Council tax, broadband, and dental charges: how to weather the April price rises | Family finances

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UK inflation may have fallen to a two-and-a-half-year low of 3.4%, but there are an awful lot of things that are going up in price on 1 April, with some chunky rises about to take effect.

Council tax bills will increase for millions of households, and a swathe of other bills – from car tax and stamps to NHS dental charges – will become more expensive.

Here we round up what’s happening – and what you may be able to do about it.

Council tax

Official data shows the average increase for 2024-25 pushed through by local authorities in England is just over 5%, said to be the largest increase in cash terms since 2003-04.

The charge for a typical band D property in England averages £2,065. A 5.1% rise adds a further £106. Of course, that depends on where you live and your property’s band. In Nottingham, a band D resident will pay £2,529 a year from April, to give a figure of £2,171.

Additionally, four English councils – Birmingham, Slough, Thurrock and Woking – have been granted special permission to put through increases of up to 10% this year in light of what the government calls their “significant financial failure,” MoneySavingExpert.com says.

Birmingham is imposing the largest cash-terms increase of any council, with band D bills going up by £163, followed by Slough (£144), Thurrock (£126), Gateshead (£103) and Nottingham (£102), the TaxPayers’ Alliance says.

In Wales, the average band D rise is £145, or 7.7%, but some households have been hit with substantially more.

In Scotland, council tax is frozen for 2024-25 to support those “struggling in the face of rising prices”, with 2.5m households likely to benefit.

What can you do about it? Check if you are eligible for a council tax discount or reduction, which can range from 25% to 100%. Those eligible can include full-time students, people on low incomes or benefits, and some who live alone or are single parents.

There are various rules. For example, in England there’s a 25% single person discount if you are the only adult in your home. If everyone who lives in the property is – to use the jargon – “disregarded”, or not counted for tax purposes, there’s still a bill, but you will get a 50% discount. If everyone in your home is a student, or severely mentally impaired, you won’t pay any council tax.

Meanwhile, if your income drops, or you find yourself out of work, you may be able to apply for a reduction, which can be up to 100%, though each council has its own rules. Citizens Advice has a guide on how it all works.

Lastly, consider challenging your council tax banding. Plenty of households have found they were overpaying.

Broadband and phones

Mobile customers face a typical increase of about £20 a year. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

After last year’s “mid-contract” price increases of up to 17%, many broadband customers are facing a further 8% increase at around this time – typically adding about £30 a year to many people’s costs.

Although they vary, BT/EE, Vodafone and Three are all putting up bills by an average of 7.9%. At TalkTalk it’s 7.7%. And Virgin Media, which merged with O2 in 2021, is pushing through rise of up to 8.8%.

It’s a similar story for mobile customers, who face a typical increase of about £20 a year. EE and Tesco Mobile (non-Clubcard) customers face a price rise of 7.9%. At O2 Mobile it’s 8.8%.

What can you do about it? If you are out of contract, either switch to a new provider or negotiate a new, cheaper contract with your existing supplier. “If you stay with your existing provider, check for the cheapest deal elsewhere, then contact them, tell them you’re thinking of leaving, and ask them to match the price,” says Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at the investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown.

If you are paying more than about £27 a month for fast (67Mbps) home broadband, you are probably overpaying. Meanwhile, mobile customers who are out of contract will probably want to look for a cheaper sim-only deal.

Vehicle excise duty

The annual cost of taxing your car or van is rising in line with inflation from 1 April. For most drivers of new and older cars, the annual cost of VED, or car tax as it is better known, will go up by between £5 and £20. Buyers of new vehicles with the highest emissions are scheduled to pay £140 more in the first year, from April. If your existing car was first registered on or after 1 April 2017, your annual car tax will increase by £10 to £190.

For cars first registered after March 2001 and before April 2017, your bill will depend on its CO2 emissions. A typical family petrol car emitting 172g of CO2/km will pay £305 a year – up £15 on last year. The charge for a smaller band D car rises from £150 a year to £160.

What can you do about it? For some, it could mean buying a smaller model that qualifies for lower VED – these will be mostly pre-2017 models. Or you could go carless – clearly not something that is open to everyone, but a move that can result in huge savings.

TV licence

If you watch any live TV on Sky, BBC or via the internet, or anything on BBC iPlayer, you need a TV licence. Photograph: Steve Meddle/REX/Shutterstock

From 1 April the standard colour TV licence will cost an extra £10.50 – a heady £169.50. If you are one of the 4,000 or so households who still watch a black-and-white TV, your licence will rise by £3.50 to £57.

If you are wondering if you need a licence, the answer is probably yes. If you watch any live TV on Sky, BBC or via the internet, or anything on BBC iPlayer, you need one. If you only watch on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime, you don’t.

What can you do about it? Check whether you, or a loved one, are entitled to a free or reduced-fee licence. All over-75s used to be able to get one free, but this was scrapped in 2020. Now you can only get one if you (as the licence-holder) are 75-plus and you, or your partner living at the same address, receive pension credit. You may be entitled to a reduced-fee licence if you live in a residential care home, supported housing or sheltered accommodation.

Stamps

First-class stamps are rising from £1.25 to £1.35. Photograph: Royal Mail/PA

First-class stamp prices will rise by an inflation-busting 8% for standard-size letters from Tuesday 2 April. First-class rises from £1.25 to £1.35, second-class by a larger 13% – up from 75p to 85p.

What can you do about it? Some people stockpile stamps to beat price rises, so do so now before the increase takes effect.

NHS dental charges

From 1 April, charges will increase in England by 4%, lifting the cost of a “band 1” treatment, such as a check-up, from £25.80 to £26.80. A band 2 filling rises from £70.70 to £73.50, and band 3 treatments, such as crowns and dentures, from £306.80 to £319.10.

What can you do about it? Check whether you have to pay – you may be entitled to free care. The NHS website outlines who is eligible. For example, you do not have to pay if you are under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education; if you are pregnant, or have had a baby in the last 12 months; or if you or your partner receive certain benefits, or you are under 20 and the dependant of someone who gets those benefits.

Water bills

The increases in water bills will vary greatly, depending on where you live and how you are billed. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

In England and Wales, the average increase is a little over 6%, taking a typical annual bill from £445 to £473 for 2024-25, according to industry body Water UK.

However, your actual bills will vary, depending on where you live and how you are billed. In the Anglian Water area, they will rise by £40 (8%) to £529 a year. In the Southern Water area it will be £51 (12%) for a total of £479. At Hafren Dyfrdwy in Wales, it’s 20%, or £71, to £433. At Wessex Water, it’s £548.

In Scotland, an average increase of £35.95 a year (8.8%) will take effect for 2024-25.

What can you do about it? In many cases, the best move for those still paying the standard charge is to have a free water meter installed, meaning you will only pay for what you use. Many households will save £100-plus by doing this. If you live in a flat, or similar, and a meter can’t be installed, you can ask for an “assessed charge bill” that sets your bill according to the number of people in your home.

Meanwhile, about 2m households now receive some sort of financial support with their bills, which can include reduced tariffs, payment breaks and “debt forgiveness,” says Water UK.

If you are struggling, talk to your water company. The Water UK and Ofwat websites outline some of the help available.