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Surging UK energy bills spark tensions among tenants

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File picture taken on February 4, 2022, shows a smart energy meter, used to monitor gas and electricity use, at a home in Walthamstow, east London.

Britain’s cost-of-living crisis has turned into a bitter winter in households trying to keep their energy bills down: Some lecture flatmates for keeping the lights on.Others move to better heated homes.Common energy-saving measures also include not using heating during the day — and buying an electric blanket instead of switching on radiators.It can be complicated for people in shared accommodation, with relationships complicated by different lifestyles and salaries, which means they must compromise to lower their bills.“Everyone is conscious about not leaving lights on,” said Joe, a 33-year-old schoolteacher who shares an east London home with five other people.The housemates have together agreed to turn off heating in bedrooms.They still warm the living room, where two of them work from home, but they use an electric heater during the day rather than firing up the boiler.Arguments can flare up, particularly when housemates bring partners to stay over. Notes are sometimes left as a reminder to turn the heating down.“We have had a few passive-aggressive messages: If you’re not in the room, turn the lights off,” added Joe.Other London flatmates opted to avoid all heating unless the temperature dips to a really cold level, as it did over Christmas.Household electricity and gas bills have rocketed across Europe this year, after key energy producer Russia invaded Ukraine in February.In Britain, the average domestic energy bill has roughly doubled over the last 12 months.That has helped push inflation to the highest level in four decades, in turn creating a cost-of-living crisis as wages fail to keep pace, despite the government’s partial subsidy for fuel.NO ONE SPAREDSimon Francis, campaigner at pressure group End Fuel Poverty, said that the fuel crisis was hitting everyone.“People are all just suffering from this cost-of-living crisis — so no matter really how much you’re earning, you are going to be suffering,” he said.“Obviously those people who are earning the least are suffering the most. And clearly that is potentially going to lead to tensions between housemates and flatmates.”Simon Knoplioch, a 29-year-old Frenchman who works in London’s key finance sector, says he recently left his previous house for a more efficient and modern building that retains heat.“Before we were living in an energy sieve,” he said.Landlords have “no interest” in installing installation because they enjoy high rents and strong demand in London, he added.Francis expressed concern that some tenants — whose rent includes energy bills — might not benefit from state assistance.“For some people, their landlord might actually be controlling their energy so they might be paying for it as part of their rental house,” he said.“What we’re concerned about there is that people aren’t then seeing the benefits of some of the support the government has introduced.”“So the landlords aren’t necessarily passing through the savings that they’re being given by the government.”TOUGH CHOICESThe energy crisis has sparked deep concern over the number of Britons forced to choose between heating or eating. Campaigners worry even more households will face fuel poverty, whereby they spend more than 10% of their total income on fuel.“This winter we are expecting around 7mn households right across the UK to be in fuel poverty,” added Francis.“So that means they don’t have enough money to keep their homes warm to an acceptable standard.”Some authorities are looking to establish “warm banks” that offer temporary heating in shared public spaces like libraries.

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties – Church Times

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties  Church Times

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The dwindling case for living in London

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The recent debate around ‘levelling up’ may be missing something. I would argue that there is another way to consider geographical inequality – and, by this alternative measure, a levelling has been under way for more than 20 years.

I’ve spent three decades working in advertising, so it’s unsurprising that I tend to view economic life through the lens of consumption. By contrast, mainstream economists tend to view disparities through the medium of earnings or wealth. To me, measures of wealth should include not only the quantity of money you have but the breadth of worthwhile options available in choosing how to spend it.

Let’s put it another way. If you live in a boring village, and suddenly a great pub or café opens on the high street, then by my measure you have become richer; by the economist’s measure you have not.

Things that would once have been available in London decades before the provinces now appear everywhereat once 

There was undoubtedly a time when you were richer in London in two ways. You had more money, but you also had a far more exciting range of ways to spend it. Now not so much.

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London is a great city but, in terms of consumption quality, it has not improved markedly in the past 20 years. Over the same period, many smaller cities and even towns have advanced rapidly, significantly narrowing the gap. The kind of things that would once have been available in the capital decades before making it to the provinces – like sushi – now appear everywhere at once. Consider Turkish barbers, who seem to have taken over the country in only five years. (I can remember a time when it was enough just to get a haircut without having burning methylated spirits flicked in my ears. Back then I just didn’t know any better.)

This levelling is especially true of anything in the digital world: Amazon gadgets, Netflix films, Asos fashions and PlayStation games hit Aberystwyth the same day they hit Islington. But it also applies to the physical environment, as anyone over 50 can attest. I went to Manchester and Sheffield for the first time in 1989. Compared with London, they were then, let’s be honest, utterly rubbish. Now, when I visit those same cities, I experience mild ‘northern envy’. There are interesting places open everywhere. Northerners have better cars, because they have more money left over after paying for housing. And they are much better-looking, because they can nip home to get changed before going out.

Relatively speaking, London has improved far less dramatically than these provincial cities have. (New York, many aficionados argue, has got worse.) OK, the Tube is better than it used to be. Uber is a handy addition. But some things are awful – the last pleasure of driving in London ended when they put speed cameras on the Westway. Accommodation costs for the young wipe out any salary gains.

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By my measure, high property prices won’t just hit Londoners once – they’ll hit them twice. Not only do high rents wipe out what you earn, they also put at risk London’s once unassailable advantage as a great place to spend what money you have left. Creative businesses of any kind require space at a price which allows them to take risks. For a time, London found this space by moving its heartland from west to east. But suppose the people supporting what Douglas McWilliams calls ‘the flat white economy’ flee altogether? In my own experience, Kent suddenly seems weirdly full of fascinating restaurants founded by London exiles. If more of these people leave, the case for staying weakens further.

Londoners always say things like ‘Yes but there’s the theatre’. Let’s face it though – even Shakespeare left London for Stratford in his mid-forties. As he no doubt found, the theatre is all very well, but it’s nothing like being able to park outside your house.

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Gentrification is not a sin

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Gentrification is not a sin – UnHerd

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