A third of Brits face poverty with energy bills set to hit $5,000

Nearly one third of households in the United Kingdom will face poverty this winter after paying energy bills that are set to soar again in January, campaigners say.

About 10.5 million households will be in fuel poverty for the first three months of next year, according to estimates from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition (EFPC) published on Tuesday — meaning that their income after paying for energy will fall below the poverty line.
The UK government defines poverty as household income of less than 60% of the UK median, which stood at £31,000 ($37,500) in 2021, according to official statistics.
The predictions are based on new estimates from research firm Cornwall Insight, also published Tuesday, which show that the average household energy bill is expected to hit £3,582 ($4,335) a year from October, and £4,266 ($5,163) from January — equating to about £355 ($430) a month.
January’s forecast represents a 116% increase in energy bills from current levels. As fuel prices surge, estimates are having trouble keeping pace. Just last week, Cornwall Insight predicted January’s prices would rise by 83% from current levels.
The research firm said it had revised its figures because of a jump in wholesale prices and a change in the way the UK regulator calculates its price cap. But there could be relief on the horizon: Cornwall Insight expects bills to start falling in the second half of 2023.
Fuel bills started rising last year as a global natural gas supply crunch pushed wholesale prices up to record levels. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February has only exacerbated the situation.
The averageUKhousehold bill has already risen 54% this year, exacerbating a cost-of-living crisis that has forced many Britons to choose between “heating and eating.”
In May, the government announced a £15 billion ($18 billion) package of support — including a £400 ($484) payment to 29 million households from October — to ease the burden of energy bills.
But Simon Francis, coordinator for the EFPC, said the latest price estimates meant the current level of government support amounted to a “drop in the ocean.”
Craig Lowrey, a principal consultant at Cornwall Insight, said in a Tuesday press release that if “£400 was not enough to make a dent in the impact of [the company’s] previous forecast, it most certainly is not enough now.”
Liz Truss, the UK’s foreign minister and current frontrunner to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister next month, has proposed cutting taxes to help people struggling with their bills, rather than direct help. Her rival, former finance minister Rishi Sunak, has said more support will be needed.
Meanwhile, the CBI — the country’s top business organization — has urged Johnson to bring the leadership candidates together to agree on a way to support households and businesses with their energy bills so that measures can be announced as soon as the October price cap is set on August 26. The new prime minister is not expected to be elected until September 5.
By Anna Cooban

Olive oil prices to rise 25% as heatwave hits production

The price of olive oil is set to rise as heatwaves hit production in Spain, a leading exporter has warned.

Acesur, which supplies the UK’s biggest supermarkets, told the BBC this would feed through into prices in shops in the next three to four months when companies renew their contracts.

The company’s export manager, Miguel Colmenero, said customers could see prices rise by 20-25%.

Spain produces nearly half of the world’s olive oil.

But the country, along with other parts of Western Europe which produce olive oil, including Italy and Portugal, has been experiencing extreme temperatures and a lack of rain in recent weeks.

Acesur is involved in the production of more than 200,000 tonnes of olive oil a year, out of the roughly 1.4 million tonnes produced in Spain annually, and sells its products in more than 100 countries.

It sells around 20,000 tonnes a year in the UK and packs own-label brands for Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda. The supermarkets also stock its La Espanola brand, which is the third biggest in the UK.

Most of the olives in its products are grown in Andalucia, southern Spain, which has had very little rainfall in recent weeks.

Mr Colmenero said the impact of the heatwave on production was “drastic”.

Last year, Spain produced around 1.4 million tonnes of olive oil but he said officials were now forecasting as little as one million tonnes for this season.

He added that the dry weather could also impact next season’s crop, if olive trees could not grow new branches due to lack of water.

This is having an impact on global prices. In July the Mintec benchmark price for extra virgin olive oil rose to its highest level so far this year, up by 7.3% on the previous month and 14.2% on the previous year, according to the market research group.

Mr Colmenero said this would eventually feed through into prices for customers, although there would be a three to four month lag because many companies would already have signed 12-month contracts with retailers.

However, he added companies would eventually have to raise their prices when they renewed contracts and customers could see increases of 20-25%.

The BBC contacted the UK’s other biggest olive oil brands, including Filippo Berio and Napolina, but did not get a response.

The average price of own-label olive oil in the four biggest UK supermarket chains was up 50.2% on last year at the beginning of August, according to retail research firm Assosia. From June to July, average prices increased 28.5%.

