Investigation into UK household plastic waste begins

Investigation into UK household plastic waste begins

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic are launching The Big Plastic Count today, 16th May 2022, looking into household plastic waste. The initiative wants to gather data to see how much plastic is passing through our homes and what happens to it.

The environmental organisations say, whilst the public are doing their bit to recycle, plastic waste is still everywhere and they want greater insight into how much plastic waste is being thrown away and where it is ending up after it leaves homes.

They say there’s “simply too much of it and recycling alone isn’t going to solve the plastic problem.”

To gain insight into the scale of the issue, Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic are asking the nation to count their plastic waste for one week in May, from 16th May to 22nd May. They want to know how much household plastic is thrown away and how much is really recycled.

Over 177,000 households have signed up to take part. They will be sent a free pack with everything needed to complete the count, including how to sort and categorise waste.

Participants will be able to submit their results online once the Big Plastic Count Week concludes on 22nd May. The results will then provide households with a personal plastic footprint and reveal what happens to plastic when it leaves homes.

The results from the nationwide investigation will be published in June 2022 and the organisations say they will use the data to demand change from government at a policy level, as well as convincing big brands and supermarkets to take ambitious action on plastic packaging.

Everyday Plastic states the timing of this evidence-gathering investigation is crucial as this year the government is starting to decide on legal targets to reduce plastic waste. The community interest company wants the government to set a target to reduce single-use plastic by 50% by 2025 (to be achieved by transitioning to reusable packaging) and ban sending the UK’s waste to other countries.

Homelessness resulting from no-fault evictions soars by over a third

Homelessness resulting from no-fault evictions soars by over a third

Between October and December last year 5,260 households were threatened with homelessness in England as a result of a no-fault eviction, new government figures reveal. A 37% rise compared to the same period before the pandemic.

A Section 21 no-fault eviction allows landlords to evict a tenant with just two months’ notice, without having to give any reason.

In April 2019, the government announced that “private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason.” Since then, Shelter points out: the government has recommitted to scrapping Section 21 no-fault evictions in the last two Queen’s Speeches.

The housing justice charity wants the government to put their words into action by committing to a Renters’ Reform Bill in the Queen’s Speech next month. Shelter argues that bringing in this clause is now more urgent than ever as the cost-of-living crisis means many renters will be unable to cover the unexpected costs of having to find a new home, including putting down a deposit or paying rent in advance.

To be classified as ‘threatened with homelessness’ by the council, a household is at risk of losing their home in the next eight weeks.

Data from the government on homelessness also reveals a quarter of households were found to be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless because of the loss of a private tenancy (14,820 households). This has increased by 85% in a year after the end of the eviction ban during the pandemic but is 14% higher than before the pandemic. The loss of a private tenancy is the second leading trigger of homelessness in England.

Further data reveals: the number of people fleeing domestic abuse (8,200 households) who have become homeless or threatened with homelessness is 28% higher than before the pandemic. A total of 33,800 households became homeless in England last winter. This includes 8,410 families with children – a rise of 18% in a year and puts family homelessness back at pre-pandemic levels.

According to Shelter’s own research with YouGov, in the last three years, nearly 230,000 private renters have been served with a formal no-fault eviction notice. This equates to one renter every seven minutes.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Homelessness due to no-fault evictions is up 37% on pre-pandemic levels. These are real people who’ve been chewed up and spat out by our broken private renting system, and now face an uphill battle to find somewhere to call home again.

“Our emergency helpline is inundated with calls from people whose lives have been thrown into chaos by unexpected and unfair evictions. If landlords follow the process, as it stands they can turf people out of their homes for no reason – and tenants are powerless to do anything about it.

“No fault evictions are blunt, brutal and indiscriminate. England’s 11 million private renters have waited long enough for a fairer system – it’s time the government brought forward a Renters’ Reform Bill and put Section 21 on the scrapheap where it belongs.”

Long-term empty homes in East Suffolk targeted with new initiative

Long-term empty homes in East Suffolk targeted with new initiative

A three-year long-term empty homes programme has had revenue funding approved by councillors at a cabinet meeting of East Suffolk Council.

The initiative is being designed to bring residential properties that have been empty for at least two years back into use. In East Suffolk, currently 280 properties in private ownership fall into that category.

These will be prioritised for action according to type, location, duration unoccupied, and housing need in the surrounding area.

