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The energy regulator has revealed that the vast majority of the country’s energy suppliers have been told to make improvements in how they handle customers struggling to pay their bills.

Ofgem said its review of supplier compliance found that only one firm, British Gas, was meeting its obligations and the rest had to step up at a time when households were facing unprecedented bills amid the cost of living crisis.

It found that three firms – TruEnergy, Utilita and ScottishPower – had “severe weaknesses” while five – E, Good, Green Energy, Outfox and Bulb – were found to have some issues in the help they give customers.

Ecotricity, EDF, E.ON, Octopus, OVO, Shell, Utility Warehouse and So Energy/ESB Energy were found to have only minor issues that would not require possible enforcement action.

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Utilita and Scottish Power had already been served with provisional orders requiring them to take urgent measures, Ofgem said.

The regulator said that key failures included companies identifying those in payment difficulty.

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It also cited a lack of help given to those needing crucial payment plans, while others had a “non-existent” policy relating to struggling customers.

File photo dated 08/02/2007 of a gas hob with a bill from British Gas, whose owners, Centrica, has said it expects to post annual earnings at the top of its targets amid intensifying calls for a windfall tax on energy firms. The company said it has been boosted by "strong" volumes across its nuclear and gas production operations. Issue date: Tuesday May 10, 2022.
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British Gas, the UK’s largest supplier, was the only firm found to be in compliance with Ofgem’s rules

Ofgem chief executive, Jonathan Brearley, said: “We have reviewed suppliers on how they help customers who are having trouble paying their bills, particularly those who are vulnerable, and found some suppliers have fallen short of the standards Ofgem expects.

“We accept that there are many pressures on energy companies in the market this winter, but the needs of vulnerable customers must be part of their top priorities.

“We will now work with companies on where they can improve, and I all urge all suppliers to step up to the challenge.”

The regulator made its announcement just days before the government’s energy price guarantee, which will set a cap on wholesale charges, comes into effect on 1 October.

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Energy costs ‘borne collectively’

The scheme replaces the energy price cap as it will see the taxpayer forking out to shield households from the worst of the raw energy costs expected this winter following Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Mr Brearley added: “This winter will be challenging, especially for those struggling to pay their energy bills.

“Although the government’s package of support will provide some welcome relief, it’s critical that, going into this tough winter, energy companies prioritise the needs of vulnerable customers struggling to pay their bills.”

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Rishi Sunak ‘made calculation he doesn’t need Muslim voters’, claims Tory MP Rehman Chishti

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Rishi Sunak 'made calculation he doesn't need Muslim voters', claims Tory MP Rehman Chishti

Rishi Sunak has “made the calculation” that he doesn’t need Muslim voters for his “political purposes”, a former minister has claimed.

Tory MP Rehman Chishti told Sky News’ Politics Hub With Sophy Ridge that during the last leadership election, Mr Sunak promised he was “committed” to engaging with the community and told him: “We will work together on this if I become prime minister”.

But Mr Chishti said he had “not seen the prime minister for over a year and a half”.

Politics Live: Islamophobia row deepens for Sunak

The former foreign minister – who once put himself forward for the Conservative Party leadership – also criticised Mr Sunak for failing to appoint an independent adviser on Islamophobia, which both David Cameron and Theresa May did while in office.

Pointing to statistics from the Tell MAMA organisation, Mr Chishti said there had been over 2,000 incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the past four months since the Israel-Hamas war began.

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“I’ve said to the prime minister, look, let’s treat all faith communities fairly and equally,” he told Sophy Ridge.

“So with regards to the Jewish community, antisemitism has seen a real unacceptable rise and therefore the government has rightly put forward the resources [and] it has an independent adviser to deal with antisemitism.

“However, with regards to the Muslim community… the prime minister has failed to appoint an independent adviser on Islamophobia for the last 16 months and there’s been no funding… for that.

“And then you look at the prime minister’s statement [on Sunday], when he talks about intolerance and hate in politics, and he makes it very clear the government is committed to dealing with that and he says dealing with anti-Semitism. Absolutely.

“But there’s no mention in that statement yesterday about tackling anti-Muslim hate.”

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Mr Chishti added: “I think maybe the prime minister has made the calculation, you know, he doesn’t want to engage with the Muslim community because he doesn’t need that for his political purposes.”

Sky News has contacted Number 10 for a response.

