Posts Tagged ‘money’
The next government, whoever that might be, need to commit to energy efficiency, and not muck about by being weak wristed, like we’ve seen thus far, in a bid to stop UK homes from losing money, needlessly.
That’s according to a new Which!!! report, which says that the UK’s housing stock continues to be among Europe’s least energy-efficient thanks to poor insulation. In ‘A Local Approach to Energy Efficiency’, the watchdog says that Government figures from December show (up to) 5.4 million homes still don’t have their cavities filled and up to 7.4 million still need their lofts sorted out.
On top of this, Age UK reckon that the NHS spends £1.36 billion every year on treating illnesses caused by – and made worse by – cold houses.
Which!!! would like to see the country adopting a long-term approach, which would be funded in part by a levy on energy suppliers, and then put into a pot where funds can be allocated to local authorities. The report also calls for an overhaul of the Green Deal, after it transpired that only 399 plans had been taken on (on average) per month since the launch of the project.
Bigwig at Which!!!, Richard Lloyd, said: “With millions of homes still not insulated, energy efficiency is a collective failure of successive governments. The next Government must grab this issue by the scruff of the neck and commit to an aggressive energy efficiency strategy as soon as it takes power.”
“We want to see radical improvements to the roll out, funding and take-up of energy efficiency measures so people can enjoy warmer homes, lower bills and better health.”
Are you feeling confident? Do you have more purpose in your stride and feel like you could shove a mountain over? Well, it isn’t surprising seeing as consumer confidence in the UK is at its highest level for nearly 13 years, according to the stat crunchers at GfK.
Look at you spending money on onions and socks like you’re Rick James!
Gfk’s Consumer Confidence Index rose three points to +4 in March, and over the last three months, there’s been an eight point rise. Good eh? There’s been a nine point increase from March 2014. That’s livin’ alright.
All five of Gfk’s index’s key indicators saw monthly and yearly increases this month, with confidence over the general economic situation over the last 12 months being the strongest climber up the charts. It is now at +1 when, last year, it was at -15!
Sounds like we’re all getting our swagger back too, as the survey showed that consumers are more confident about the economy in the coming year, as well as getting rather cocky about our collective personal financial situation for the coming 12 months. Basically, that means people are starting to look at spending money on bigger purchases like sofas or new TVs.
Nick Moon, Managing Director of Social Research at GfK, says: “Reaction to the budget has thus far been muted, but if people warm to it over the next few weeks then we may well see a further increase in the Index next month. A consistently rising Index in the run-up to the election is likely to be good news for the government.”
An investigation has been kicked off by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after claims were made that the data of millions of people’s pensions are being sold to cold-calling firms and shady fraud types. The ICO have said that the rumours they’ve heard are “very worrying” and they will be talking to regulators and the police.
As you’ll know, there’s been changes which means that, from next month, people can cash-in their savings when they retire, rather than buying an annuity. These changes have seen increased concern about an upswing in fraud.
According to reports, people’s pension details are being sold off for as little as 5p without consent. Over at the Daily Mail, reporters said they were offered information about 15,000 pensions without checks being made. This backs up previous ICO warnings that these reforms could lead to more scamming.
Steve Eckersley, the head of enforcement at the ICO, said: “It suggests a frequent disregard of laws that are in place specifically to protect consumers. We will be launching an investigation immediately. We’re aware of allegations raised against several companies involved in the cold-calling sector, and will be making inquiries to establish whether there have been any breaches of the Data Protection Act or Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.”
If any company is found guilty, there could be fines of £500,000 dished out and criminal prosecutions could be brought forward to anyone found obtaining personal data.
Eckersley added: “The information we’ve been shown supports the work we’ve been doing to target the shady industry that operates behind the nuisance of cold calls and spam texts. We’re already aware of the potential for a huge spike in the number of scam texts and calls linked to pensions when the law changes in April, and have already taken action against a company that was sending out misleading messages.”
“What we’ve seen here confirms those fears. Personal data is such a valuable asset, particularly financial information. The worst case scenario here is this information getting into the wrong hands and being used to target individuals at a critical point in their financial lives.”