The new programme forms part of the council’s initiatives for tackling the long-term empty homes issue in the area. There has also been a proposal to appoint a dedicated Empty Homes Officer to drive policy.

The programme will be designed to bring homes back into use via a variety of options.

Councillor Richard Kerry, East Suffolk Council cabinet member with responsibility for housing, said: “Empty homes are a wasted resource and can cause blight on neighbourhoods, attracting anti-social behaviour, vandalism and fly-tipping.

“We recognise the value of bringing an empty home back into the housing stock. The result can be a modernised, more energy efficient home, utilising fewer resources than a new build.

“We also realise that solutions need to be tailored to each case and owner, often requiring time to explore all options.

“As a local authority, we can play a key role in opening up the opportunity for investment and restoration where it may have stalled.

“Costs of all actions and their impact on overall long-term empty homes will be kept under review, and the programme revised and tailored to maximise effectiveness.”

Examples of empty homes becoming part of the Council’s own stock, to provide affordable accommodation and much needed regeneration, include 560 London Road, Lowestoft, converted into a House in Multiple Occupation, and 98 Park Road, Lowestoft, now occupied as a five-bed council house.

Funding to support the development of a long-term empty homes programme is available from reserves created from the New Homes Bonus (NHB) claimed by East Suffolk Council from central government in recent years.

The revenue cost of the service is estimated at £281,958 for three years.

Property purchases would initially use the reserve as a source of funding, with capital receipts providing a replenishment when properties are sold.

There are approximately 117,000 homes in East Suffolk. The number of long-term empty homes represents less than 0.25%. Despite the low percentage, a survey carried out on behalf of the charity Empty Homes, in October 2016, found that 76% of adults surveyed believed their local authority should place a higher priority on tackling empty homes.

Early signs of rising cost of living impacting non-essential spending

Early signs of rising cost of living impacting non-essential spending

Consumer spending grew by close to a fifth (19%) in February compared to the same month in 2021, according to a new report. However, the data also reveals people spent four per cent less on non-essentials in February compared to January – traditionally the quietest month of the year for spending – indicating the impact of the rising cost of living is already being felt and considered.

The Spending Report from Nationwide is a monthly breakdown of around 190 million debit and credit card and direct debit transactions. During February, transactions accounted for more than £6.9 billion of spending, which is down nine per cent on the total amount spent in January.

Whilst spending on non-essentials dipped last month, it was still significantly higher (+44%) than February last year, mainly due to the lockdown restrictions at the start of last year.

By contrast, essential spend rose by 16 per cent in February compared with the year before. With energy costs continuing to rise, it’s no surprise that spending on utilities and bills rose by 15 per cent compared to February 2021. Spending on fuel and electric vehicle charging rose by 70 per cent due to the increasing cost of fuel, more Nationwide members switching to electric and more commuting to work once again – irrespective of how their vehicles are powered.

Non-essentials

Despite a slight dip in the amount of discretionary spend, holidays continued to be a major area where people are putting their spare money. With the world opening back up, airline travel, cruises and holidays all saw month-on-month spending growth.

Both eating and drinking, and leisure and recreation also saw a jump of four per cent month-on-month, likely as a result of more people returning to offices and socialising with colleagues and friends.

In terms of how the nation pays, the number of transactions made by mobile phone to tap and go increased by five per cent month-on-month as people continue to enjoy the convenience of paying by contactless.

Mark Nalder, head of payments at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Non-essential spending continues to be significantly higher than it was in 2021, given the lockdown situation the country was facing at the start of last year. However, the fall in spending in February compared to last month suggests that people are continuing to try and rein in spending where they can, given the rising cost of living.

“The removal of the Plan B restrictions has led to an increase in spending on travel during February as more people returned to offices, while a natural by-product of more people getting back out is greater spending on eating, drinking and leisure. And as the weather begins to improve, it is perhaps no wonder that holiday spend continues to be a major destination for our money.

“As inflation impacts how much money we can spend and where we are spending it, we expect overall spend to outstrip last year, particularly in areas where the rising cost of living is likely to be having a big impact, such as utilities, bills and fuel. We do, however, anticipate the need for many households to curb non-essential spending as they do their best to balance family finances.”

Magenta secures funding for more affordable homes and carbon zero goals

Magenta secures funding for more affordable homes and carbon zero goals

Magenta Living is set to build more than 1000 new affordable homes over the next five years, after securing a £137 million funding package from NatWest. The funds will also enable the Wirral-based housing association to commence its transition to being a carbon zero housing provider.

