products which tend to be cheaper than branded ones, and now account for 50.6% of all spending (versus 49.9% this time last year).
Discount retailers Aldi achieved a record market share of 8.6% and Lidl matched its best performance at 6.4%, as both chains grew sales by 3.6%.
Overall supermarket sales fell by 6.3% over the 12 weeks to 20 March from a year earlier, when many people stayed home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said:
It’s no surprise that sales are down over the latest period as consumers are now more confident eating out of the home again. As well as enjoying meals out with friends and families, people will have also been grabbing food and drink on the go from supermarkets while travelling or at work. Those sales aren’t included in these take-home figures, but they will be adding to the grocers’ overall performance.
What we’re really starting to see is the switch from the pandemic being the dominant factor driving our shopping behaviour towards the growing impact of inflation, as the cost of living becomes the bigger issue on consumers’ minds.
More and more we’re going to see consumers and retailers take action to manage the growing cost of grocery baskets. Consumers are increasingly turning to own label products, which are usually cheaper than branded alternatives.