Cost of living latest: What does the IMF's prediction for the UK … – Sky News

There is more bad news for families weathering the cost of living crisis today as the UK economy is forecast to shrink more than Russia’s this year. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, send our experts your dilemma – and listen to the latest from Ian King in the podcast below.
A former teacher from Birmingham has criticised striking teachers, saying looking after his children while they are off school will cost him £250 in missed earnings.
Paul Long, in his forties, is a full-time self-employed education consultant with two children both of primary school age, and claims those striking have “got their audience completely wrong”, and will need to take a day off work.
“Both our children’s teachers are striking in a junior school which means both of them need childcare,” Mr Long said.
“I will have to not work. I will have to take an unplanned day off work and that means that the money I would’ve earned on that day … won’t be made, and that’s going to be in the region of about £250.
“But to put this in context that’s not £250 that goes into my pocket. From all of that I’ve got to pay my own holiday pay like any self-employed person does, I have to pay my own sick pay.
“Everybody plans their work time and their childcare around the school dates. And when we’ve planned all of that, and then you get a sudden change, then it becomes a problem.
“A school closes for a snow day because it’s unsafe, that’s fine, we’ve got to take that on the chin – this is a school closing because a national union has chosen to take a strike, and it’s having a big financial impact on us for three Wednesdays.”

The number of new mortgages approved has dropped for the fourth month in a row, to a low not seen since the early days of the pandemic.

Mortgage approvals fell to 35,600 in December, the lowest number since May 2020 and down from 46,200 in November, according to data from the Bank of England.
The figure from the central bank lower than had been expected – a Reuters poll of economists had forecast approvals of about 45,000 during December.
If the pandemic era is excluded, house purchase approvals are at the lowest level since January 2009 when 32,400 home purchase loans were approved.
Approvals have been slow since the Liz Truss government’s mini-budget, when a number of mortgage products were pulled from the market as uncertainty spooked lenders.
The figures are just the latest sign of a slowing housing market.
Read the full story from Sarah Taaffe-Maguire, business reporter here…
Thousands of Environment Agency workers will strike on 8 February in a dispute over pay, Unison has announced.
Unison says: “Those in river inspection, flood forecasting, coastal risk management and pollution control will stage a 12-hour strike on Wednesday (8 February) starting at 7am.
“During these hours, there’ll be fewer experienced Environment Agency staff to provide cover if an incident occurs, say the unions.

“However, where there’s a genuine threat to life or property from something like a major flood, officers will step in as emergency ‘life and limb cover’ has been agreed with Agency managers.”
Unison’s head of environment Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “Communities across England are kept safe because of the tireless efforts of Environment Agency workers.
“Staff shortages and persistent underfunding have left the agency in a difficult place, without the employees to meet the growing challenges posed by climate change.
“Not a single Environment Agency worker wants to take action but the government’s failure to find a solution has left them with no other option but to walk out again next month.
“It’s in everyone’s best interests that a solution is found quickly. The government must act now to get talks in motion that could prevent further escalation.”

