The key macro-economic, personal finance and property stories from today’s papers, read by Wriglesworth Director James Staunton.
- House prices are likely to continue rising for at least another ten years, George Osborne suggested yesterday when he attacked “Nimbys” for slowing down planning reforms – reported on the front page of The Times by Sam Coates, Philip Aldrick and Francis Elliott. The Chancellor told peers that the shortage of housing was an historic problem as he stressed that the coalition was trying to boost supply as well as providing cheaper home loans to struggling families. “I imagine if we were to assemble again in ten years’ time, we would still be talking about the challenge of making sure that our housing supply keeps up with demand,” he told the House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee. Mr Osborne defended the Help to Buy policy in the face of criticism from Liberal Democrats such as Vince Cable, who suggested last week reducing the maximum home purchase of £600,000.
- While The Sun’s leader is dedicated to energy prices, the Daily Mail looks at miss-selling of superfluous insurance against credit card fraud along with a brief history of miss-selling scandals – from pensions mis-selling scandal, endowment mortgages, and Payment Protection Insurance to interest-rate swap loans and packaged bank accounts. Some 7 million customers of banks such as Barclays, Santander and RBS have been conned into paying up to £1.3billion for policies they don’t need – Lloyds is now implicated as well. The Mail says “though the products mis-sold may have varied, one mystery endures. Why, after this long history of deception and grand larceny, has not a single senior banker been hauled before the courts?…. This fraud won’t cease until the guilty are behind bars.”
- Prince Charles has waded into the battle for residents of Somerset according to the front page of The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Mail. The Mirror and the Daily Telegraph are unlikely bedfellows but not only do they also put Charles’ criticism of the official response to the crisis on the front page – they also run editorials on it. Although it was not overtly political, the Daily Telegraph compared the Prince’s visit (he was greeted warmly) to that of Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, who was met with placards and jeers. The Telegraph says the visit “reminded us in what low regard quangocrats – such as the mysteriously absent Chris Smith, who runs the Environment Agency – are held.” The Mirror’s Leader piece, on the other hand says the Prince of Wales criticising the disastrously slow response… “is a royal seal of disapproval on David Cameron’s Government”.
- The Daily Express says “Britain’s overstretched public services are nearing breaking point” blaming immigration. “One in four babies born in this country have a mother who comes from outside the UK, while Afghan and Somali women are having four or more children, more than twice the national average. They will… need medical care before, during and after the birth… and that’s before the needs of schooling and housing even enter the equation…. This simply has got to stop. The Prime Minister has talked grandiosely about bringing net migration figures into the tens of thousands (and even that would be too much in this overcrowded little isle) and yet it has been revealed that net migration from the EU rose to 106,000 in the year ending June 2013, up from 72,000 the previous year. And that was before immigration controls on people arriving from Eastern Europe were lifted in January. Labour’s stance on immigration was one of the wickedest policies it pursued in its 13 years of office, a course of action foisted on the electorate for utterly cynical reasons which has changed the face of this country for ever.” The Express concludes, “Mr Cameron must act to stem further damage. And fast.”
The key macro-economic, personal finance, property and recruitment stories from today’s papers, read by Wriglesworth Account Manager Hugh Murphy
The key macro-economic, personal finance, property and recruitment stories from today’s papers, read by Wriglesworth Director James Staunton.
- Mark Field, MP for the Cities of London & Westminster writes in the Daily Telegraph business section that the interest rate has provided UK business and individuals alike with breathing space. Nevertheless, the real question that should be foremost in the minds of policymakers after five straight years of emergency monetary stimulus, is at what cost to the nation’s long-term economic interests? Field feels the young and middle-class savers who are being significantly impoverished by Treasury policies. He says today’s young people grapple with sky-high rents and house prices, a less secure employment market and increasing personal debt. But, he says, ultra-low interest rates carry a cost – and it’s starting to rack up.
Recruitment & Employment
- Writing in today’s Daily Mail, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Home Secretary Theresa May announce a crackdown on jobless immigrants seeking to access housing benefit. In the Mail’s leaders it backs IDS to the hilt: “Any doubts that Iain Duncan Smith’s crusade against welfare dependency is having the desired effect should be dispelled by an extraordinary set of figures published today. They show that in the last five years of the Labour government the number of British people in work fell by 413,000, while the number of migrants employed soared by 736,000. Yet since the 2010 election that depressing trend has been completely reversed, with 538,000 Britons finding new jobs compared with 247,000 foreigners.” In an interview with The Independent, shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves has said that a Labour government would deny people unemployment benefit if they are unable to demonstrate that they have the basic skills needed to find work after six weeks on the dole. The Mirror’s leader piece comes out strongly against Reeves’ plans – “Make Jobs, not exams’ is the headline.
- In The Times, Deidre Hipwell reports that criticism of the Government’s Help to Buy initiative from a City financiers who has warned that London’s housing market is overheating, as research shows asking prices are rising by record amounts. Nigel Wilson, the chief executive of Legal & General said house prices in London and the South East had reached “absurd” levels and would soon only be affordable to the wealthy. He said young people were being encouraged to buy homes in “over- leveraged” situations and warned that the Government should stop stoking demand through its Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme.
