Lloyds Banking Group and RBS have been fined a total of £90m –the former for serious failings in its sales practices, and the latter to settle accusations that it breached US sanctions. The FCA was particularly critical of the structure of targets and bonus arrangements that involved sales people being potentially demoted with a cut in salary of up to 50% if they failed to hit targets.
The number of first time buyers has surged by three quarters over the past year as a surge of activity in the housing market pushes prices even higher. Haart revealed that the number of the first time buyer registrations had risen 78.4% in November 2013 compared to the same month last year. Both Haart and Zoopla say that average house prices in the UK have risen over £10,000 during the year, soaring way head of growth in typical wages.
The energy minister has indicated that the Government could defy an official recommendation that it must meet its green energy targets for the 2020s. Michael Fallon described the report as merely ‘advice.’
Families are having to spend almost £500 more a year on housing and energy bills than a decade ago, forcing cutbacks in other areas to make ends meet. The ONS found that last year families spent an average £68 a week on rent, energy bills, and other housing costs such and maintenance and repairs, up from £59.20 in 2002.
The treasury has confirmed maternity pay will be protected after it was revealed by David Cameron that it would be lumped in with the welfare spending due to be capped in next Spring’s Budget. Francis Elliott, Times, p10; Shadow childcare minister Lucy Powell is expected to say that employers wrongly see mothers as ‘scatty and clock watching,’ as they fail to understand that they have already done a day’s work before they leave home. Powell is to call for a revolution to overcome prejudices faced by working parents.
Six city insurers (L&G, Prudential, Aviva, Standard Life, Friends Life and Scottish Widows) have announced a major investment into UK infrastructure projects, committing £25bn over the next five years. This will put the bellows under the government’s national infrastructure plan containing £375 billion worth of schemes financed by government and private investment. The UK will also sell its share in Eurostar.
Britons are in top three countries for leaving big inheritances to their children more than any others in the western world according to research from HSBC. Two thirds expect to leave something to their families with an average value of £185,000 well above next ranked country France. Only Australian and Singaporean parents expect to leave more.
The Office of Fair Trading is to investigate the residential property services market after a sharp rise in complaints of overcharging. Five million people live in leasehold properties. The Residential Managing Agents blamed the problems on the fact that the industry was unregulated.
A jobs bonanza is expected in the run up to Christmas as retailer jobs have risen by nearly 50% last month compared to November 2012, construction and property jobs are also up 69% for the same period
The biggest electricity providers have presented a united front in the face of criticism over dramatically rising prices. However, outside of the ‘big six’ there is less consensus. Figures from Ofgem, the regulator, suggest that the wholesale costs only went up by 1.7% over the past year. The ‘big six’ and Ofgem are both preparing to be grilled by MPs tomorrow about the apparent discrepancy between wholesale prices and retail prices. (FT p.2)
In light of these prices hikes, it is therefore no surprise that the latest research conducted by Age UK has revealed that a third of all pensioners are worried about keeping themselves warm this winter. About three million older people across the country could be affected (p.7 of Daily Mail and cover of The Independent)
The average price of a house sold at auction has risen by 14% over the past year according to analysis of figures compiled by the property auction group EIG. This adds further fuel to existing fears that the cost of a home could creep up to unsustainable levels. Although there has been much talk of a bubble emerging around London and the South East, EIG’s findings have shown that the cost of a home sold at auction has in fact risen in other parts of the country too (p.37 of The Times)
New research from financial recruiter Astbury Marsden has found that the proportion of women reaching top-level management positions in the City has doubled in the past year. 12% are now managing directors, which is double the proportion recorded this time last year, and 19% of directors and vice-presidents are now female, up from 14%. This rise in the number of women taking the top spots in the City suggests that gender diversity programmes are continuing to make progress. (FT p.4, p.23 of The Guardian and p.51 of The Independent)
The wobbly recovery takes a double hit from flat figures as disappointing trade and manufacturing figures are revealed. British factory output has its biggest monthly fall for a year in August sending industrial production down 1.1 per cent say ONS stats. Although the figures raise doubts on the strength of the recovery, the Bank of England quarterly credit conditions poll indicates that banks increased their lending to businesses in the three months to September.
Manchester has been rated the most “vibrant” city centre outstripping London according to research from Experian, showing a surge of young professionals and students moving to the former industrial cities of the north and Midlands. Districts of London, including Kensington, Chelsea and Richmond still account for six of the top 10 but there are signs than cheaper regional cities are gaining ground.
Help to Buy still creating headlines with Paul Smith from Haart the UK’s largest independent estate saying that the interest is so great that he predicts lenders will need to put a cap on the amount they lend under the scheme.
RBS’s ‘bad bank’ is to offload 1,300 homes ranging in price from £4m to £40,000 in an attempt to sell off its £3.2bn distressed property portfolio. Held in a subsidiary called West Register around 80 per cent of the properties are worth less than the UK average home price of £242,415 according to analysis from Zoopla. The portfolio includes vast quantities of land and commercial property assets including top London office blocks, 100 hotels and pubs, a Norfolk pig farm and care homes.
The UK has reached an agreement with European Union member states that will potentially limit Brussels’ influence on the way the City of London regulates its financial markets. A deal between the countries reviewing legislation represents a significant step forward after 30 months of fierce negotiations between the UK, France and Germany – as well as the banks and exchanges. Ministers warn that turning our back on Europe would result in fewer jobs and higher prices. (FT p1, DT p1).
Proposals for a radical reshaping of the private pensions industry are being drawn up, under which ‘big household name’ companies would come together to create a pooled fund that could ensure a more generous income in retirement. Pensions minister, Steve Webb, told the Financial Times that potential returns could be 30-40 per cent higher if they can make it work (FT p2).
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that more than 800,000 pensioners have seen their savings drop by an average £2,400 in the past year because of the falling rates of investments – according to a survey from fund manager Investec Wealth & Management (DT p12).
Fears about potential for declines in house prices in Britain have returned to the financial services sector’s list of key worries, according to the Bank of England’s biannual Systemic Risk Survey. A quarter of respondents said they were concerned about the risk of declining valuations – up 11 percentage points from the previous survey. The poll of risk managers also cited lurking dangers associated with the ultra-low interest rate environment and distorted asset valuations as a key concern (Times Business p37).
A senior cabinet minister has launched an outspoken attached on the “mad” policy agenda of the European Commission, accusing it of putting jobs and growth at risk. Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, spoke out over plans to reform data protection laws, which Whitehall estimates will cost businesses hundreds of millions of pounds. Cover of the Sunday Telegraph.
A house built over 15 years ago by Bristol architect Andrew Kenyon is still recognised as a home ‘fit for the future’. Its unique glass and timber design was built in a quiet cul-de-sac in Scotland and is now up for sale. P.79 of Mail on Sunday.
Households are still stretched financially with a third cutting back on spending last month and a quarter dipping into savings to get by, according to Which?’s latest Consumer Insight Tracker. But it is not all doom and gloom, as new research by QuoteMeHappy.com shows that consumers could save £844 a year by using their common sense, such as planning spending in advance and sticking to budgets. Sunday Express, p.6
University leavers are struggling to get on the career ladder. Almost 6 in 10 students finished university last summer without a graduate job because of the financial crisis. An increasing number of jobless graduates are turning towards hairdressing. There is certainly job security in this booming industry where annual turnover is £5billion and top stylists can earn up to £50,000 a year. So it’s little wonder why graduates are competing with 16-year-old school-leavers for a chance to sweep up and make the tea in salons across the country. P.35 of the Sunday Express.