The whole of the UK has become much more aware of its body in the past two years. Someone coughs at the station, you think 'Covid' and give them two weeks. Despite record numbers of Omicron infections last week, during which we have either all had it, got it, will have it or don't care about it, most of us have moved on, not least because we are noticing strange blotches on our necks.
The (all new) NTI medical helpline can help you with that symptom. It is called 'fuel stress' and, starting today (Friday 1 April), there is a very good chance a lot more of us will have it.
If you are paying for your domestic fuel by direct debit (and, yes, that's you, Alex from Tunbridge Wells) you can, from today, look forward to an average annual increase on your domestic energy of £693, from £1,277 to £1,971. Breathing a heavy sigh of relief pre-payment customers? Well, start panting; you can expect a hike of £708, from £1,309 to £2,017. In case you think we were making it up; 'fuel stress' is a symptom for people who spend at least 10% of their incomes on energy.
But don't just become obsessed with the flywheels of your gas meters. Oh no. The cost of broadband, mobile and water bills, council tax and national insurance contributions will also rise this month. At least we can console ourselves with our favourite snack from the supermarket. What? Nope. There is a very good chance that is between 5.9 and 21 per cent more expensive than it was just 12 months ago.
Rishi Sunak is doing his best, bless him, but he is ever more clearly mimicking a hamster caught on a perpetual wheel as he sees his best laid plans crack before him. The £9.1 billion package he announced recentlly, allowing 80 per cent of households to receive the royal sum of £350, was all very well, but you can spend that on a sandwich now (albeit a very good one). This was broken down by a £150 rebate for properties in council tax bands A-D in England and although Neil is still waiting for his he is going to wait in vain, as he is in 'Band V'. The balance of the £350 was made up of a £200 repayable loan; but we're not convinced people know what the word 'loan' means in this context.
The International Energy Agency chose a bad day to announce worse news when it warned, in its latest monthly report, that energy markets are "faced with what could turn into the biggest supply crisis in decades". Cheery. Oil supply is measured in 'barrels', in much the same way Michelle's level of optimism is measured in 'Champagne glasses', and we learnt yesterday that daily demand is now expected to come in at 99.7 million barrels per day for the year as a whole - up 2.1 million barrels per day on 2021. However, it expects oil supplies to fall by more, reflecting the potential loss to the market of up to three million barrels per day from Russia from April onwards.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have so far showed no willingness to tap into their reserves to make up the deficit and that has absolutely nothing to do with pushing up the price and making us more reliant upon them ... oh, hang on, it has everything to do with that. So, Sam from Durham, I would start the queue at your local fuel station now as we haven't had a good run of local mania for a while now and it might take our minds off the price of milk.