A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the week
Following months of grim predictions over the mounting cost of living crisis, we’ll find out on Friday (August 26) just how much energy prices will go up this autumn as Ofgem announces changes to the energy price cap from October 1. The change follows the regulator’s recent announcement that the cap will be updated every three months rather than six due to unprecedented levels of volatility in the energy market, meaning that bills will rise more often if wholesale prices continue to go up. The cap is widely expected to skyrocket as post-pandemic explosions in demand and supply issues arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine hit the energy markets. Cornwall Insight consultancy has predicted the cap will rise to £3,582 annually, which would represent a 163% price increase compared to October last year. Ofgem’s recent changes to its methodology for calculating the cap have also attracted controversy, with detractors arguing it leans too far in favour of energy company interests at the expense of consumers.
Political sparring over the increase has escalated, with Labour proposing a price cap freeze funded by an expanded windfall tax on energy companies. The party has also written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Tory leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to request a recall of Parliament to vote on a cap freeze. Leadership favourite Truss has so far promised an emergency budget focused on tax cuts, including reversing the rise in National Insurance and a suspension of the green levy on energy, but has wavered on whether she would offer direct payments to help those struggling to pay their bills. Both candidates will face further calls for concrete plans to help as people and businesses consider how they will cope with ever-higher bills that could push 45 million people into fuel poverty this winter.
GCSE results are released on Thursday (August 25), with grades expected to fall this year after last year’s record-breaking results. Teachers have raised concerns that the results will be ‘grossly unfair’ and incomparable to previous years, owing to ‘unforgiveable’ errors in advance information as well as pandemic-related disruption to children’s education. While a drop in overall grades is already expected, variations in success rates are always worth looking out for: A-levels this week showed a stark regional divide between the North East and South East, while a recent study found that the attainment gap between poorer students and their better-off peers at GCSE-level has not changed in the last 20 years.
As the war continues in Ukraine, on Tuesday (August 23) world leaders are set to participate in the second Crimea Platform summit, this year taking place virtually. The gathering follows recent attacks against Russian military targets on the peninsula – now a popular destination with Russian tourists following its annexation in 2014 – widely believed to have been carried out by Ukrainian forces. On Wednesday (August 24), Ukraine celebrates its Independence Day, exactly six months on from Russia’s invasion in February. Although not confirmed, it is rumoured that Russia could use the occasion to open a mass trial in Mariupol for Ukrainian fighters captured at the Azovstal steelworks.
There’s also a general election in Angola on Wednesday (August 24), where incumbent President Joao Lourenço of the MPLA is facing a tough challenge from UNITA candidate Adalberto Costa Junior in what is expected to be one of the closest races in the country’s recent history. A victory for Costa Junior, who is leading a coalition that also includes the PRA-JA and the Bloco Democrático opposition parties, would be a first for an opposition candidate since multi-party elections were reintroduced in 1992 following the civil war. In any case, election organizers will certainly be hoping to avoid the kind of chaotic scenes witnessed in Nairobi recently as extremely close results from the August 9 presidential election were announced.