No laughing matter: How 1 April could cost you more

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Offline maruppharm

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No laughing matter: How 1 April could cost you more
« on: May 10, 2014, 06:19:09 PM »
The first day of April is one to be wary of. Notorious pranks have included left-handed hamburgers, spaghetti being grown on trees, and the apparent news that Big Ben was to go digital.

But there is also a series of changes on 1 April this year which will have a real impact on people's lives.

While few Britons will be mourning the demise of the Competition Commission or the Office of Fair Trading, millions will be affected by changes to the regulation of payday lenders.

And hundreds of thousands are likely to end up paying more in council tax and water charges.

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cash loans
Pay-day loans
As it takes over the regulation of 50,000 firms involved in the consumer credit industry, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has promised a further examination of payday lenders.

It will investigate how they treat their customers, and whether they lend to people who cannot afford the repayments.

It will also look at the level of cap the government wants on the cost of loans.

Martin Wheatley, the FCA's chief executive, has suggested that up to a quarter of short-term lenders could be forced out of business as a result.

The FCA has been given new powers, as it takes over from the old regulator, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

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Leeds town hall
Council tax
A year ago, the government devolved the administration of council tax benefit to 326 local authorities in England.

At the same time it cut the budget for council tax benefit by 10%, or £414m.

As a result councils have either had to make cuts, or make up the shortfall from local taxpayers.

But for one year only, the government softened the impact of the change by giving £100m as transitional relief.

Now this has come to an end, it has been estimated that more than half a million council taxpayers might each have to find an extra £120 a year.

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water tap
Water and sewerage charges
Customers in England and Wales will find their water bills rising by an average of £8 a year, or 2%.

Those in the Thames Water area will see a rise of 3.4%, while those in the South West will actually receive a cut of 3%.

At the time the rise was announced, it was below the rate of inflation. However, the consumer price index is now at 1.7%.

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pensioners on bowling green
Pensions
The state pension goes up by 2.7%, based on the CPI inflation rate in September 2013.

The government has pledged to continue the "triple lock" until 2020.

This means that pensions will go up by whichever is highest of inflation, wages or 2.5%.

Those seeking to join a company pension scheme under automatic enrolment will also be given more time to decide whether to sign up.
Md Al Faruk
Assistant Professor, Pharmacy