From now on, people selling you pensions will have to tell you if they’re ripping you off. More accurately, they’ll have to tell you if their rivals offer better deals and such, according to the Financial Conduct Authority.
Businesses will now have to advertise what their competitors are offering and how much more you could earn if you switched to a different provider. This will happen every time a customer is sent a quote for an annuity. The FCA reckon that this will “prompt customers to consider the benefits of shopping around and switching”.
FCA director Christopher Woolard said: “The retirement income market is set for the biggest change in a generation. We want to ensure it is fit for purpose.”
The idea is that pensioners will not have blindly accepted any old rubbish thrown their way, and now, people looking at their retirement will start shopping around and looking for a better deal, rather than just accepting a poor-value annuity offered by the first firm to flutter their eyelashes at them.
The FCA also said that pension documents now have to contain a lot less jargon. People can’t be bothered reading 20-odd pages of finance-babble, so companies need to do more to make it clear what they’re offering. The watchdog is also looking at the idea of people being sent a simple statement by pension companies, which outlines how much money they’ve saved and what type of pension they have.
Good news, oldsters!
The banks of Britain have asked everyone not worry, regarding the fact that they’ve just signed an agreement where they can close branches, even if it is the last one in a community. They’re collectively saying that they will be investing in branches for ”for decades to come”.
And of course, we all unreservedly trust the people who run banks, don’t we?
Anyway, Sky News, have got their hands on a report called the ‘Access To Banking Protocol’ which will be released tomorrow. Banks are going to have to provide 12 weeks worth of notice if they are to close a branch, as well as publishing an assessment of what they expect the impact to be on their customers.
“Banks will publish the results of their engagement and impact assessment, and the considerations taken into account in assessing the impact of the branch closure, subject to the removal of commercially sensitive information,” the document says. ”The results will be made public before the closure of the branch.”
Will this stop banks from closing down branches where they’re not making much money? Not likely. In fact, the document alludes to that, saying: ”While ensuring that customers are treated fairly, decisions on branch closures are ultimately commercial decisions for banks to take.”
With lenders closing branches all over the country, this will concern many. However, it is hoped that there’ll be provisions where smaller communities can be served by the Post Office and credit unions: ”Banks will… engage at an early stage with the Post Office to coordinate communications, operational planning and use of brand.”
While some will just focus on internet banking, “banks will take into account the local availability of broadband and access to alternative ways to bank for vulnerable customers.”
The thing we’re wondering about, is what will happen to banks if they don’t play fair or stick to the new protocol? There’s no talk of any repercussions or penalties for those that don’t comply.
According to statistics, consumers in the UK are borrowing more than ever. Some think this is a good thing as it shows the economy is improving and temping a good number to reach for the plastic again. Some will think this is a sign that everyone is still skint.
This latest PwC study (in partnership with YouGov) found that the average household now owes more than £9,000 on their credit cards, overdrafts and personal loans. They’ve not covered mortgage debts. This is a 10% increase in the size of the typical debt and means that, what’s happening now is that the average British home that is in the red is now at pre-recession levels.
“Underlying this significant growth in overall unsecured borrowing, we also saw changes in the way people borrow,” noted Simon Westcott, a director at PwC. ”Old favourites such as credit cards are staging something of a revival, while newer forms of borrowing such as peer-to-peer lending are starting to gain ground.”
The positive spin is that it looks like people are borrowing because they want nice things and are confident about the security of the future, rather than borrowing money out of desperation. We can almost hear some BW readers shouting at their screens about people learning nothing about getting into debt and the delicate nature of the economy.
While there’s historically-low interest rates, the Bank of England could put rates up over the next few months which means some folk will find themselves struggling again.
In short, don’t get carried away if you’re thinking of flexing the plastic.
The whole idea behind cryptocurrency , from what we can tell, is that it is border-free and not centralised. It sprung out of a dissatisfaction of trad. arr. banks and wants those pesky politicians and bankers to stay away.
We also know that cryptocurrency is referred to as ‘Bitcoin’, like most people call all vacuum cleaners, hoovers.
