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Npower to cut gas bills from 26 March

Gas bills for Npower’s domestic customers will be cut by 7 per cent from the end of the month.

The news comes after three of the UK's six main energy suppliers announced similar cuts in response to the falling wholesale price of gas.

Npower customers can now expect to see their annual bill reduced by an average of £50.

Discounts for those who pay by monthly direct debit will also be revised, with discounts for electricity-only customers doubling to £40, and gas-only customers rising from £20 to £50. Dual-fuel consumers who pay by direct debit will continue to receive a £100 discount after 12 months.

Kevin Miles, Chief Executive of Npower Retail, said: "We always aim to offer competitive prices to our customers and we have lowered our gas prices although our profits halved in 2009."

Audrey Gallacher, from watchdog Consumer Focus, commented that, "The days of cut-throat price competition seem a distant memory. All suppliers now cut by almost identical margins within days of each other."

EDF Energy and Scottish Power are now the only "big six" suppliers yet to announce price cuts.

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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.