- The Independent reports a fourth capital raise at Metro Bank has brought in £387.5m to aid growth, taking the total equity raised to £641m. Founder and Chairman Vernon W Hill said: ‘The revolution in British banking continues, with strong support from existing and new investors.’ Elsewhere in the sector, Treasury officials are believed to be considering a second sale of Lloyds shares as early as mid-February, following publication of the bank’s annual results on February 13 – that story runs in the Daily Mail.
Optimism about Britain’s economic prospects took a knock after unexpectedly weak official data from the manufacturing and construction sectors was released on Friday. ONS figures said that manufacturing output stagnated between October and November and construction output fell. The news prompted a slight downward adjustment in growth forecasts and took economists by surprise, given that the figures did not tally with unofficial business surveys pointing to swelling output, orders and confidence among manufacturing and construction companies. (FT, p.3) Although public and private housing construction have increased by 10 per cent and 13.8 per cent respectively in the first 11 months of 2013, in November there was also a 3.2 per cent fall in private new housing compared to the previous month. Duncan Kreeger, director at West One Loans said: “Gentle progress is encouraging for the property industry. But it won’t be fast enough to solve the crisis facing families in search of affordable homes, or businesses looking for the right location.” (Independent online)
More than three million middle-aged and retired people have given up saving for old age, believing that whatever they put aside will be taken away to pay for their care, according to new research from Age UK. The charity argues that the Government’s long-awaited overhaul of the care system, which is currently before Parliament, will fail if large numbers abandon saving for later life, because the system relies on individuals contributing to the cost of their care. The research found that almost three in 10 people aged over 50 believe there is “no point” in saving for their future needs.
David Cameron is accused by the Lib Dems of suppressing a report calling for thousands of new homes to be created in two new cities in southern England, in order to ease the housing shortage. (Telegraph, p.1) The proposed new settlements, which would contain tens of thousands of homes, could be built in Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire or Oxfordshire. The Lib Dems argue that the proposals are being side-lined for fear of a backlash in Tory heartlands ahead of the general election.
The number of people moving up the property ladder in 2013 reached a three-year high in 2013 as rising house prices boosted their equity, according to research by Lloyds Bank. Around 337,500 home owners with a mortgage moved last year, a three per cent increase on 2012 and the highest since 2010. (Express, p.22). Meanwhile, the number of £5m+ ‘superhomes’ being sold in London rose by a quarter last year, according to Savills, suggesting that the top end of the London market has not yet been hurt by higher stamp duty, the threat of mansion taxes, or the introduction of capital gains tax for foreign sellers. (Telegraph, p.16, FT, p.2)
All but the absolute banking elite are expected to be disappointed by this year’s city bonuses, according to the Independent (Jonathan Prynn, p.6). Disappointing results and ongoing restricting in a still recovering industry mean that many will be disappointed when informed of their bonuses ahead of annual results next week. A few so-called superbankers are expected to take home up to £6m, while those beneath them expected to take home the same pay or less as last year. A sizeable minority will end up with a “doughnut” – no bonus at all.
- There’s a neat summary of house price forecasts for 2014 from Hilary Osborne in The Guardian. The bulls: Rightmove and RICS (8 per cent). The bears: “the normally downbeat” Capital Economics (5 per cent). the consensus appears to be about 6.75 per cent. There’s also, an analysis of the accuracy of predictions for 2013. The booby prizes went to Knight Frank (who forecast a fall of 2 per cent and reported an increase of 7 per cent) and arch pessimists Capital Economics, who forecast Nationwide’s index would fall 5 per cent – the Nationwide HPI rose 6.5 per cent over the year. Closest call was RICS who forecast a rise of 2 per cent then reported a rise of 5 per cent.
- In an editorial piece in the Daily Express (beneath an expression of gratitude to our troops and above a rather toadying message to the Queen – “here’s to the next royal baby, Ma’am!) the paper highlights the importance of pensions (sparked by a report on a potential pensions disaster for the next generation). The Express says, “If half the population aren’t paying enough towards their pensions or are leaving it too late to join then there is a time bomb ticking that will cause immense hardship and worry. If youngsters won’t listen to the Government or experts then it is the duty of parents and grandparents to put them wise to one of the best investments anyone can make”
- Leader pieces in the Daily Mirror and the Daily Telegraph focus on flooding. In “Joy’s at a premium” the Daily Mirror argues that insurance companies should play fair and pay up promptly. “Instead of quibbling they should help put the lives of those affected back together rather than hindering them. Firms who happily pocket the monthly premiums have a moral duty to write a big cheque when a legitimate claim is made by a policy holder”. The Daily Telegraph, on the other hand, says should consider if we are doing all we can to ward against flooding. Earlier this year, the Coalition announced that it would spend more on flood defences, after cutting back when it came to power. But MPs warned this would still not keep pace with increasing risks: “a renewed focus on this issue will prevent the wreaking of similar devastation on more homes, and more lives, in the years to come.”
Recruitment and Employment
- The BBCs reports a survey by the recruitment organisation, Randstad, which shows that while the recession has led to a drop in the number of people commuting as people lost their jobs – there has been an increase in people travelling more three hours a day. The poll, which looked at the commuting patterns of 2,000 workers between 2008 and 2013, found that almost one in 10 respondents were now travelling for that period a day – compared with one in 20 previously.