The affordable housing landlord currently owns 13,000 homes across the North West and is the largest housing association in the Wirral with more than 600 employees.

Magenta’s growth plans include carrying out maintenance work on existing homes as well as growing their portfolio to increase affordable housing levels across the region.

The funding from NatWest will also enable Magenta Living to progress its climate change strategy. This involves a 30-year commitment from the business to help tackle climate change through methods such as using electric vehicles, improving local green spaces, tackling fuel poverty and improving the energy performance of their housing portfolio.

The bank has attributed environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals to £75 million of the company’s loan facilities, helping Magenta Living to work towards the Government’s zero carbon homes target by 2050.

Ann Monk, executive director of finance at Magenta, said: “We aim to enhance local communities and help people access a better quality of life through the provision of improved homes for affordable renting.

“Ultimately, we serve local communities in the North West region by building properties that create genuine social value, and this funding package from NatWest is helping us bring this vision to life.

“The bank’s backing is assisting us as we move towards our target of becoming a carbon zero organisation by 2050 with the creation of truly sustainable properties. This will allow us to continue growing and seizing new opportunities, as well as creating new jobs and encouraging investment into the areas we serve.”

Marcos Navarro, director and sustainability lead for housing finance at NatWest, said: “We’re committed to supporting housing associations nationwide and have provided a bespoke funding package that will help Magenta Living deliver affordable and sustainable properties to individuals and families across Wirral and the wider North West.

“We’ll continue to support the company as it expands its portfolio and delivers its climate change initiative. It was rewarding to work on a deal that adds such genuine social and environmental value.

“This new funding package will not only allow Magenta Living to build sustainable and affordable homes, but it will support its transition to net zero and create local jobs, supporting economic recovery following the pandemic”

This funding package forms part of NatWest’s commitment to support the housing association sector with £3 billion by the end of 2022, to help increase the provision of social housing and enable the improvement of existing properties.

Energy price cap rise: Chancellor lays out government’s plan to help households

Energy price cap rise: Chancellor lays out government’s plan to help households

The energy price cap will rise to £1,971 in April – an increase of £693 for the average household

 

Below is Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s statement to the House of Commons in response to the energy price cap rise:

Mr Speaker,
The UK’s economic recovery has been quicker and stronger than forecast.
In the depths of the pandemic, our economy was expected to return to its pre-crisis level at the end of 2022.
Instead, it got there in November 2021 – a full year earlier.
Unemployment was expected to peak at nearly 12%.
Instead, it peaked at 5.2% and has now fallen to just over 4% – saving more than 2 million jobs.
And with the fastest growing economy in the G7 this year…
Over 400,000 more people on payrolls than before the pandemic…
And business investment rising…it’s no wonder Mr Speaker, that borrowing is set to fall from £320bn last year…
…the highest ever peacetime level…
…to £46bn by the end of this Parliament.
As we emerge from the depths of the worst recession in 300 years, we should be proud of our economic record.
The economy is stronger because of the plan we put in place; because of the actions we took to protect families and businesses.
And that plan is working.
But for all the progress we are making – the job is not yet done.
Right now, I know the number one issue on people’s minds is the rising cost of living.
It is the independent Bank of England’s role to deliver low and stable inflation – and the Governor will set out their latest judgements at midday today.
And just as the government stood behind the British people through the pandemic…
…so we will help people deal with one of the biggest costs they now face – energy.
The energy regulator, OFGEM, announced this morning that the energy price cap will rise in April to £1,971 – an increase of £693 for the average household.
Without government action, this would be incredibly tough for millions of hardworking families.
So the government is going to step in to directly help people manage those extra costs.

Mr Speaker,
Before I set out the steps we are taking, let me explain what’s happening to energy prices, and why.
People’s energy bills are rising because it is more expensive for the companies who supply our energy to buy oil, coal, and gas.
Of the £693 increase in the April price cap, around 80% comes from wholesale energy prices.
Over the last year, the price of gas alone has quadrupled.
And because over 85% of homes in Britain are heated with a gas boiler, and around 40% of our electricity comes from gas, this is hitting households hard.
The reasons gas prices are soaring are global.
Across Europe and Asia, a long, cold winter last year depleted gas stores.
Disruption to other energy sources like nuclear and wind left us relying more than usual on gas during the summer months.
Surging demand in the world’s manufacturing centres in Asia…
…at the same time as countries like China are moving away from coal…
…is further increasing demand for gas.
And concerns about a possible Russian incursion into Ukraine are putting further pressure on wholesale gas markets.
And so prices are rising.

