SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesFuel sales have fallen as drivers cut back on the number of journeys they make due to higher pump prices, a petrol station operator has said.Ascona Group, which owns 60 UK petrol stations, said the amount of fuel it sold had dropped by 200,000 litres a week compared to pre-pandemic levels.Managing director Darren Briggs said customers were making £20 to £30 fuel purchases “last a little bit longer”.Prices have reached record highs recently due to high oil prices.The price of Brent crude oil – the global benchmark for prices – has soared in recent months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raised concerns of potential global supply issues.Ahead of the invasion, fuel prices had already been rising after demand increased following the reopening of economies from coronavirus lockdowns.The Office for National Statistics revealed on Thursday that the UK’s economy shrank by 0.1% in March and said higher prices, including those at the petrol pumps, were “really beginning to bite”.Ascona Group’s Mr Briggs, which employs about 800 staff, told the BBC’s Today programme that fuel sales volumes had been down by between 6-8% over the past six weeks.”Pre-Covid we would retail around about 2.8 million litres a week, we’re down to about 2.6 (million),” he said.”We are seeing our customers making that £20-£30 purchase of fuel last a little bit longer.”Image source, Getty ImagesAccording to the RAC, every mile driven now costs 18.5p for petrol and 20p for diesel.Unleaded petrol is currently at £1.65 a litre on average, up 2.75p since 1 May, while diesel is at £1.79, a fraction off the previous record high set on 23 March.Rod Dennis, of the RAC, said the “cost of living crisis is undoubtedly having a very real effect” on drivers using their cars.He said the fall in sales chimed with recent research conducted by the motoring group which showed 30% of drivers were driving less often and 21% said they were “deliberately” driving more efficiently to save fuel.”Unfortunately, as a result of yet more increases in the wholesale cost of fuel in recent days we’re likely to see pump prices rise even further in the coming weeks, increasing the squeeze on households,” he added.In response to higher fuel prices, earlier this year the government cut fuel duty on petrol and diesel by 5p per litre. It has said the reduction, which will last for a year, will help drivers cope with rising fuel costs.But Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said that people had already started spending less in shops and were cutting down on car journeys due to the high cost of fuel at the pumps in March.The downturn in March came ahead of the impact of higher energy bills in April, which has sparked fears from analysts that the UK economy is at risk of a recession – defined as the economy getting smaller for two consecutive three-month periods – later this year.Recession fears grow as rising prices hit spendingWhy are prices rising so quickly?How much will the fuel duty cut on petrol save you?Last week, the Bank of England forecast that inflation – the rate at which prices rise – could reach more than 10% by the end of the year.Dame DeAnne Julius, a former member of the Bank’s monetary policy committee, which sets interest rates, said the UK economy would be “close if it actually doesn’t actually go into recession”.”My hunch is that the Bank of England’s forecast is a little bit on the gloomy side, but time will tell,” she said.Dame DeAnne said the main reason inflation was rising was because of “global issues” such as the Ukraine war, with Ukraine being a large exporter of food and Russia a large exporter of energy.She said the Bank had “no alternative” but to raise interest rates.”Recession sounds a very scary word but actually what we are talking about is a sort of flat-lining for a period as consumers re-adjust. As they re-adjust to [buying] cheaper food or to saving energy more carefully,” she added. “The economy fundamentally is pretty solid, the banks are in good shape. We are not about to go into something like the 2008 financial crisis.”More on this storyRecession fears grow as rising prices hit spendingHow much will the fuel duty cut on petrol save you?
