UK Property Stamp Duty Holiday set to boost the economy

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a Stamp Duty holiday, raising the level at which the tax is charged to £500,000 of all property sales in England and Northern Ireland.

The tax threshold has been temporarily raised until next March to boost the property market and help buyers struggling because of the coronavirus crisis.

The changes have come in with immediate effect.

See the source image

This means that you could now save thousands of pounds when purchasing your next home – making it the ideal time to buy

The average home currently costs £248,000 – with the changes announced you would save £2,460 in stamp duty costs when purchasing a home of this value. Anyone completing on a main residence costing up to £500,000 between 8 July and 31 March will not pay any stamp duty, and more expensive properties will only be taxed on their value above that amount.

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Essentially, the more the property that you are buying is worth – up to £500,000 – the more you save, with potential savings of up to nearly £15,000 pounds. With the recent upsurge in property enquiries after the lockdown period, selling your property and finding your new home has never been easier.

Source: BBC News

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UK economic recovery plan is Build Build Build

UK PM vowed to “use this moment” to fix longstanding economic problems and promised a £5bn “new deal” to build homes and infrastructure.

In a wide-ranging speech in Dudley, in the West Midlands, Mr Johnson vowed to “build, build, build” to soften the “economic aftershock” of coronavirus.

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He said the government wanted to continue with its plans to “level up” – one of its main slogans of last December’s election – as “too many parts” of the country had been “left behind, neglected, unloved”.

Infrastructure projects in England would be “accelerated” and there would be investment in new academy schools, green buses and new broadband, the PM added.

Projects in the £5bn investment plan include:

  • £1.5bn for hospital maintenance and building, eradicating mental health dormitories and improving A&E capacity – the government said this is “new” money in addition to £1.1bn in its Spring Budget
  • £100m for 29 road projects including bridge repairs in Sandwell and improving the A15 in the Humber region – this money had already been announced
  • Over £1bn for new school buildings, as announced on Monday – this cash comes from the government’s existing infrastructure plan
  • £12bn to help build 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years – brings together three pots of money already announced by previous Tory governments and Mr Johnson’s administration

Other projects announced in the government’s Spring Budget, which will now be accelerated, include:

  • £83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities, and £60m for temporary prison places.
  • £900m for “shovel ready” local projects in England this year and in 2021
  • £500,000 – £1m for each area in the towns fund to spend on improvements to parks, high street and transport

Source: BBC News

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UK Property sale hits record low

Residential property sales in the UK in April hit their lowest monthly level since comparable records began in 2005, new figures show.

Houses

There were 38,060 transactions in April, according to provisional numbers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

This was less than half the level seen in the same month last year.

Spring is usually a busy period for the property market, but the coronavirus lockdown halted activity.

The government lifted many of these restrictions on the sector in England in mid-May. The total number of UK property sales is slightly less than the previous low when the taps were turned off in the property market at the height of the financial crisis in January 2009.

Source: BBC News

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Manchester Trafford Centre firm Intu warns it could go bust

The owner of some of the UK’s biggest shopping centres, Intu, has said there are doubts that it can survive unless it raises extra funds.

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Its comments came as the firm – which owns Manchester’s Trafford Centre and the Lakeside complex in Essex – reported a £2bn loss in 2019.

The weakness in the retail sector meant Intu wrote down the value of its shopping centre sites by nearly £2bn.

Intu will try to raise extra cash after an earlier plan to raise £1bn failed.

The collapse and contraction of High Street retailers has left landlords such as Intu struggling to fill vacant space. At the same time, Intu has run up debts of nearly £5bn.

In January, the firm approached its shareholders to ask for more money amid the downturn in the retail sector.

But last week, Intu said it was at risk of breaching debt covenants after it was forced to abandon the fundraising attempt. It said “extreme market conditions” deterred investors from giving fresh cash.

To help it keep going, the firm said it would try to engage with investors, or it might have to sell more of its assets.

The company has already been selling shopping centres to raise cash.

Intu said it could also try to seek waivers on its debt commitments to lenders and spend less in the short term.

