Cost of living latest: More travel misery as train drivers strike again; schools close in Scotland for teacher walkout (2023)

Key points
  • Rail workers from the RMT Union and drivers from Aslef go on strike - check which services are affected
  • Teachers striking in Scotland - here are the areas where schools are closed
  • Fuel prices fall for third month in a row but lower pump prices might come to an end
  • Jason Farrell special report: 'I spent all my savings and now I can't retire'
  • Live reporting by Jess Sharp


Ofgem orders British Gas to suspend forced installation of prepayment meters

Energy regulator Ofgem has confirmed it has asked British Gas to suspend the forced installation of prepayment meters.

Sky News understood it had made the request to all energy suppliers yesterday after it was revealed that debt collectors working for British Gas had forced their way into the homes of vulnerable customers.

In a statement released today, Ofgem's chief executive Jonathan Brearley said: "We've ordered immediate action to protect British Gas' customers.

"We're requiring British Gas to stop forced installations until its Board proves to us it is fully compliant with the legal and regulatory obligations.

"We require all the documentation relating to its contract with Arvato Financial Solutions to be turned over to us."

He added that it expects full and open co-operation from British Gas, including the delivery of its preliminary internal report by 13 February.

"We need the facts on how Arvato's bonus system installing meters worked, whether it was built into its contract and whether it led to vulnerable people being targeted for cash," he said.

"We want to establish if it was down to individual teams or a more systemic issue across the company."


Fuel prices fall for third month in a row - but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll keep seeing lower prices

After three consecutive months of falls, the average price of petrol bottomed out at 148.35p towards the end of January and has now started to slowly rise again, data from the RAC has revealed.

Having at one point been as much as 3.5p lower than at the start of the month, unleaded closed January at 148.89p – 3p lower than it began (151.85p).

The last time drivers filled up at this price was in mid-February 2022 before Russia invaded Ukraine.

This means it will now cost an average of £81.89 – down £1.63 in the month - to fill up with petrol.

The average price of diesel dropped by 4p from 174.37p to 170.37p – a price last seen in March 2022.

This means a typical tank of diesel now costs £93.70 – £2.20 less than at the beginning of January.

Where's the cheapest place to get fuel?

Filling up at one of the big four supermarkets was around 3p a litre cheaper for both fuels, with the average price of petrol at their sites finishing January at 145.71p (down 2.25p) and diesel at 167.49p (down 2.79p).

Asda had the lowest prices, with a litre of unleaded costing 144.61p (down to 2.5p) and diesel 166.09p (down 3.6p).

Why are people concerned now?

Despite the positive falls, the RAC said there is now more cause for concern than celebration, as petrol prices have already started to creep up.

While prices at the pumps did fall during the first month of the year, January also saw the wholesale cost of petrol rise by 2p and diesel by 3p.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams explained:

"Despite this, while unleaded has been overpriced for months due to the biggest retailers refusing to lower their prices in line with the lower wholesale price, diesel is still too expensive even after factoring in the slight wholesale up tick.

"As always, drivers' fate at the pumps very much depends on what happens with the price of oil. But with the barrel now trading consistently well above $80 and analysts predicting a rise to $90 due to increased demand, there is a very real risk that we could see petrol prices go back up to an average of 155p all too quickly."


More strikes are planned this month - maybe put these dates in your calendar

Tens of thousands of workers are striking in the coming months over pay and conditions as a winter of industrial action continues.

1 February saw the UK's biggest day of industrial action in more than a decade as teachers, university staff, train drivers, civil servants, bus drivers and security guards all went on strike.

Here's a quick breakdown of the strikes being held for the rest of this month - and the days you need to be aware of.

What's happening next week?

Next week will kick off with nurses from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and ambulance staff from GMB union walking out.

GMB has said its members will be striking in the West Midlands, the North East, East Midlands, Wales and the North West.

The following day, ambulance workers will return to work, but the nurses strike will continue and they will be joined by midwives in Wales.

On the 9 February, physiotherapists at 30 NHS trusts across England are taking industrial action, along with university staff at 150 universities across the country.

