Spring is bursting out all over – and so are prices – Jenny Ross
I don’t care what Andy Williams says – this is the most wonderful time of the year. Forget the “parties for hosting and marshmallows for toasting” – you can’t beat the carpets of daffodils and scampering lambs that arrive as the days get longer. And of course the creme egg resurgence is always a cause for celebration.
While most of us are full of the joys of spring – quite literally – there are some off-season Scrooges that earmark April as the perfect opportunity to whack us with a price hike.
Here are five household bills that will be going up over the next week – and what you can do to keep costs in check…
1. Council tax
Brace yourself for higher council tax bills. All 32 local authorities in Scotland are increasing their rates by between 3 per cent and 4.79 per cent. The average bill for those living in band D properties will jump from £1,208 to £1,243.
Short of moving to a property in a lower council tax band, or to a local authority with lower rates, there’s no avoiding a higher bill. But do check if you’re eligible for any discounts.
Every adult living alone is entitled to a 25 per cent reduction on their council tax. You still qualify for the discount if the other residents aren’t eligible to pay council tax. These include children, apprentices, students and those under 25 in approved training, and carers.
A more complicated route to a potential discount is to challenge your council tax banding if you think your house has been wrongly classified.
In England and Scotland rates are based on the 1991 value of your property. Each property is put into a band from A (the lowest) to H (the highest), according to this valuation - but if your property was incorrectly valued, you might be paying more council tax than you need to.
Start with a visit to the Valuation Office Agency’s site (voa.gov.uk) in England, or the Scottish Assessors Association in Scotland (saa.gov.uk) to see whether you’re in the same band as your neighbours. If not and there’s no obvious reason why, you may have a claim.
A word of warning though - while many have succeeded in getting a rebate going back years, there’s a risk your bill will go up if it turns out you should be in a higher band.
2. TV Licence
As of 1 April, the cost of a colour TV licence will rise by £4 to £154.50. Over 75s are currently exempt from paying the fee but there’s a chance this will change in 2020 when the BBC loses crucial Government funding.
Bear in mind that you won’t get this perk automatically on your 75th birthday – you need to apply. If you’re over 75 and have been paying for a licence, make sure you claim this money back by calling 0300 790 6130 or going to tvlicensing.co.uk.
It looked like a happy new year as far as energy bills were concerned when the regulator Ofgem introduced a price cap in January. This cut the bills of 11 million customers by £76 a year on average – or up to £120 for those on the priciest standard tariffs.
But Ofgem is now raising the cap, meaning that a household which uses a medium amount of gas and electricity will pay an extra £117 from April on average, bringing their annual bill to £1,254, if their energy company has raised its prices in line with the cap.
Some customers could even end up paying more than they did before the cap was introduced. All of the big six energy providers (British Gas, EDF, Eon, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE) have said they will increase their prices in line with the cap.
Now’s the time to think about switching suppliers to find a cheaper tariff. If you’re on a standard tariff from one of the Big Six, you could save £329 a year by switching to the cheapest deal on the market.
4. Mobile phone bills
Four of the UK’s biggest mobile networks will be upping their prices from April. O2, Three and Vodafone customers will see 2.5 per cent increases, while EE customers will pay 2.7 per cent more than they did last year.
Unfortunately, if you’re mid-contract it’s unlikely you’ll be able to leave without facing a penalty. But as soon as you’ve reached the end of the contract, flex your haggling muscles to negotiate a better deal and take your business elsewhere if you don’t get it.
5. Car tax
Changes to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) take effect on 6 April, which will see annual costs for some drivers go up by as much as £65. Car tax rules are fiendishly complex, but essentially your VED rate depends on two things: your car’s CO2 emissions, and when it was registered.
The most common increase to the standard VED rate is just £5. But due to increases in first year VED rates, anyone who buys a high-polluting new vehicle in 2019-20 will have to pay £65 more than last year.
Jenny Ross is the Which? Money editor