Mr Chishti’s remarks come amid an ongoing row within the Tory ranks over the suspension of former deputy chair, Lee Anderson, after he refused to apologise for claiming “Islamists” had taken “control” over London and that mayor Sadiq Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”.

While Mr Sunak called the remarks unacceptable and “wrong”, he declined to call them Islamophobic.

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PM: Anderson comments ‘ill-judged’

Some Conservatives have called for Mr Anderson to be reinstated, while others want the government to go further in their condemnation of the Ashfield MP.

Mr Chishti said Mr Anderson’s comments were “completely and utterly unacceptable” and a “lazy use of language”.

But he would not say if the remarks were racist, and said it was another justification for having an independent adviser who could make a ruling without political influence.

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Dramatic bodycam video: Two rescued after suspected arson attack in Birmingham

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Dramatic bodycam video: Two rescued after suspected arson attack in Birmingham

Two people have been rescued after being trapped inside a burning building, following a suspected arson attack.

West Midlands Police said firearms officers spotted the fire at Villa Road, Lozells in Birmingham just before midnight on Sunday.

The police officers alerted the fire brigade and then entered the building next door before leading the occupants out to safety.

Footage showed them using a battering ram to break down the door to make the rescue.

They also checked another property located above the fire but found no one was inside.

Police said their officers were checked by paramedics at the scene, with one going to hospital for further checks for smoke inhalation.

They added that their investigators were treating the incident as arson.

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DS David Newson, from Birmingham CID, said: “This fire had the potential to have really serious consequences. Thankfully, the quick-thinking response of officers in the face of danger to themselves got the two residents to safety.

“We are working with our colleagues at WMFS Fire Investigation Team and would like to hear from local people as we try to build a picture of what has happened.

“Villa Road is a main route and we’d ask anyone who was driving along it between 11pm and midnight time, to take a look at any dashcam they may have, as it could hold vital evidence for our investigation.”

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New military housing plans paused after backlash

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New military housing plans paused after backlash

The Ministry of Defence has paused new military housing plans following a backlash over the new rules on entitlement.

Andrew Murrison, a defence minister, said the MoD was “pausing the rollout of the elements of the policy related to Service Family Accommodation” after listening to feedback and conducting a review.

“This includes the move to needs-based allocation and in the short term the widening of entitlement,” he said in the statement published on Tuesday morning.

As first reported in Sky News, defence sources feared officers could quit over the plan to update rules on the subsidised housing offered to personnel in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and – where relevant – their families.

These included changes such as the housing offer for a lieutenant colonel or colonel being downgraded, as the military moves to allocating homes based on needs rather than rank.

The changes had been due to come into force next month.

The MoD will still push ahead with plans “to improve the standard of Single Living Accommodation, help military personnel get on the housing ladder by refunding up to £1,500 expenses and give personnel more preference in how they live,” the minister said.

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Mr Murrison’s statement added: “Our Armed Forces personnel make extraordinary sacrifices to protect our nation, which is why our Modernised Accommodation Offer (MAO) gives greater flexibility, backed by an extra £200m investment.

“This is on top of £4bn to upgrade accommodation and build new living quarters for our service personnel over the next decade.”

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Soldiers march in a procession through Whitehall after the coronation ceremony of Britain's King Charles III in London, Saturday, May 6, 2023. Pic: AP Photo
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The new rules would mean higher-ranking personnel would no longer be entitled to bigger houses Pic: AP Photo

An online petition calling for a review of the “new accommodation offer” had attracted more than 7,400 signatures by 16 February.

The petition said: “If the policy is implemented as it currently stands, we believe that armed forces retention rates are likely to fall to even lower levels than those at present.

“This could have an irreversible effect on the capability of the armed forces over both the immediate and intermediate term.”

While the shift to needs-based housing was widely-welcomed, according to defence sources, many officers would also see an erosion in the kind of housing they are entitled to live in following a three-year transition period – which caused outrage in some quarters.

One source told Sky that under the current system, a lieutenant colonel or a colonel – or their equivalent rank in the navy and RAF – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-to-five bedroom house with a floor area of 155.5 square metres.

A major – one step down in rank – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-bedroom house with a 137 square metre floor area.

Under the new system, any officer of any rank would be entitled to a house with a bedroom for themselves and an additional one for each child – meaning the higher-ranking lieutenant colonels or colonels would effectively see their housing allocation downgraded.

The source said that no compensation was being offered to make up for the loss of space.

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