If the dry weather continues, Roxanne Nikoro, a market analyst for Mintec, said prices could rise further.

However, she added that if the grain corridor agreed from Ukraine led to more supplies of sunflower oil coming out of the country, this “could bring some relief”.

Mr Colmenero said disruption to the supply of sunflower oil from Ukraine was also contributing to “dramatic” price increases, as people turned to olive oil as an alternative, increasing demand.

Ukraine was previously the world’s top exporter of sunflower oil.

Other parts of Western Europe which produce olive oil have also experienced record high temperatures and Mr Colmenero said this would reduce production in other countries too.

In July, Italy declared a state of emergency in five northern regions surrounding the Po River, as it experienced the worst drought in 70 years.


Kenya Elections 2022: Raila Odinga and William Ruto in tight race for president

Logistical delays and a failure of the identification kit in some parts of the country marred a largely peaceful election day in Kenya.

Polls are now officially closed but voting has been extended in places which opened late.

This vote follows an intense campaign dominated by debates about living costs, unemployment and corruption.

The frontrunners for president are ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga and current Deputy President William Ruto.

Kenyans were also electing a new parliament and local administrations.

The electoral commission is yet to announce the total turnout, but by 16:00 (13:00 GMT) – an hour before pols closed – just over 56% of the 22 million registered voters had cast their vote.

A top election official in Kenya’s central region of Nyeri told journalists that turnout has been low in that part of the country compared to 2017.

The counting of votes, which takes place at the polling stations, was expected to start soon after they closed with the collation of the presidential votes a priority.

Earlier, Mr Odinga was mobbed by supporters when he went to vote in Kibra – one of his strongholds in the capital, Nairobi.

He did not speak to the press, but his wife, Ida Odinga, said he was “upbeat about the election”.

When Mr Ruto voted in the town of Eldoret in the Rift Valley he pledged to accept the election result.

“I think for the first time in the history of multi-party democracy in Kenya, all the candidates have undertaken that they will accept the outcome of the results,” he told the BBC.

A dispute over election results in 2007 led to weeks of violence leading to the deaths of an estimated 1,200 people and forced about 600,000 people to flee from their homes

On Tuesday, there was some frustration among the early morning voters at a polling station in a primary school in the Westlands area of Nairobi.

They were blocked from entering the compound of the school for 90 minutes.

The reason for the delay was not clear and some people started chanting: “We want to vote!”

“I was here very early. It’s been disappointing that we got here early and had to wait for a long time,” voter Alex Kipchoge told the BBC.

When voting did get under way, however, the process went well.

“I was quite excited. I’ve been waiting for this for quite a long time and I’m happy that I’ve actually had the chance to vote,” first-time voter Abigail Awili said.

There were also delays in the coastal area of Mombasa and some parts of the north-east of the country. And in parts of Kakamega county, in the west, some electronic fingerprint scanning kits failed to work.

But the electoral commission said that nationwide only 200 broke down out of a total of more than 46,000.

The results of the last presidential election in 2017 were annulled after the Supreme Court ruled that the electoral commission had not followed the law when it came to the electronic transmission of the vote tallies from the polling stations.

Judges ruled that “illegalities and irregularities” had taken place.

A re-run was won by Mr Kenyatta, but boycotted by Mr Odinga – the main opposition candidate at the time.

The chairman of the electoral commission, Wafula Chebukati, who was also in charge of the 2017 vote, has frequently tried to reassure Kenyans that his team will be up to the task this time.

This election looks like it will be a tight race between frontrunners Mr Odinga, 77, and Mr Ruto, 55.

Mr Odinga – a long-serving opposition leader, nicknamed Baba (“father”) by his supporters, is running for president for a fifth time. Mr Ruto, who has tried to emphasise his connection with ordinary Kenyans by calling himself a “hustler”, is taking his first stab at the presidency.

Two other candidates – David Mwaure and George Wajackoya – are also in the race.

To win the presidential race in the first round, a candidate needs:

  • more than half of all the votes cast across the country
  • at least 25% of the votes cast in a minimum of 24 counties.

After counting the votes, officials will then take a photo of the final tally and send the image to both the constituency and national tallying centres.

To ensure transparency the media, political parties and civil society groups have been urged to run their own tallies using final results declared at the more than 40,000 polling stations.

But only the electoral commission can declare the winner of the presidential election after verifying the physical and digital forms sent to the national tallying centre.