Source: BBC News

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Business rate hits struggling UK High Streets hardest leading to more closures

Finding a new retailer for a prime spot in Blackpool town centre used to be easy.

In the 1980s and 1990s, firms would have been fighting over the keys to 18-22 Victoria Street, a large, modern two-storey unit directly opposite the shopping centre. Not any more.

Until last month, the property had been rented to Topshop and Topman. But their owner, Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group, walked away when the lease came up for renewal. His shops have been struggling to keep up with the competition, and dozens, up and down the country, are being closed.

See the source image

“We are having difficulty attracting any interest, never mind a national retailer,” says Paul Moran, a ratings surveyor whose company, Mason Owen, is tasked with finding a new tenant.

Business rates, he says, were a factor in Arcadia’s decision to pull out, and they’re now a big barrier to someone else moving in.

“The first thing tenants look at are their outgoings. And when they see the rates bill, they will be put off by that. Normally you’d expect to be paying 50% of your rent in rates, but the rates bill in this shop is dramatically higher than that.”

With retail in turmoil, pressure is growing for change. So what are business rates and why are they a problem?

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Business rates are a kind of council tax for commercial property. All sorts of premises have to pay them, from offices, warehouses and pubs, to power plants, train stations and shops.

Bills are worked out based on the government’s estimate of how much the property would cost to rent on the open market. Businesses have to pay the tax regardless of whether the space makes any profit or not.

As a rule of thumb, your business rates bill is now typically half of your rent. That’s a big financial burden in itself for retailers with lots of shops. But many of our national chains aren’t even being charged the right amount to begin with. They’re paying millions of pounds more in rates than their rents would imply.

Properties get revalued every few years by the government to make sure the occupiers are paying the correct sums. Some bills go up and some go down. The last revaluation was in 2017.

For towns like Blackpool, this should have been good news because retail rents had collapsed. Their business rates bills should have dived as a result, bringing some relief to a town grappling with too many empty shops and years of government austerity.

But here’s the problem. Changes in bills, both up and down, are phased in gradually over several years to help businesses adjust. It’s like a shock absorber, and it’s called “transitional relief”.

The system is good news if your bills are going up, but not so good if you’re in a property due a big reduction. It’s a bit like being told you’re due a tax cut, but your bill will only be cut incrementally over five years, and you may never get the full reduction.

It works like this because the government wants to make sure it receives the same amount in business rates in real terms, or adjusting for inflation, each year. So rate rises and decreases must balance. This is an England-only policy.

And it’s the largest stores occupied by big chains that are the most affected. Blackpool’s 18-22 Victoria Street is a good example.

Source: BBC News

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UK new overdraft overhaul: All you need to know to make the best of it

Some overdraft borrowers will see charges double while others will make “astonishing” savings when new prices kick in, new analysis shows.

New rules for overdraft charging demanded by the City regulator take effect next month.

Financial information service Moneyfacts has tested how much someone borrowing £500 through an overdraft for a month would be charged.

Some will see costs roughly double to £14 but others will enjoy £60 savings.

Those facing more expensive overdrafts are almost entirely people who previously had an arranged overdraft facility. See the source image

Up until now fees have been complex, difficult to navigate and hard to compare, leaving some with large overdraft bills.

Single, simple overdraft interest rates are now being brought in ahead of an April deadline set by the regulator.

The big banks’ new overdraft rates

  • Nationwide has said it will bring in an interest rate of 39.9% in April, replacing a daily fee of 50p for arranged overdrafts
  • HSBC’s interest rate will double from 19.9% to 39.9%
  • Lloyds’ will be 39.9%
  • Santander’s will also be 39.9%
  • NatWest raised its to 39.45%
  • Barclays is not far behind with 35%.

To put those interest rates into context, the average quoted rate for credit card borrowing is just over 20%, according to the Bank of England.

The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, said most High Street banks had set “very similar prices”, after it demanded changes to the system.

It has sent a letter to banks, asking them to explain what influenced their decision.

It also asked how the banks will deal with any customers who could be worse off following the changes.