Physiotherapists will return to work the next day, but university workers will be joined by paramedics in London, Yorkshire, the South West, North East and North West.


Can I use the London Underground today?

In short, yes.

Transport for London (TfL) has said the London Underground will not be affected by rail strikes on Friday.

All TfL services are expected to run as normal, including the Elizabeth Line.

However, it did warn that some of its services may be "busier than usual" due to the unavailability of routes on other rail networks.

There are strikes taking place on some bus routes serviced by Abellio buses.

This is largely in west and south London.

TfL said: "There are strikes on Abellio bus services. On strike days, we will aim to run as many services as possible, but we expect disruption."


Teachers striking in Scotland - here are the areas affected

Teachers in some parts of Scotland are going on strike today as part of a wave of action that started back in January.

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) have been striking in different local authorities every school day since 16 January.

Union leaders have warned there is no end in sight for the current pay dispute, with teachers demanding a 10% pay rise and the most recent offer sitting at 5% or 6.85% for lowest-paid staff.

Today, walkouts are taking place in South Lanarkshire and the Western Isles.

South Lanarkshire Council has told parents they should consider making alternative arrangements for their children today.

The EIS recently announced a further 22 days of extra strikes between 13 March and 21 April.


Good morning - and welcome back

After a day of news on the economy, we're back with live updates as another wave of strikes hit the UK.

Train drivers from the Aslef union are walking out again today, along with some Abellio London bus drivers in west and south London.

As a result, much of the British railway network will come to a standstill.

It is understood no services will be run by these operators:

  • Avanti West Coast
  • Chiltern Railways
  • Cross Country
  • East Midlands Railway
  • Gatwick Express
  • Great Northern
  • Heathrow Express
  • London Northwestern Railway
  • Northern
  • Southeastern
  • Southern
  • Thameslink
  • TransPennine Express
  • West Midlands Railway

Additionally, a reduced service will be run on the following:

  • Greater Anglia
  • Stansted Express
  • Great Western Railway
  • LNER

The strike will also involve drivers who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT).

It is likely any trains that do run today will start later and finish earlier – typically running between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

Teachers, legal workers and civil servants in parts of Scotland are also going on strike today.


That's all for our live reporting today

Thanks for following along on a busy day for news on the UK's economy - as the Bank of England raised interest rates to 4%.

We'll be back tomorrow with updates when another wave of strikes hits the country - this time, causing severe disruption on national train services.


Very adds 1,000 products to value range

Online retailer Very is set to add 1,000 more products to its Everyday value range, reports Drapers.

The new items will be a mixture of 540 fashion lines and 400 lifestyle products, most which cost £30 or less.

The value range is aimed at customers impacted by the cost of living crisis, and includes school uniform items starting at £5.

Drapers reported that Everyday products are on average 20% less expensive than the site's V by Very range.


Royal Mail workers to stage fresh strike

Royal Mail workers are set to strike again in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Mail deliveries will likely be disrupted when members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) walk out on 16 February.

A series of strikes were held before Christmas and fresh talks were mediated by conciliator Acas in an attempt to break the deadlock, but without success.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: "In announcing further damaging strike action, the CWU have shown they are not interested in resolving this dispute and continue to focus on damaging our business further.

"The CWU's misguided belief that further industrial action will remove the need for change and force an improved offer is misleading its members and risking their long-term job security."

It said the union's 18 days of strike action to date have cost the company £200m.


Mortgage rate rise a 'hammer blow' to struggling families

Increased mortgage payments brought about by the rise in interest rates are a "hammer blow" to families struggling with the cost of living crisis, said the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Sir Ed Davey said homeowners were paying the price for the mini-budget announced by former prime minister Liz Truss in 2021.

"This is a hammer blow to hardworking families across the country," he said.

"Today's decision to hike mortgage rates has added fuel to the fire of this cost-of-living crisis.

"The blame lies squarely with the Conservative government whose botched budget last year sent mortgage rates spiralling.

"Their complete failure to get inflation down has led to homeowners paying the price."

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