Pay rises, council tax and 11 more important changes coming into force from this week

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The minimum wage is rising this week for all basic-rate workers ahead of the new tax year as the cost of living crisis continues to hit households in the UK.

Changes about to hit your wallet include new council tax rates, a £150 rebate, a shake-up of Royal Mail stamps and your last chance to claim a winter fuel payment.

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There are also student loan changes coming into force and changes to air fares and the new energy price cap which affects almost every single household in the country.

Ahead of the changes, here's what you need to know. Don't forget to make sure you claim any cash benefits before the new tax-year too ( here's how ).

Check your meter reading – March 31

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With energy bills due to rise by an average of 54% on Friday, April 1, households are being encouraged to take – and submit – a gas and electricity meter reading the day before – this Thursday.

By doing so, you can ensure all energy used up until that date is charged on the cheaper rate – the current energy price cap.

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Those that do not submit a reading risk some of their energy being charged on the new higher unit price which is around £693 more expensive a year.

Justina Miltienyte, head of policy at Uswitch.com, told The Mirror: “Energy prices going up can be worrying for many — but consumers can still take simple steps before 1st April to take control of their energy use.

“It is recommended that anyone who does not have a smart meter should take a meter reading on March 31st and submit it to their supplier.

“This gives your supplier proof of how much energy was used before 1st April, when the new rates come into effect, and will ensure your bills are accurate.

“You could leave it until later in the afternoon or evening to submit your reading, to ensure as much of your energy use as possible from 31st March is calculated under the old rates.

“While there is nothing you can do to reduce the actual cost of energy, regularly submitting meter readings to your supplier is a good habit to get into, as it can help to ensure you are only paying for the amount of energy you are using.”

Start exchanging your Royal Mail stamps – March 31

Millions of postage stamps will become unusable in less than a year in a huge postal shake-up.

Royal Mail will be moving to a digital system whereby postage stamps are accompanied by a digital barcode in a big to improve security with mail handling.

While you are still able to continue using current First and Second class stamps until the cut-off date in January, 2023, people across the UK who bulk-buy their stamps will be able to 'swap out' any non-barcoded editions from this week.

Air passenger duty is rising – April 6

A shake-up of air passenger duty (APD), the tax that passengers pay on flights that take off from the UK, was announced as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak ’s budget last autumn.

Under the changes, long haul flights are to become more expensive while the tax paid on domestic flights will be cut in half from April 2022.

Under the current rules, APD is charged in two bands, for destinations under 2,000 miles and above 2,000 miles.

The current rate of APD for a one-way domestic flight in economy is £13, while the new rate will be £6.50 each way.

For international flights, taxes will rise for long haul journeys of over 2,000 miles.

The new rules will see the bands expand from two to three, set at zero to 2,000 miles, 2,000 to 5,500 miles, and 5,500 miles and over.

The rate for flights under 2,000 miles – which includes all of the EU plus Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Switzerland and 17 other nations – will stay the same at £13 for an economy ticket.

The rate for flights between 2,000 and 5,500 miles in economy will change from £84 to £87 – a rise of £3.

The rate for flights over 5,500 miles in economy will change from £84 to £91 – a rise of £7.

Council tax rising and £150 rebates begin – April 1

New council tax rates come into force from April, affecting almost all households – unless you are exempt.

The official cap on how much local authorities can increase council tax by is 5% – this is made up of a 2% council tax rise and an additional 3% for social care. Most people will have now received letters in the post, explaining how much their tax is rising by.

Bill-payers are also being advised to set up a direct debit for their council tax payments before April to ensure they receive the £150 rebate on time.

The Energy Rebate scheme was announced by the Chancellor earlier this month to help people cope with rising energy bills.

It will see eligible households in England in Council Tax Bands A-D properties receive a £150 energy rebate payment from their council from April this year.

This includes those who already receive help with paying some or all of their council bill through local council tax support.

Cllr Shaun Davies, chair of the Local Government Association, said: “Having a direct debit set up will mean councils can automatically pay the £150 energy rebate straight into your bank account. It is quick and easy to set up to pay council tax by direct debit via your council’s website.

“You can still get the money if you don't have a direct debit set up, but it could take longer as your council will have to contact you and then you'll have to make a claim.”

Energy price cap – April 1

The energy price cap is the maximum amount a utility company can charge an average customer in the UK per year for the amount of electricity and gas they use, preventing businesses from simply passing on cost increases to the consumer.

The cap, set by the regulator Ofgem and first introduced in January 2019, applies to customers who are on a standard variable tariff, typically a provider’s default and most expensive option.