With all that in mind, HM Treasury has announced that they’d like to regulate and centralise digital currencies, thereby taking it from cryptocurrency to plain ol’ currency, which they already look after. Their goal, according to a very tedious 28-page document, is to prevent criminals misusing it and to support innovation.
The Bank of England are also really interested in it, saying that they wanted to release their own version of Bitcoin, which again, seems a bit odd, seeing as they already have actual money to play with, which has served them well.
Either way, the suits are circling and this document is in response to a public call for input on the development of digital currency regulations. The report itself looks at what the government can do next, what benefits there are and the risks of cryptocurrency.
Government says: “The government considers that digital currencies represent an interesting development in payments technology, with distributed, peer-to-peer networks and the use of cryptographic techniques making possible the efficient and secure transfer of digital currency funds between users. The government notes that the potential advantages are clearest for purposes such as micro-payments and cross-border transactions.”
So there you have it – Bitcoin et al is being taken seriously by the people from the halls of power.
The Financial Conduct Authority have hit on an idea though! Why don’t we treat bankers like children and make them sit a test every year? The new banking rulebook from the FCA reckons that bank staff should sit an annual test to see if they’re fit to do their jobs.
This is all going to be announced by FCA gaffer Martin Wheatley, before the whole thing goes to a period of consultation, at which point someone will make sure it is turned down or made so flimsy that the high ranking bankers who caused the financial crash won’t have to bother doing any tests.
It seems like this has come about from a recommendation from a Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which in 2013, said: ”The (Banking Reform) Act has introduced… the requirement for firms to certify certain employees as being fit and proper to perform certain functions.”
“This originated from the PCBS’s recommendation that a ‘licensing regime’ be introduced to address concerns that the existing Approved Persons Regime brought too narrow a set of individuals within the scope of regulation, and that firms took insufficient responsibility for the fitness and propriety of their staff.”
Maybe someone should bring in detentions and bogwashing for bankers too?
Of course, we’re being sarcastic and whiplash claims have, according to a report from one insurer, hit record levels.
The result of all this is that on average, motorists are getting £93 added to their motor insurance premium. So, thanks to people with no neck ache, everyone else is paying for it. Nothing new, but galling all the same.
So what’s brought these new levels about? Well, once again, we can thank the no-win no-fee law firms who have been drumming up business on daytime TV and doing very well for themselves.
Aviva reckons that, despite the best efforts of the government to sort out compensation culture and lower motor insurance costs, more needs to be done if there’s going to be any reduction in whiplash claims. According to their figures, whiplash is costing drivers as a whole, £2.5bn a year. Their research also showed that the UK is on course to bring in advance of 840,000 motor injury claims to the Claims Portal, which allows insurers to submit claims, for the year ending April 2015.
Last year, 80% of motor injury claims included whiplash. Compare that to France where it only makes up 3% of injury claims, and you can see that something’s awry.
Good news bargain hunters! The price war between the supermarkets is getting really intense, which means that grocery costs are dropping at a record rate/faster than a flasher’s trousers. Have you noticed?
According to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel, annual prices fell to a new low of -1.6% for the 12 weeks to 1st March. This new low has been down to a “combination of lower general inflation and the grocery price war” which means that “shoppers had saved a combined £400m over the 12 weeks.”
Inflation has dipped too, thanks to the drop in oil prices. And of course, with Aldi and Lidl frightening the bejesus out of the big guns, they’re also duking it out on price, which means we all benefit.
That said, the supermarkets themselves won’t quite know what to think about it all. While Tesco had a small improvement in sales (up 1.1%), Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons saw sales fall by 2.1%, 0.5% and 0.4% respectively.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “All of the major supermarkets are cutting prices to win shoppers, especially within everyday staples such as eggs, vegetables and milk. Retailers are focusing their efforts on simple price cuts rather than complicated ‘multibuy’ deals.”
“Among the big four supermarkets Tesco has been the standout retailer …increasing sales have helped Tesco arrest its falling market share, which is down just 0.1 percentage point compared with last year. This resurgence has impacted Asda which competes for many of the same shoppers as Tesco.”
“Asda’s sales are down by 2.1%, taking its market share to 17.0%. Morrisons and Sainsbury’s both grew behind the market average with sales falling by 0.4% and 0.5% respectively.”
