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Five questions answered on Ofgem’s energy shake up

Cheap tariffs.

First energy companies increased their prices, now Ofgem has issued plans to change the way energy price plans are laid out and what companies can offer to their customers. We answer five question on the shake up.

What is Ofgem proposing?

To, in Ofgem’s own words, make the energy market: "simpler, clearer and fairer".

How exactly?

By banning energy companies from using complex multi-tier tariffs, by making energy companies offer personalized information to help customers find the right deal and after a period of time transferring customers to the cheapest fuel tariff to reward their loyalty. Ensuring energy companies make duel fuel savings more clear on bills and restrict energy suppliers to using only four tariffs.

Why now?

Ofgem have been researching these proposals for a year. However, the need for simplification in energy tariffs has become more evident after the recent price rises announced by energy companies across the country which has highlighted the fact that consumers are not engaging actively with their energy suppliers, are failing to switch supplier and look for the cheapest tariff for them.

What have Ofgem said?

Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan told the BBC: "Our plans will put an end to consumers being confused by complex tariffs and will usher in a simpler, clearer, fairer and more competitive energy market for all consumers.

"I am glad to say that suppliers have already responded with some initiatives, but these don't go far enough."

When will these regulations come in place?

Ofgem is hoping to enforce the new changes by next summer after a period of further consultation with consumers and energy suppliers. However, Ofgem has said there is nothing stopping energy companies implementing the changes now.

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.