The hidden price rises of 1 April
- 1 April 2013
- From the section Business
According to the poet TS Eliot, April is the "cruellest" month.
For millions who will see changes in the welfare benefits system, and a series of price rises announced a while back, his description may ring particularly true in 2013.
But while the benefits changes have been well-publicised, many of the price increases have been forgotten about or overlooked.
From Monday 1 April, many of us will be paying more to travel by plane, more to have a bath, and in some cases, more to post a parcel.
Charges for posting some parcels are going up, as a result of new size criteria introduced by the Royal Mail.
Until now, parcels have been accepted on the basis of weight only. But from 2 April - post offices are closed on 1 April - parcels will be designated as small, medium or large. They will also continue to be weighed.
Over the past year, a parcel of up to 2kg cost £5.30 to post.
If it now qualifies as a medium parcel, the price will rise to £8.00.
A small parcel can be no bigger than 45cm x 35cm x 8cm. In other words, about the size of a cereal box.
This is deemed by the Royal Mail as a size that can be delivered relatively easily by a postman. However there are exceptions for some cube or tube shapes, which may still qualify as small.
Other charges will go down. A parcel that weighs between 751g and 1 kilo used to cost £4.30 to deliver, but will now cost £3.
The Royal Mail says the changes are necessary to reflect the true costs of delivery, especially larger, lighter items, which often need to be delivered by van.
Air passenger duty
It began in 1994, when passengers paid just £5 in air passenger duty to fly anywhere in the European Union, or £10 for elsewhere. Nineteen years on, a family of four flying across the Atlantic will pay £268.
In April, the cost will rise by £2 for long-haul flights in economy class, and £4 for long-haul flights in premium classes.
Until now anyone flying in a private jet (defined as fewer than 19 seats) has managed to escape the tax.
But after Chancellor George Osborne closed that loophole last autumn, anyone using a private jet will now have to pay for the first time.
From now on, the tax will rise in line with inflation.
There is one way to avoid air passenger duty.
You can take a flight out of Northern Ireland, which, since January this year, has had no duty on long-haul flights. Flights to and from Britain still carry the duty at the lower rate. It follows a UK government decision to devolve the issue to Northern Ireland.
Water bills are going up on 1 April by an average of 3.5%.
According to the regulator Ofwat, that will mean that the average UK household will pay £388 for their water and sewerage this year, an increase of £13.
The water companies had argued for a larger increase, but were denied by Ofwat.
But households in some areas will see rises of up to 5.5%, such as customers of Thames Water.
Consumers in the south-west will actually see their bills going down.
It follows a promise by the government to reduce bills in the region by £50 a household, as bills had been amongst the most expensive in the country.
All this takes no account of other increases in the price of petrol, heating and food, which are not limited to any particular date.
The most recent official figures confirm that prices are increasing at more than double the rate of wages. In other words, we are continuing to get poorer.
Overall consumer prices rose by 2.7% in February. By contrast, average earnings are rising by just 1.2%.
Those receiving a state pension will receive a rise of 2.5% in April, so will be amongst the better off this year.
Most of those receiving state benefits, on the other hand, will be amongst the less well off, as the increase in most payments is being capped at 1%.