From 1 April, the cap will rise from £1,277 to £1,971 for a household on average usage. That means a £693 per year increase for the average customer.

Prepayment meter customers will see an increase of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017.

These are average rises though, so use more and you'll pay even more.

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of the energy regulator Ofgem, said: “We know this rise will be extremely worrying for many people, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet, and Ofgem will ensure energy companies support their customers in any way they can.”

New minimum wage – April 1

The so-called National Living Wage is the government’s set minimum rate, that employers must pay staff aged 23 and over for each hour worked.

Essentially, if you’re over 23, you are legally entitled to the National Living wage. If you’re under 23, you are only entitled to the National Minimum Wage, which varies based on your age.

The living wage is currently £8.91 an hour – but this will soon increase to £9.50 from Friday, April 1, 2022.

This means employees will receive 6.6% more in their pay packets, amounting to an extra £1,074 a year before tax.

That works out to around an extra £90 per month.

The minimum wage for people aged 21-22 is set to rise from £8.36 to £9.18 an hour. The Apprentice Rate will also slightly increase from £4.30 to £4.81 an hour.

Water bills are changing – April 1

Average household water and sewerage bills in England and Wales are set to rise by around £7 a year (1.7%) from April, but some residents could actually see their bills fall this year.

According to industry body Water UK, the average yearly water bill in England and Wales will rise to £419 from an average of £412 last year. However, there is some variation across England and Wales, with some customers’ bills increasing by up to £35 a year, while some will fall by up to £31 a year.

In Scotland, water and sewerage prices depend on your council tax band and are covered by what's called a “combined service charge”. Households in Scotland will see these water and waste charges increase by an average of 4.2% from April.

You may be able to save money on water by getting a meter – see who this could benefit, here.

First and second class stamps going up in price – April 4

Pay rises, council tax and 11 more important changes coming into force from this week

The scheme will allow you to swap old stamps for new ones ( Image: Getty)

Prior to the digital barcode switch, Royal Mail has announced a hike in prices for first and second class stamps from April 4, 2022.

First class stamps will cost 95p, 10p more than the current price, while second class options will rise by just 2p to 68p.

If you're a regular stamp-buyer, it's worth getting your purchase in before the prices rise.

Deadline to switch your Post Office account – April 5

The Post Office will stop accepting payments for tax credits, Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowance next month, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has warned.

Around 7,500 Brits still get these payments into their Post Office card accounts, but HMRC will soon stop allowing this.

From April 5, anyone who has not switched these payments to a new account will get nothing until they do.

Customers can choose to receive their HMRC benefits into a bank, building society or credit union account.

The change to Post Office card account payments was due to come into force from November 30 last year.

It was pushed back to allow more people time to arrange a new payment method.

No fault divorce – April 6

After decades of campaigning, 'no fault divorces' will finally become law on April 6.

The changes are the biggest shake-up of divorce laws for 50 years and it means that married and civil partnership couples will be allowed to obtain a divorce without having to blame the other party.

The new law aims to reduce potential hostility between couples when separating by removing the need to apportion blame.

Under current divorce law, married couples looking to divorce need to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

State pension – April 11

There will be a 3.1% increase in the full new state pension in 2022/23 – with the rise to take effect on April 11.

How much you will receive is based on your national insurance record when you reach state pension age. You will only get the full amount if you have a minimum 35 full qualifying years of contributions.

Someone on the full old state pension will increase to £141.85 per week and anyone on the full rate of new state pension will increase to £185.15.

National insurance – April 6

From April 6, 2022 to April 5, 2023, National Insurance contributions will increase by 1.25 percentage points. This will be spent on the NHS, health and social care in the UK.

However, not everyone will have to pay it as the Chancellor has just raised the NI threshold.

At present, most workers start paying National Insurance contributions when their income hits £9,568. They pay 12% of earnings between £9,568 and £50,270, then 2% on any earnings above £50,270.

However the latest tweak means from April, National Insurance will only have to be paid by those earning over £12,570 a year – the same level as income tax starts being paid.

In short, that means anyone earning less than about £35,000 a year will pay less National Insurance.

That is about 70% of all workers. See more on how this works, here.

Prescription price rise – April 1

The Government is yet to confirm the new rates, but April 1 is typically the day that prescriptions rise in price.

The cost of NHS over-the-counter medication went up from £9.15 to £9.35 last April.

It comes as we await the outcome of a consultation to scrap free prescriptions for 2.4million people.

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