Spring Statement: Your questions answered on fuel duty, VAT and support for energy bills

Watch as ITV News' Consumer Editor Chris Choi and Social Affairs Correspondent Sarah Corker answer your questions

Rishi Sunak has unveiled new measures in the spring statement in a bid to help with the cost of living crisis.

The Chancellor has vowed to “stand by” British families in the face of the mounting cost of living, but what does that mean for the average household?

ITV News' Consumer Editor Chris Choi and Social Affairs Correspondent Sarah Corker have answered some of your questions about the announcements and what it will mean for you.

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  • Elizabeth Turnbull 

I have to use a CPAP machine nightly for sleep Apnoea. Some nights this is in use for nine hours, some nights slightly less. How can I apply for assistance with payments for electricity costs?  

The Chancellor today added £500 million to the Household Support Fund designed to help people who are struggling with bills. You’ll need to apply for a share of this through your local council – each local authority has different criteria, but it’s up to them to decide who gets a payment.  

Last month, it was announced that in April, everyone who pays council tax will receive a rebate of £150 to help with rising energy bills.  

Your local authority might also be able to help you to get a fuel grant - or a fuel voucher if you’re on a prepayment meter - to help pay bills. It’s also worth contacting your energy supplier - some offer grants for those who owe money on their bills. 

  • Alan Denham 

Why are petrol prices continuing to rise even though the cost of oil is falling? 

A week ago, the cost of crude oil did drop below $100 a barrel for the first time this month, and there was optimism about pump prices falling.

Since then though, wholesale prices have gone up - they were up over the last few days and again this morning at $118.

Diesel is a particular problem on international markets now because prior to the invasion of Ukraine, we imported around 18% from Russia. 

The RAC says the average petrol price is 167p a litre; diesel 179p. A sustained fall in oil prices would see prices fall, but at the moment the RAC predicts that they would stabilise at around 160p - which is still historically high and very painful for motorists.     

  • Lynley Gregory

I’m writing to highlight the huge rise in prices for oil for central heating. We usually buy oil for around 35 or 45p a litre - last week that had risen to £1.46. We couldn’t afford to fill the tank - it really is becoming a choice between heating and eating for us now.

About 1.7 million households rely on heating oil - they feel left out and let down because they are not covered by the energy price cap, and there was no mention of that being extended.

They pay fuel duty of around 11p per litre - we have called the Treasury to ask if the fuel duty cut applies to home heating oil. It does not. So once again, they will feel left out and let down.

  • Yones Ghadim

What about taxi drivers - the price of fuel has risen in the last four weeks - how is the 5p cut to fuel duty going to help them survive?

A lot of people rely on their cars to get to work - for taxi drivers, it is work.

Pump prices have gone up 5p in a day on some forecourts, so this tax cut could be outweighed.

Retailers are liable for fuel duty when they buy it, so they’ll wait until their existing stock is depleted – which could be 10 days in some locations.

When the cut comes, it will be about £2.75 off the price of a £98 full tank refill.

  • Ian Sutherland

Why can’t they take the cost of the daily charge of a meter down to help with new energy prices? At the moment I’m paying 18p a day – that's going up to 50p a day, and the charge for the gas meter is going up to 29p a day.

There is help with bills - £200 off bills in October - repayable in £40 instalments over five years and a £150 council tax rebate.

Overall, that’s £350 in help as typical bills rise by about £700 in eight days’ time.

Ian is quite right though that standing charges are rocketing by as much as 100%. They are the bit of your bill that pays for the pipe work and infrastructure, but also pays for several government initiatives such as the Warm Home Discount.

So, the Chancellor had the ability to alter standing charges, but didn’t.

  • Donna Taylor

Why can’t the government match fund or give grants for solar power or other eco-friendly ways to help businesses cut energy costs? It’s not enough to cut VAT - where do we find the funds for implementing cost saving measures to become more self-sufficient? It’s not affordable.

It was announced that there will be no VAT on solar panels, heat pumps and other energy saving improvements.

As Donna says though, to save money you have to spend money. For example, solar panels for a typical home are £4,800 - so you’d save £240. This measure could knock £160 off loft insulation, but you’ll still end up paying £800 typically.

Energy saving can cut your bills by £400 a year, but it’s not the immediate help with bills that many had hoped for.

  • Claire Little

Why hasn’t Rishi Sunak put up benefits in the short term to help people?

Benefits like Universal Credit are due to go up in April by 3.1% – that figure is decided by the inflation rate last September, which is normal practice.

But inflation right now is at a 30-year-high, and it's predicted to reach 8 or 9% later this year.

Surprisingly, and to the disappointment of some there was no mention of benefit or pensions levels today.

The government has been under immense pressure to go further as the cost of living continues to rises. It's worth noting that benefits next April will most likely rise significantly as the inflation rate this September will be higher, but it's not much help to those who are struggling now.

  • Sheena Lane

I earn £20,000 a year, I can't get any support and still the price of living rises - is there any help out there?

There is more help for the most vulnerable households. It's something called the Household Support Fund which has been doubled to £1 billion.

These are emergency grants administered by local councils and it's money to help people with things like food, clothing and energy bills.

Each local authority will decide who will qualify for help – but it is something you can apply for or talk to your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

This has been welcomed by debt charities – but given the scale of the cost of living crisis, they say it’s a drop in the ocean.

  • Margo

If you are a working pensioner claiming state pension will you have to start paying National Insurance contributions?

From 2023 – working pensioners will have to pay the rise of 1.25 percentage points.

That will go towards to the health and social care levy that was announced last September.

The government says that will be used to help tackle the NHS backlog caused by Covid. So an estimated 1.3 million working pensioners will see this deducted from their wages.

  • Paul Bellingham

I work part time as a carer and earn just £11,700.00 per year. How much National Insurance will I have to pay from next month?

Next month it will still be the same, but from July, the threshold at which people start paying National Insurance will go up to £12,570 - an increase of £3,000.

This is a measure that will help those on the lowest pay save around £350 a year. Economists who have done the number crunching and estimate it means anyone earning below £35,000 per annum will pay less National Insurance.

But many debt charities like StepChange say the threshold increase doesn't do enough to alleviate pressures on low income and non-working households.