It said some firms could reduce or waive interest for customers who are in financial difficulty because of their overdraft.

Overdrafts in numbers chart

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Angry Man United fans vandalise Ed Woodward’s house

Manchester United’s fans have always been pro-active when it comes to the ownership of the club.

Twenty-one years ago, the Shareholders United group played a key role in helping to block Rupert Murdoch’s proposed takeover at Old Trafford.

And in 2005, following the Glazer buy-out of United, that organisation became the Manchester United Supporters Trust, an industrial and provident society with over 200,000 paying members that continues to fight for fans’ rights and is recognised by the club despite it’s continued opposition to the Americans’ ownership.

Tuesday night’s attack on the home of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward suggests that the more militant members of United’s support now believe that direct action is required to remove Old Trafford’s controversial owners.

But it is not a new development. There has always been a group of angry young men lurking in the shadows.

The Manchester Education Committee and the sinister splinter group the Men in Black are two elements of United’s support that first emerged when the Glazers were plotting their controversial leveraged buy-out of the club in the early 2000s.

The MEC first hit the headlines in February 2004 when a group of fans disrupted a race meeting at Hereford after manager Sir Alex Ferguson had become embroiled in a legal row with JP McManus and John Magnier over the ownership of champion racehorse Rock of Gibraltar.

The Coolmore stud in Ireland, owned by McManus and Magnier, was then vandalised.

Eight months later, the MEC issued a statement of intent after fans invaded the pitch during a reserve-team game at Altrincham’s Moss Lane ground in a bid to “punish” United’s in-house TV station for offering a media platform to Florida-based businessman Malcolm Glazer.

Dubbed ‘Operation Havana’, the publicity stunt came with a warning that the MEC were about to bring “civil war” to Old Trafford and that the club’s sponsors and commercial partners would be viewed as “legitimate targets.”

In early 2005, with the Glazer takeover now looking inevitable, another statement was released warning chief executive David Gill that supporting the leveraged buy-out would be viewed as “an act of treachery that will place board members in an extremely vulnerable position for years to come.”

It came with a chilling warning to Joel Glazer that he would not be able to employ a security staff big enough to keep him safe.

When the Glazers completed their takeover that May, the debt-free club was instantly plunged £700million into the red.

One influential group of supporters turned their backs on Old Trafford to form the rebel club FC United of Manchester.

Others stayed to continue the fight.

A people carrier transporting three of the Glazer brothers to Old Trafford was attacked outside the stadium later that summer.

That prompted Joel Glazer to break the family’s silence for the first and only time to tell MUTV viewers that they could be trusted to run the club properly and maintain United’s success on the pitch.

Over the next eight years, Ferguson’s brilliance as a manager delivered another five Premier League titles and the Champions League.

But fan protests continued as the Glazers began plundering £1.3billion from the Old Trafford coffers to meet debt repayments and pay themselves dividends.

A Green and Gold campaign was launched by MUST, urging supporters to stop buying official club merchandise and instead wear the colours of United’s founding fathers from Newton Heath.

But more aggressive elements began to re-emerge after rivals Manchester City were bought by Sheikh Mansour and it became clear that the Blues were about to become a force in the Premier League.

In 2008, Rio Ferdinand was confronted at his Cheshire mansion by a balaclava-wearing group calling themselves the Men in Black.

The England defender was stalling on a new contract and the MiB were intent on reminding him how the club continued to pay his wages after he had been suspended by the FA for eight months after missing a drug test.

Ferdinand agreed to talk to the group if they removed their balaclavas – and although worried neighbours called the local police, the evening ended peacefully.

Source: Mirror

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Neighbours happy to see this ugly eyesore property auction for sale in Stoke

An ‘eyesore’ property is set to be auctioned off in the hope it will be redeveloped.

The semi-detached corner house in Turnhurst Road, Packmoor, Stoke-on-Trent

UK is to up for auction later this month, with a guide price of £30,000.

The two-bedroom former home and shop has a garden to its rear and is desperate need of serious renovation. It sits on the corner of Scragg Street.

It’s close to two schools as well as Kidsgrove and Tunstall town centres.