It has seven days to announce the result.

By Dickens Olewe

Donald Trump says FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago Florida home

Donald Trump has said his Florida home was raided by the FBI, in a dramatic escalation of the legal investigations into the former US president.

In a lengthy statement on Monday evening, Mr Trump said a “large group” of FBI agents were at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach and had broken open a safe.

The search is reportedly linked to an investigation into his handling of classified and sensitive material.

The FBI and the Department of Justice have not yet commented.

An unnamed law enforcement official told CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, that the Secret Service was notified shortly before the warrant was served at about 10:00 local time (14:00 GMT) and that agents protecting Mr Trump helped the FBI investigators.

Several boxes were taken away, the source said, adding that no doors were kicked down and the search had concluded by late afternoon.

Some reports suggest the FBI activity – which Mr Trump described as an “unannounced raid” – was connected to an investigation into whether the former president removed classified records and sensitive material from the White House and took them to Mar-a-Lago.

Eric Trump, the president’s second-oldest son, told Fox News that it was related to an investigation into the handling of National Archives (NA) records that were taken to the Florida residence after his father left office.

US presidents are required by the Presidential Records Act (PRA) to transfer all of their documents and emails to the NA.

The government agency said in February that it had retrieved 15 boxes of papers from Mar-a-Lago, which Mr Trump should have turned over when he left the White House. It later told Congress the boxes included items marked as classified national security information and asked the Justice Department to investigate.

Mr Trump at the time rejected reports that he had mishandled official records as “fake news”.

A federal search warrant must be signed by a judge and legal experts suggest this warrant was probably approved at the top levels of the Justice Department.

Although such a warrant does not suggest that criminal charges are expected, law enforcement agencies must first demonstrate the possibility that evidence of illegality will be found.

The FBI and the Justice Department rarely comment on active investigations and neither has issued a statement.

The search marks a major escalation in the months-long investigation into the handling of classified documents and comes as Mr Trump – who was in New York at the time – prepares for a possible further presidential run in 2024.

In his statement, he said he had co-operated with all relevant government agencies and so the “unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate”.

“Such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World countries,” he said. “Sadly, America has now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before.”

News of the search has mobilised some of Donald Trump’s supporters. A group gathered outside Mar-a-Lago to wave flags and express their anger while others have travelled to Trump Tower in New York.

Meanwhile, in Congress, many Republicans expressed their anger. House of Representatives Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy said: “The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponised politicisation.”

A senior White House official told CBS that President Joe Biden’s administration was given no notice of the FBI search in Florida on Monday. The White House has said it is limiting its interactions with Justice Department officials to avoid any hint of political pressure or impropriety.

We don’t know what the FBI were looking for, but the judiciary don’t issue search warrants on a whim or so that agents can go on a fishing exercise.

There has to be credible evidence of a crime – and the judge has to be satisfied a search of that specific property could turn it up.

As to which crime the search involves, that’s a question we don’t know the answer to, as the justice department is yet to comment.

One possibility is the mishandling of classified documents, which a grand jury is already looking into. That can carry a three-year jail term.

Legal jeopardy is of course bad news for the former president, but don’t believe for a minute this isn’t also an enormous political opportunity – a shot in the arm Donald Trump relishes as he contemplates another run at the White House.

One look at his statement demonstrates the point: it is vintage Trump.

All the familiar buttons get pressed – witch hunts, hoaxes, political persecution – steeped in the familiar, superlative-laden language of the outsider pursued by a corrupt state.

It’s already galvanised senior Republicans to threaten investigations into the Justice Department if they take back Congress in November’s mid-term elections.

Strap yourself in: the Trump show is back on the road.

  • A House of Representatives select committee is investigating Mr Trump’s actions surrounding the US Capitol riot on 6 January 2021 – when Trump supporters rioted at the Congress building in Washington DC as lawmakers met to certify Mr Biden’s election victory
  • The Justice Department is examining the former president’s challenge to the results of the 2020 presidential election
  • A prosecutor in Fulton County, Georgia, is investigating whether Mr Trump and his associates tried to interfere in that state’s results from the election
  • On top of that, Mr Trump faces a further array of lawsuits ranging from allegations of fraud, to inflating asset values, to sexual harassment. He denies any wrongdoing


Ukraine: Hull volunteers take sensory equipment to help orphans

Volunteers from Hull have kept a promise to return to a Polish orphanage to help more than 60 disabled children who were evacuated from Ukraine.