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Kate Scotter/BBCThe final decision on plans for a £20bn large-scale nuclear plant on the east coast of England has been delayed.The government said it needed more time to look at new information regarding Sizewell C in Suffolk, and has pushed back the deadline for its final decision to no later than 8 July.It had been due to make a final call by 25 May.Campaigners said the delay was “down to dozens of really difficult problems” with the plans.French developer EDF wants to build the new two-reactor station directly to the north of the existing Sizewell B plant.Those against the plans argue expanding the use of nuclear is slow, expensive and threatens wildlife.The government said the new deadline was to ensure there was “sufficient time to fully consider further information provided by the applicant and interested parties in response to the secretary of state’s post-examination consultation”. Marsh harrier nests discovered on Sizewell C landPM says ‘Sizewell C is certainly on the agenda’How much nuclear power does the UK use?Alison Downes, from campaign group Stop Sizewell C, said it felt problems with the plans included water supply, transport, coastal erosion and biodiversity. “More importantly, it questions a major cornerstone of the government’s energy security strategy,” she said.”The government must stop this overpriced, lumbering project and focus on cheaper, faster, reliable alternatives that will cut energy costs and fight climate change.”Image source, EDFPrime Minster Boris Johnson recently said Sizewell C was “certainly on the agenda” and the government would be “bringing forward the plans as fast as possible”.The government has already committed £100m to Sizewell C and plans to take a 20% stake.EDF, which already runs Sizewell B, will also take a 20% stake in the power station.Find BBC News: East of England on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have a story suggestion email firstname.lastname@example.orgMore on this storyPM says ‘Sizewell C is certainly on the agenda’How much nuclear power does the UK use?Government pledges £100m for Sizewell nuclear siteSizewell C final decision facing delaysFunding plan paves way for Sizewell C nuclear site
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesTwo senior Twitter bosses are leaving the social media company in one of the biggest shake-ups since Elon Musk agreed to buy the firm.The executives had been leading Twitter’s consumer and revenue operations.From this week, the firm has also paused most hiring, except for “business critical roles”.The move comes as the multi-billionaire Tesla boss moves ahead with a $44bn (£36bn) takeover of the platform.”We are pulling back on non-labour costs to ensure we are being responsible and efficient,” a Twitter spokesperson told the BBC.Kayvon Beykpour, who led Twitter’s consumer division, and Bruce Falck, who oversaw revenue, both tweeted on Thursday that the departures were not their decisions.Mr Beykpour said that he is currently on paternity leave and was disappointed after being asked to leave by Mr Parag, who “wants to take the team in a different direction”.Interrupting my paternity leave to share some final @twitter-related news: I’m leaving the company after over 7 years.— Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) May 12, 2022
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesDemand among tenants has jumped for properties where all the bills are included in the rent, according to Rightmove.The property website said inquiries for build-to-rent homes with bills included had risen by 36% over the past year.Millions of people are facing rising domestic gas and electricity bills as the cost of living soars.The prospect of further rises will have increased demand for all-in rent.Existing pressure on tenants’ finances comes as the average monthly rent being advertised across Britain (excluding London) was a record £1,088 in the first three months of the year. That was an 11% annual increase, Rightmove said.In London, average asking rents have increased by 14% annually to £2,195 per calendar month.Energy bills set to rise again in OctoberMum asked landlord to evict her as rent risesReturn to the office boosts demand for city flatsThere are also more than triple the number of tenants inquiring as there are rental properties available, making the market highly competitive, according to the website.Homes with balconies, communal gardens, properties allowing pets and those offering zero deposits were all popular, it said.Nearly two-thirds (63%) of landlords told Rightmove they have kept rents the same for their tenants over the past year, with the remaining 37% saying they have increased their rents.Image source, Getty ImagesTim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property data, said: “A shortage of rental homes and strong demand for the properties available has led to a greater number of tenants choosing to renew their leases and stay put, rather than re-enter a competitive rental market.”People who had been waiting to see what happened last year are now being faced with record rents and so are seeking out properties where they can have more certainty over their outgoings, with all bills included becoming increasingly sought after.”Landlords may have been tempted to put their rents up given the high demand from new tenants, but many understand the affordability challenges of rising rents and bills, as our study shows that the majority are charging their tenants the same as a year ago.”The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said earlier in the week that 63% of property professionals expected rents to rise in the next three months, the highest proportion since its records started in 1999.More on this storyEnergy bills set to rise again in OctoberMum asked landlord to evict her as rent risesReturn to the office boosts demand for city flats