Families in the area have expressed delight at the thought of something being done with the old green home.

Sonia Oxford has lived in the area for many years, the 77-year-old trustee of St Marks school in Tunstall said: “It’s been up before but nothing has happened.

“I think it would be difficult to have more than one house there because of the road and the access to it. But it used to be a little shop and she [the shopkeeper] lived on the premises.

“I’d like it to be a house again and it doesn’t matter who lives there as long as they are law abiding. It could be nice for a family with children as there’s a school up the road and a school down the road.

“But if it was a little shop again that you could pop into for some bread that would be alright too.”

Dog walker David Potts often passes the old green structure on his walks. The consultant engineer, aged 44, said: “We’ve lived here 16 years now and it’s always been empty. The roof did start to cave in and someone came and repaired it almost immediately.

“So it’s a really good thing [it’s being auctioned off]. Whether it becomes somebody living there I don’t know. But it was a shop. We’ve already got the One Stop so we’re not crying out for another shop.

“But to see it used and not just left to rot  is a good thing.”

The question is what would you do with this property?

Source: StokeonTrentLive

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Prince Charles says Climate Change is the World’s greatest threat & calls for a green economic solution

The Prince of Wales has told leaders that the world is in the midst of a climate crisis, as he announced plans for his own environmental initiative.

 

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he called the effects of climate change the “greatest threats humanity has ever faced” and are “largely of our own creation”

 

The prince hopes his Sustainable Markets Council – which will bring together leaders from the public and private sectors, charitable organisations and investors – can help to identify ways to rapidly decarbonise the global economy.

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Citing his decades of campaigning, he said: “Do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink, in trying to restore the balance, when we could have done? I don’t want to.”

He also called for a change in taxes to encourage consumers to make environmentally beneficial decisions.

“It is time to think about how we properly deploy taxes, policies and regulation in a way that catalyses sustainable markets.

“For a transition to take place, being socially and environmentally conscious cannot only be for those who can afford it. If all the true costs are taken into account, being socially and environmentally responsible should be the least expensive option because it leaves the smallest footprint behind.”

 

The prince was criticised by some for flying to the summit on a chartered plane, before making the two-hour car journey from the airport to Davos in a fully electric Jaguar car.

The royal also meet teenage activist Greta Thunberg in Davos

The 71-year-old Prince has been advocating environmental causes since before Thunberg, 17, was born.

 

Speaking to CNN after the meeting, he said: “She’s remarkable. She represents one of the main reasons why I’ve been trying to make all this effort all these years because, as I said, I didn’t want my grandchildren to accuse me of not doing something about this in time and of course there they are.

“All her generation, almost my grandchildren if you know what I mean, are all desperate because not nearly enough has happened – we’ve left it so late.”

Source: iNews

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5 tips on how to stay on top of your finance & mortgage

Knowledge is power – People are living increasingly hectic lifestyles and this lack of spare time means many mortgage-holders put reviewing their finances and mortgage. Keeping on top of your money matters should be a priority and doesn’t necessarily have to be a laborious, time consuming task. And, the reality is that circumstances change – interest rates fluctuate, commodity prices fluctuates, our personal situations change, such as jobs and family affairs – so being equipped with knowledge about the health of your finances and planning ahead is a necessity to overcome most financial challenges in life.

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How to review your finance and mortgage

  1. Check your current statement(s) – to see what you’re paying, when any special deal or contract ends, what happens at the end of your deal or contract and the balance left to pay.
  2. Check if you’re still on a good deal – compare like for like current market deals or contracts.
  3. Check if and when you can switch – to get a better deal if available.  It makes sense to start shopping around a few months before any special deals ends. Switching can cut down your monthly payments but you’ll need to weigh up theses monthly savings or other benefits against the costs of making the switch.
  4. Make a list of all your incomes and expenses – prioritise your mandatory expenses and work on maximising your disposable income by reducing where necessary your lifestyle expenses.
  5. Make saving a habit – save as much as you can not just money but energy and the environment. Remember the saying ‘if you fail to plan, you have already plan to fail’.

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