Fundraiser Lee Ellerker made the pledge when he visited the orphanage in the northern city of Torun in June.

At the time he highlighted a need for sensory equipment which had been left behind when the children left Ukraine.

After a fundraising effort, volunteers have now installed a special sensory room with soft flooring and lighting.

Mr Ellerker said the children were delighted and the donation had “changed their lives”.

The equipment was among more than £10,000 worth of aid which filled two vans driven to Poland by the Hull volunteers.

As well as the special room the team from Hull also delivered medical equipment, clothing and food.

Mr Ellerker said the sensory equipment was vital to help the children’s development.

“It’s a really good bit of kit we’ve installed there,” he said. “Anything to do with sense, touch, feel, aromatherapy.

“It was brilliant to just see the laughs on their faces and smiling and giggling, from what they did have in the first place to that.”

He said their original orphanage in Kharkiv in north-east Ukraine had been destroyed in the war “so they will not be going back to Ukraine, they’ll be staying here in Poland”.


Arrests made in Owo church massacre – Nigerian police

The Nigerian military says security forces have made arrests in connection with a deadly attack on a Roman Catholic Church in the south-western city of Owo two months ago.

The suspects have not been named - and it's not clear how many have been arrested - but an army officer said they would be paraded before the public after investigations.

Forty worshippers were killed when gunmen stormed the St Francis Catholic Church in Ondo State in June.

Nigeria's government blamed the attack on a local branch of the Islamic State group.

By: Chris Ewokor


Marko Arnautovic: Manchester United pull out of deal for Bologna forward after £7.6m bid rejected and ex-players privately expressed concerns

Sky Sports News revealed Manchester United’s interest in Marko Arnautovic last week; United saw a £7.6m bid for the former West Ham and Stoke forward rejected last week; Former United players privately expressed concerns about the potential transfer which led to the club backing out

Manchester United will not be pursuing a deal for Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic after former United players privately expressed concerns about the potential transfer.

Several United supporters also contacted the club to complain about the prospect of Arnautovic playing for United.

United were expected to go back in with an improved offer, but have decided to move on to other targets.

Bologna’s asking price for the forward was believed to be more than what United were prepared to pay.

Bologna sporting director Marco Di Vaio looked to close the door on United’s attempts to sign Arnautovic, claiming the forward is “priceless”.

Sky in Italy reported on Sunday that United had a bid of approximately £7.6m turned down by Bologna for the 33-year-old, but were expected to return with an improved offer.

“We want to keep going with Arnautovic and keep him, he’s at the centre of our project,” Di Vaio told Italia 1.

“Bologna’s wish now is to keep our current team and strengthen it in order to have an important season. Money is not the issue, Marko is priceless for us.”

United have done their best to sign the players Ten Hag wants – such as Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen, Frenkie de Jong, Antony, Marko Arnautovic and Adrien Rabiot.

Ten Hag turned down the chance to sign former PSG and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum before he moved to Roma last week. The former Liverpool midfielder was keen to move to United.

Meanwhile, former United forward Memphis Depay wants to return to the Premier League from Barcelona.

United’s move for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot is “progressing well”.

Talks continue with Rabiot’s mother over personal terms as United remain in discussions with Juventus over the final details of the deal, which is thought to be worth £15m plus add-ons.

Sky Sports News has been told Erik ten Hag is very keen on the player and that there is “full alignment” between the manager and the recruitment department over the signing.

United have not given up on signing Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong but are growing increasingly frustrated with the hold up at the Barcelona end. They continue to look at other targets.

However, while De Jong’s deal has proven to be a complicated one to do, but they have not given up on the Netherlands international, and there is still a belief there is a deal to be done.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has reiterated there have been offers but has indicated that De Jong wants to stay, and that the club want him to stay. However, economic issues have not gone away and the matter of De Jong’s deferred wages remains unresolved.

Central midfield has been a priority position all summer for United and signing both Rabiot and De Jong has not been ruled out.


Pass rate for Scottish exams drops as full timetable returns since before COVID pandemic

A more generous approach to grading has been adopted this year compared to before the pandemic and a free appeals service is available.

The pass rate for Scotland’s Higher qualifications has dropped from last year – after a full timetable of exams returned for the first time since before the pandemic.

More than 100,000 pupils across Scotland began to receive their results on Tuesday.

Attainment of A to C grades was 78.9%, according to figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

That is down from 87.3% last year, and from 89.3% in 2020, when teacher judgments were used instead of exams.

