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UK wage growth continues to lag inflation
Wage growth fell behind inflation for a seventh month in a row, according to new employment figures. The Office for National Statistics said average weekly wages rose by 2.3% in the three months to October, below inflation at 3%. Real earnings, which takes into account the cost of living, fell by 0.2% Unemployment declined by 26,000 to 1.43 million, while the jobless rate remained at 4.3%, the lowest since 1975.
‘I was saved from a £10,000 car scam’
Seventy-two-year-old Barry Fox is one of hundreds of people saved from scams after bank staff stopped him spending £10,000 on a fictitious Rolls Royce. The retired lorry driver went into his Barclays branch intending to withdraw the cash to pay for the luxury car he saw on an internet auction site. Staff were concerned and used a new system to alert police to the case and, within 30 minutes, officers were there. They made checks and alerted Mr Fox to the fact he was about to be scammed.
Water bills set to fall by up to £25 from 2020
Household water bills in England and Wales will fall by between £15 and £25 a year from 2020 to 2025, the regulator Ofwat has pledged. A forthcoming price review will give water companies less wiggle room to recover the costs of debt and equity from customers, the regulator said. Ofwat was criticised by an influential government committee in 2016 for overestimating water firms’ costs. Consumers can look forward to a real terms fall in water bills, Ofwat said. Since privatisation in 1989, water bills have risen above inflation by about 40%, leading to a debate about whether privatisation works for that industry.
Rebellion threat to EU Withdrawal Bill
The government is facing the threat of a defeat by rebel backbenchers when MPs vote on its flagship EU legislation. Led by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve – a Conservative MP – the rebels want to insert a legal guarantee that MPs should get a vote on any final Brexit deal before it is finalised. The amendment, which will be backed by Labour, will be debated later. Brexit Secretary David Davis has written to Tory MPs but Mr Grieve said it was a “dialogue of the deaf”. The government has no majority in the Commons and is vulnerable to a revolt by its MPs.
Five main drivers of oil prices in the coming year
The oil market has climbed above $65 a barrel for the first time since 2015, boosted by the closure of the UK’s biggest oil pipeline that has cut North Sea supplies at a time when Opec’s output cuts with Russia have already spurred a robust rally in crude prices this year. Now, as the industry approaches 2018, the outlook remains clouded in uncertainty as supplies, led by a resurgent US shale industry, are forecast to climb sharply while Opec’s alliance with Russia may come under strain as the world’s biggest producers look to eventually bring production back online.
As the oil market awaits 2018, here are the five factors to watch:
Road advice will be beamed to dashboards by fibre-optic cables in motorway
Hundreds of miles of fibre-optic cables running along the centre of England’s busiest motorways will aim to eradicate congestion by beaming traffic information and speed limits directly into cars. Highways England will announce proposals today to create a high-tech broadband “spine” capable of communicating directly with modern and driverless cars in a step towards ending the need for traditional road signs. Under the plans, much of the motorway network between London and Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds — about 700 miles — will become “smart” motorways by as early as 2030.
Mental health ‘time out’ for motorists
Experts have recommended that patients suffering from serious psychiatric conditions should be declared unfit to drive for up to six months. In a paper in this month’s Irish Medical Journal, about 300 occupational physicians and psychiatrists gave their opinion on the fitness to drive of people suffering from conditions including severe anxiety states and depressive illness, hypomania or mania, acute psychosis, chronic schizophrenia, relapsing or remitting schizophrenia and alcohol misuse or dependence. They said that patients suffering from acute psychosis and schizophrenia should have a minimum period of wellness and stability of between three to six months before driving.
Double fuel disaster to add 3p to a litre of petrol: Cracks in major oil and gas pipeline and explosion at Austrian transfer station threaten supplies
Families face paying 3p extra for a litre of petrol by Christmas – on top of higher energy prices – after two catastrophic incidents threatened winter fuel supplies. The North Sea’s most important oil and gas pipeline – carrying 40 per cent of mainland Britain’s crude oil from the North Sea – had to be shut down after cracks were found. As a result, the price of a barrel of Brent crude rose to $65.56 (£49.23), a level not seen since the summer of 2015. Last night, the RAC warned the disruption could push the cost of petrol and diesel at the pumps up by 3p per litre. Yesterday there was also an explosion at a major gas transfer station in Austria – the main point of entry for Russian gas into Europe. In the wake of the blast, UK gas prices hit their highest level for six years, threatening higher bills this winter. The double blow comes as Britain goes through a cold snap, pushing up demand for domestic heating.
Driver WARNING – Thieves are targeting motorists defrosting their cars
Drivers are being warned about the threat of car thieves during the bad weather. Criminals are targeting cars being defrosted on driveways or by the side of the road, according to the AA. As temperatures in the UK drop to as low as -13 degrees in some parts and thick snow frozen to the windscreen, it is taking drivers longer to thaw out their car. The AA warns that leaving the car running unattended could not only result in the car being stolen but the insurance is likely to be invalidated and it could be against the law. The police have already warned of the dangers.
Britain’s worst road is leaving motorists in Lincolnshire hanging on for dear life as they navigate potholes and dramatic peaks and troughs
MOTORISTS have to hang on for dear life on a road dubbed the worst in Britain. Two-mile South Fen Road dramatically rises and falls and is littered with potholes, cracked tarmac and a mud slick. The nerve-jangling stretch — known as The Gauntlet — slopes to steep ditches each side. Removal driver Steve Chantry, 55, was so rattled by it he called cops. He said: “It’s terrifying and far too dangerous to drive on. “If you went at the 60mph limit you’d kill yourself.”