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, IWGRemote working and your weekly shop in one? Both could be possible after Tesco announced a flexible working trial with office service provider IWG.From mid-May, people will be able to use office space created in the chain’s New Malden store in London.A flexible office area will use space in-store, with desks, co-working areas and a meeting room provided.The move highlights the continued move away from traditional office set-ups since the pandemic. Hybrid working is here to stay, say managersIWG said that the trial with Tesco was reflective of “really strong demand” from office workers to have suburban alternatives close to home, as opposed to commuting into city centres.”People don’t want to spend hours commuting every day and instead want to live and work in their local communities,” said Mark Dixon, founder and chief executive of IWG. Research from the company suggests that 72% of workers would prefer to work flexibly. Zooms from the milk isle?The partnership comes as supermarkets are increasingly looking for new ways to make money from their physical stores, with many shoppers having switched to online deliveries during the Covid pandemic. The pandemic and lockdowns also caused a huge shift in people’s working patterns and while restrictions have eased, the latest figures suggest that the shift to flexible working is here to stay.A survey from the Chartered Institute of Management found more than 80% of firms had now adopted hybrid-working since the end of the pandemic. Louise Goodland, head of strategic partnerships for Tesco, said the supermarket was always looking to “serve customers and communities better” and it would be interested to see the response to the trial.More on this storyHybrid working is here to stay, say managers
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesSeveral supermarkets and coffee shops have removed dozens of chicken products from their shelves after a salmonella outbreak in a processing factory.Chicken sandwiches, wraps and salads are among the products with certain use-by dates in May that customers are being advised not to eat, and to return to stores for a refund. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Pret A Manger, M&S and Waitrose are among those affected by the outbreak.About 100 products are being recalled.The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said other retailers including Amazon, Caffe Nero, Costa, Jamie Oliver deli by Shell, One Stop and Starbucks are also recalling products.The affected chicken wraps, ready meals and sandwiches have use-by dates of 11, 12 and 13 May.The salmonella outbreak was detected during a routine inspection at the Cranswick Country Foods processing plant in Hull, where chicken products are sold as ingredients for sandwiches and meals through UK retailers and food-to-go outlets.Cranswick said it was working with the Food Standards Agency and investigating the “possible cause of the contamination”.”The safety and quality of every product produced by Cranswick is our number one priority and all necessary protocols will be followed and completed before we restart production,” the company said.Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps.’Precautionary measure’ On their websites, the supermarkets describe the decision to recall the products as a “precautionary measure”.Sainsbury’s has the most affected cooked children products with 33, while Tesco is recalling 14 items, M&S 12 and Waitrose 10.Aldi has eight different products listed as being recalled. A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said the supermarket was recalling the “majority of Sainsbury’s and Taste the Difference chicken sandwiches, chicken wraps, chicken sandwich platters and some of our cooked chicken”.”This is a precautionary measure as our supplier has alerted us that salmonella has been detected in some batches of cooked chicken,” she added.”We are asking customers not to consume the product and to return it to their nearest Sainsbury’s store, where they will receive a full refund. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.”Pret A Manger said it had removed the majority of chicken items on its menu.The FSA advised customers that if they had bought affected products to not eat them and return them to the store from where they were bought.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesFashion giant Zara has become the latest retailer to charge shoppers who return items bought online.Customers now must pay £1.95 to return clothes, with the cost taken from their refund. Items bought online can still be returned for free in stores.High Street firms such as Uniqlo and Next already charge for online returns.Online shopping boomed in the pandemic, but customers are more likely to return items bought online than in store, raising costs for retailers.Analysts said other retailers were likely to follow Zara in charging for returns.’I’ll buy five items and only keep one of them’Boohoo hit as shoppers return more clothes “It’s a growing trend, it started pre-pandemic and it will continue, as online shopping continues to grow,” said Nick Carroll, Mintel’s associate director of retail research.Allowing free in-store returns may help drive people back into shops, Mr Carroll said.”You also get the products back into shops quicker, which is more cost effective, and plus you have the possibility of impulse purchases once the shoppers are in the stores.”Online shopping rose strongly during the pandemic, but this has also meant a