We told you earlier that thousands of ambulance workers will strike on 10 February. 
The services involved are: London, Yorkshire, the South West, North East, and North West.
This afternoon, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Ongoing strike action is deeply concerning and will worry the public.
“We are putting in place significant mitigations that have previously helped reduce some of the impact from these strikes.
“But first and foremost we would ask the unions to reconsider that approach and continue discussions.”
They added: “We know that there will be significant disruption given the scale of the strike action that is taking place tomorrow and that will be very difficult for the public trying to go about their daily lives.
“We are upfront that this will disrupt people’s lives and that’s why we think negotiations rather than picket lines are the right approach.”
Megan Baynes, cost of living reporter says:
Well, first of all – congratulations! Ryanair does allow you to change your flight date and route up to two-and-a-half hours before the plane is scheduled to depart. 
But, unfortunately, you will likely have to pay a fee.
Online it will cost you £45 per passenger, per one-way flight (so £90 per return). If you call their reservation centre, or try and change it at the airport, this will be £60 per passenger per one-way flight (so £120 a return). 
Given flights with Ryanair – depending on the destination – can be quite cheap, you could end up paying more to change the date than you did on your original flight.
It’s worth checking your travel insurance if you took some out before you became pregnant, because this may cover the cost of cancelling and rebooking the flights. Each policy varies but give the insurance provider a call and they can talk you through it.
I’ve also had a look at the small print and – you might already know this – but for uncomplicated single pregnancies, Ryanair restricts travel beyond the end of the 36th week. For twins, triplets and so on, it is beyond the end of the 32nd week.
However, complicating things further, Ryanair reserves the right to refuse travel to an expectant mother who is over 28 weeks pregnant and does not have a “fit to fly” certificate from a doctor or midwife so make sure you plan your holiday well in advance of these dates and have all the right papers.
Whether you’re in a consumer-related dispute, have a financial dilemma or simply need advice during the cost of living crisis, our question form is now open above.
Sky News cost of living reporter Megan Baynes will pick a selection to answer.
Around 12 million households – around 40% of customers – are now spending more than 10% of their income on energy bills, MPs have been told.
Previously this was seen as the definition of fuel poverty.
Emma Pinchbeck, the chief executive of Energy UK, which represents suppliers, told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that customer calls to suppliers were up about 300% on previous years and requests for additional support were also up 300%.
Ms Pinchbeck said: “That indicates we’ve got many more houses moving into what has been considered vulnerability previously at pace, and or households who are not indicating to us that they’re vulnerable.
“I think from the suppliers there’s an acceptance that more needs to be done in the vulnerability space, and we’re working actively with the consumer groups and government to do that, but I would say that this is a much bigger problem than just prepayment meters or vulnerable customers.”
She added: “Bills are still double what they were 18 months ago and we’ve got about 12 million households, which is about 40% of customers, spending more than 10% on energy. That’s the previous definition of fuel poverty.
“We need to look at targeted support but we also need to look at this as an affordability crisis across the piece and how that intersects with the wider cost of living.
“We’re up for having those conversations but I don’t think that it is as simple as just looking at the Priority Services Register. I think this is still a really big problem.”
The total number of companies that registered for insolvency last year was the highest since 2009, and 57% higher than the year before.
Some 22,109 companies registered as being unable to pay their debts – equivalent to one in 202 active companies.
This increase was driven by the highest annual number of Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) since the start of the records bean in 1960. 
A Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation is a process which enables directors to formally close an insolvent company voluntarily. It’s often chosen by directors as a means of taking control in the face of continued creditor pressure – and prevents a Winding Up Petition, where creditors can apply to the courts to close down a company. 
The number of CVLsin 2022 was approximately 21% higher than if the pre-pandemic trend had continued.
Meanwhile, the annual number of compulsory liquidations was higher than the record low number in 2021 but remained below pre-pandemic levels.
Just under a fifth (18%) of private renters in England and Wales would have bought a home already if they could, according to a new survey.
Not having enough income was a reason they had not been able to buy a home so far, they said, and some cited a lack of job security.
An insufficient deposit and waiting to see if house prices will fall were also given as reasons why people had not yet bought a home.
Around three-quarters (76%) of private renters want to buy at some point in the future, the research for the National Residential Landlords Association found.
One in 10 (10%) private renters surveyed said they had bought a home previously.
Nearly three in 10 (29%) private renters said they wanted to remain in the sector, when thinking about the next 12 months.
One in eight (12%) want to buy a home during the next 12 months and believe they are in a position to do this, the survey found.
But more than two-fifths (45%) of private renters want to buy their own home during the next 12 months but believe they cannot do so.
When asked what they like most about renting, 45% selected convenience and a third (33%) selected flexibility.
Asked about what they like the least, 43% selected the cost and a third (33%) selected insecurity of tenure.
Thousands of ambulance workers in Unison across five services in England will strike on 10 February in the long-running dispute over pay and staffing, the union announced.
The services involved are: London, Yorkshire, the South West, North East, and North West.
Next Friday’s strikes means action will take place across the NHS six days next week – every day excluding Wednesday.
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