HSBC’s tax scandal just won’t go away and now, Argentina are getting involved, saying that the banking group needs to give them $3.5bn (£2.32bn).
The country’s tax authorities are getting involved in a bit of financial argy bargy* and have issued the request after the Central Bank of Argentina briefly suspended HSBC Bank Argentina’s operations of transferring money and assets abroad for 30 days.
This follows Argentina’s decision in 2014 to charge HSBC with aiding 4,000+ clients to evade taxes with offshore asset trickery.
Of course, lawyers, HSBC Argentina are denying this and saying they’ve done nothing that goes against Argentinian laws. Being the world’s ‘local bank’, you’d hope they’d know about local laws.
Anyway, at a news conference, Argentina’s highest ranking tax official – Ricardo Echegaray – said that the country are prepared to go through criminal proceedings and noted that officials have been approached for information by British authorities. And there’s you think that Britain isn’t doing anything about tax evasion! (Only one prosecution thus far)
It has been a heavy week for HSBC’s chief executive Stuart Gulliver, who is having to give evidence on all this to MPs, with the Public Accounts Committee looking to get someone, anyone, to accept some accountability for all this. Of course, Gulliver has already said sorry about this tax business, but that won’t be enough.
*Bitterwallet is requested, by law, to mention the phrase ‘Argy Bargy’, as this article concerns something to do with Argentina.
The Government confirmed a couple of months ago, that the fee for issuing a money claim for anything worth more than £10,000 would be increased to 5% of the sum claimed, which has left one lobbying group outraged at the ”astonishing” fee increases of up to 600%.
Under these new rules, for example, fees on a claim worth £300,000 have been raised to £8,080, where it would have once been £1,920. That’s a rise of 421%.
Director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, said: “We remain concerned that a lot of companies in supply chains could be dissuaded from using the courts to resolve long running late payment disputes.”
“At a time when the situation seems to be getting worse not better, restricting access to one potential remedy is not encouraging.”
The Government won’t be raising the cost of getting a divorce and other fee reforms, mercifully. Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said: “Access to justice is a fundamental principle of our legal system and this is not threatened. 90% of the claims will be unaffected by these changes and waivers will also be available for those who cannot afford to pay. Our courts play a critical role and it is important that they are properly funded.”
“It is only fair that businesses and individuals who can afford to pay and are fighting legal battles should contribute more in fees to ease the burden on hardworking taxpayers.”
“Court fees are a small fraction of the overall cost of litigation and Britain’s reputation for having the best justice system in the world remains intact.”
If you’ve been living in a cave, Lloyds got £20bn of support during the financial crisis and the taxpayer ended up with a 40% stake in the bank. Now, UK Financial Investments (UKFI), are selling bits of it off to try and recoup the money.
Thus far, the Treasury has got around £8.5bn back.
UKFI is really getting a wriggle on with the sales though, and in recent weeks, have upped their work on it in a bid to exploit a surge in the Lloyds’ share price.
In a statement, George Osborne said: “These sales are part of our plan to return Lloyds to the private sector and get taxpayers’ money back. The proceeds will be used to reduce the national debt.”
The government still own 79% of the RBS Group, who themselves got a £45bn bailout in 2008. Again, Osborne is promising a quick sale on that if he ends up keeping his job as chancellor.
According to the Bank of England, the UK households’ inflation expectations dropped to their lowest level in over a decade. Last month, inflation expectations for the coming year fell to 1.9%. The BoE reckons it could turn negative in the next couple of months.
This will pique the interest of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, who yesterday, voted to keep interest rates at 0.5%. Their survey displayed the proportion of Brits expecting interest rates to rise over the next year fell and the Bank have said that they could cut rates if low inflation becomes embedded. That said, Governor Mark Carney thinks there’ll be a rise.
YouGov also did a similar survey, which also showed that the British public’s expectations for inflation in the next 12 months fell.
Basically, households are expecting prices to go up in 2015, but at a much slower rate than seen before, thanks to inflation falling to record low. However, there’s usually something of a disconnect between the perceptions of inflation and the official consumer prices index (CPI), so we’ll just have to wait and see.