big increase in the number of items being sent back because they do not fit, or are not as expected. For fashion retailers, returns can be costly.Earlier this month, fast-fashion brand Boohoo said soaring returns were partly to blame for a slump in its annual profits.’Not cool’Zara’s decision to stop free postal returns has been criticised by some customers online.One person wrote on Twitter: “Zara making changes to your free returns which now cost your customers and making no announcement about it? Not cool.”Another said she was “very disappointed” by the move, adding: “Expected better from you. The best, quality brands don’t charge.”But another praised the decision for its environmental impact, saying it was a “great measure to help stop C02 emissions”.A spokesperson from Zara told the BBC: “Customers can return online purchases at any Zara store in the UK free of charge, which is what most customers do.”The £1.95 fee only applies to the return of products at third party drop off points.”Legally, people have a right to claim a full refund for products that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, provided it is done within 30 days of ownership.Zara aren’t the first and they wont be the last big retailer to start charging for postal returns. Shops have been desperate to benefit from the boost in online sales, but none of them want the logistical headache and financial cost of processing returns.Where a return in a shop can be processed quickly, and physically put back on a rail ready for re-sale, it’s a very different picture online. Items need to be returned via a courier, sent to a warehouse, unpacked, cleaned, and then put out for re-sale, and that process is not just more expensive, but means clothes in particular may have missed their season.There’s an environmental impact of delivery vehicles making returns which many shoppers are becoming more conscious of, but pandemic habits of shopping and returning directly from your home will be hard to break without a financial hit for the customers.The real win for the stores would be nudging the customers into not returning online items at all. Zara are hoping to strike the balance with a return price that puts the customers off a return without putting them off a purchase. More on this storyBoohoo hit as shoppers return more clothes’I’ll buy five items and only keep one of them’
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesApple’s iPod creator has warned the so-called metaverse risks creating more trolls and damaging human interaction.The virtual reality-based metaverse removes the ability “to look into the other person’s face,” Tony Fadell said.”If you put technology between that human connection that’s when the toxicity happens,” he said.The metaverse is a virtual reality realm where it is envisioned people can create avatars of themselves to interact with others in online worlds.It will be used for playing games but also in spaces such as work and music concerts and often accessed through a virtual reality headset. Facebook co-creator and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is investing billions of dollars and hiring thousands of workers to create a metaverse. What is the metaverse?Meta moves to tackle creepy behaviour in virtual realityImage source, Getty ImagesFacebook, which also owns Instagram, Whatsapp and Oculus among others, changed the name of its parent company to Meta last year.While Mr Fadell said the technology behind the metaverse has merit: “When you’re trying to make social interaction and social connection, when you can’t look into the other person’s face, you can’t see their eyes you don’t have real humanistic ways of connecting.”It become disintermediated and you have the ability at that point to create more trolls, people who hide behind things and then use that to their advantage to get attention.”He added: “We need to regain control of that human connection, we don’t need more technology between us.”Tech giant Microsoft and Epic Games, the owner of the computer game Fornite, are also both investing heavily in the metaverse. Microsoft is adding 3D virtual avatars and environments to its Teams chat system which are expected to go live this year.Mr Zuckerberg has said the metaverse is “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content – you are in it”.He said told The Verge that people should not be living through “small, glowing rectangles” such as their phones.Image source, Reuters”A lot of the meetings that we have today, you’re looking at a grid of faces on a screen. That’s not how we process things either.”However, the metaverse has also prompted criticism and concerns over safety due to the ability of people to create and hide behind avatars.Ken Kutaragi, who invented Sony’s PlayStation game console, said: “You would rather be a polished avatar instead of your real self? That’s essentially no different from anonymous message board sites.”Mr Fadell said: “We had the same problem with text-based commenting and with blogs, we’ve had it with videos now we’re going to have it in metaverse.”Mr Fadell was speaking after Apple said it will discontinue the iPod Touch.The portable music device, which has launched 21 years ago, revolutionised the way that people listen to and store songs. Mr Fadell also co-created Apple’s iPhone. Commenting on the end of the iPod, Mr Fadell said: “I’ve been in the technology business long enough to know the drum beat of technology and the march of technology never ends and so, that was an amazing period of time for the iPod but unfortunately that’s the business we’re in so I’ve got used to that situation.”More on this storyApple loses position as world’s most valuable firmApple to discontinue the iPod after 21 years