Mr Speaker,
The price cap has meant that the impact of soaring gas prices has so far fallen mainly on energy companies.
So much so, that some suppliers who couldn’t afford to meet those extra costs have gone out of business as a result.
It is not sustainable to keep holding the price of energy artificially low.
For me to stand here and pretend we don’t have to adjust to paying higher prices would be wrong and dishonest.
But what we can do is take the sting out of a significant price shock for millions of families…
…by making sure the increase in prices is smaller initially and spread over a longer period.

Mr Speaker,
Without government intervention, the increase in the price cap would leave the average household having to find an extra £693.
The actions I’m announcing today will provide, to the vast majority of households, just over half that amount – £350.
In total, the government is going to help around 28 million households this year.
Taken together, this is a plan to help with the cost of living worth around £9bn.
We’re delivering that support in three different ways.
First, we will spread the worst of the extra costs of this year’s energy price shock over time.
This year, all domestic electricity customers will receive an upfront discount on their bills worth £200.
Energy suppliers will apply the discount on people’s bills from October.
With the government meeting the cost in full.
That discount will be automatically repaid from people’s bills in equal £40 instalments over the next five years.
This is the right way to support people while staying on track with our plans to repair the public finances.
And because we are taking a fiscally responsible approach, we can also provide more help, faster, to those who need it most – the second part of our plan.
We’re going to give people a £150 Council Tax rebate to help with the cost of energy, in April – and this discount won’t need to be repaid.
And I do want to be clear with the House that we are deliberately not just giving support to people on benefits.
Lots of people on middle incomes are struggling right now, too – so I’ve decided to provide the council tax rebate to households in Bands A to D.
This means around 80% of all homes in England will benefit.
And the third part of our plan will provide local authorities with a discretionary fund of nearly £150m…
…to help those lower income households who happen to live in higher Council Tax properties…
…and households in bands A-D who are exempt from Council Tax.
We’re also confirming today that we’ll go ahead with existing plans to expand eligibility for the Warm Home Discount by almost a third…
…so that 3m vulnerable households will now benefit from that scheme.
And that’s not all we’re doing to help vulnerable households.
We’re providing £3bn over this Parliament to help more than half a million lower income homes become more energy efficient, saving them on average £290 per year.
Increasing the National Living Wage to £9.50 an hour in April, a pay rise of over £1,000 for 2 million low paid workers.
And providing an effective tax cut for those on Universal Credit, allowing almost 2 million households to keep an average of £1,000 per year.
The payment through energy suppliers will apply across England, Wales and Scotland.
Energy policy is devolved in Northern Ireland, with a different regulator, and the government does not have the legal powers to intervene.
So we will make sure the Executive is funded to do something similar, with around £150m for Northern Ireland through the Barnett formula next year.
And because the Council Tax system is England only, total Barnett consequentials of around £565m will be provided to the devolved administrations in the usual way.

Mr Speaker,
I know that some in this House have argued for a VAT cut on energy.
However, that policy would disproportionately benefit wealthier households.
There would also be no guarantee that suppliers would pass on the discounts to all customers.
And we should be honest with ourselves: this would become a permanent Government subsidy on everyone’s bills.
A permanent subsidy worth £2.5 billion every year – at a time when we are trying to rebuild the public finances.
Instead, our plan allows us to provide more generous support, faster, to those who need it most, providing 28m households with at least £200, and the vast majority receiving £350.
It is fair, it is targeted, it is proportionate – it is the right way to help people with the spike in energy costs.

Mr Speaker,
Today’s announcements are just one part of the government’s plan to tackle this country’s most pressing economic challenges.
A plan for growth – with record investments in infrastructure, innovation and skills.
A plan to restore the public finances – with debt falling by the end of this Parliament.
A plan to cut waiting lists and back the NHS with £29bn over three years and a permanent new source of funding.
And, with the measures I’ve announced today – a plan to help with the rising cost of energy with £350 more in the pockets of tens of millions of hard working families.
That’s our plan to build a stronger economy – not just today but for the long term.
And I commend it to this House.