However, it is slightly up from 2019 – the last time there was a full exam timetable – when it was 74.8%.

There was a similar picture at Advanced Higher level, with those attaining A to C grades coming in at 81.3% – down from 90.2% in 2021 and 93.1% in 2020. In 2019, the pass rate was 79.4%.

For National 5 qualifications, the pass rate was 80.8%, down from 85.8% in 2021 and up from 78.2% in 2019.

The percentage of A grades at Higher level was 34.8% this year – down 12.8 percentage points from last year.

There has been extra support to acknowledge the continuing influence of COVID-19.

More than two million exam papers have been marked by almost 6,000 teachers and lecturers.

A more generous approach to grading has been adopted this year compared to before the pandemic and a free appeals service is available.

“This is one of the strongest-ever sets of results for any exam year, which is particularly impressive given the significant challenges learners have faced as a result of the pandemic,” said Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scotland’s education secretary.

“It is important to note, though, that although 2022 saw a return to exams, it was not a return to normality.

“The approach to exams reflected the disruption to teaching and learning that young people faced and a wide-ranging package of support and modifications was put in place.”


COVID-19 infections fall for second week in a row, ONS says

Although the recent spike in cases has been less severe than those seen previously, the relentless pressure is taking its toll on emergency departments.

The number of people in the UK infected with COVID-19 has fallen for the second week in a row, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), although levels remain high.

The ONS estimated that a total of 2.6 million people in private households had coronavirus in the week ending 26 July, based on self-reports from a representative sample.

Every patient in hospital with the virus means another bed is taken up, meaning longer waits for other patients.

Dr Mohammed Munavvar told Sky News that his hospital’s work to tackle NHS waiting lists had been making a dent, but now that has been disrupted.

He said: “Other patients cannot be admitted and treated, and patients have been waiting for a long time already for their procedures and their treatment is once again getting delayed.

“That is putting a lot of pressure on the system and on the restorative work, which had started very well.”

Professor Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, UEA, said: “Up to about 2 weeks ago the proportion of people testing positive for covid was continuing to fall in all four nations.

“More recent data from the DHSC dashboard published on Wednesday, the ZOE app (published today) and NHS England hospital activity figures (published yesterday) show that infections and hospital admissions are continuing to fall in the time period since the most recent data included in today’s ONS bulletin.

“Even deaths within 28 days of a positive test are now falling. At present there are no variants that I can see in the COG UK data that are bucking the trend. Even the BA.2.75 “Centaurus” lineage is not increasing, so hopefully this decline will be sustained for several weeks yet.”


Royal Mail workers to stage strikes over four days in call for ‘dignified, proper pay rise’

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said over 115,000 staff will form the biggest strike of the summer so far to demand a “dignified, proper pay rise”.

Royal Mail workers are set to stage four days of strikes in the coming weeks in a dispute over pay.

Walkouts will take place on Friday 26 and Wednesday 31 August and Thursday 8 and Friday 9 September.

It follows a recent ballot for strike action which saw members vote by 97.6% on a 77% turnout to take action.

The union said management responded by imposing a 2% pay rise, which it believed would lead to a “dramatic reduction” in workers’ living standards because of soaring inflation.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “Nobody takes the decision to strike lightly, but postal workers are being pushed to the brink.

“There can be no doubt that postal workers are completely united in their determination to secure the dignified, proper pay rise they deserve.

“We can’t keep on living in a country where bosses rake in billions in profit while their employees are forced to use food banks.

“When Royal Mail bosses are raking in £758m in profit and shareholders pocketing £400m, our members won’t accept pleads of poverty from the company.

“Postal workers won’t meekly accept their living standards being hammered by greedy business leaders who are completely out of touch with modern Britain.

“They are sick of corporate failure getting rewarded again and again.

“The CWU’s message to Royal Mail’s leadership is simple – there will be serious disruption until you get real on pay.”

Royal Mail apologised to its customers for the disruption the strike will cause.

Ricky McAulay, operations director at Royal Mail said: “After more than three months of talks, the CWU have failed to engage in any meaningful discussion on the changes we need to modernise, or to come up with alternative ideas.

“The CWU rejected our offer worth up to 5.5% for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years.

“In a business that is currently losing £1m a day, we can only fund this offer by agreeing the changes that will pay for it.

“Royal Mail can have a bright future, but we can’t achieve that by living in the past.”



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