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Blogs Spectator Money

High street sales, council tax, first-time buyers and spending

10 February 2017

11:13 AM

10 February 2017

11:13 AM

Some gloomy data for retailers this morning following the news that the high street has recorded its worst January sales since 2013.

According to BDO, like-for-like sales fell by 0.1 per cent. This is the first negative growth in the new year discounting period in four years. The accountancy group added that rising prices and political uncertainty had affected consumer confidence and spending in the busiest two months of the shopping calendar (this includes December). The hardest hit were fashion sales.

Council tax

Households already feeling the pinch are now facing an increase in council tax.

The Daily Mail reports that almost all of England’s town halls have pledged to implement an inflation-busting rise. That’s according to a report by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), an independent think-tank, and Municipal Journal magazine.

The survey found that 94 per cent of local authorities plan to increase the tax by up to 5 per cent in April – the equivalent of an £80 rise for the average property. The Daily Mail stated: ‘The same proportion say they also want to put up parking charges and other fees, resulting in residents paying more for home help, swimming pools, school meals, burials, planning advice and garden waste collection.’

First-time buyers


January saw a jump in the number of first-time buyers getting on to the housing ladder, according to the latest research from Connells Survey & Valuation. 

In the first month of 2017, first-time buyer valuations rose by a fifth year-on-year, driven by high employment and an uplift in weekly earnings. This has increased the importance of first-time buyers to the overall housing market, with first-time buyers now responsible for a third of activity, up from a quarter at the start of 2016. 

British Gas

British Gas says it is freezing energy prices until August. Mark Hodges, chief executive of Centrica Consumer, the owner of British Gas, said: ‘In December we promised to take tangible action to improve how the energy market works for all our customers. That effort continues. We aim to do even more in the coming months to meet our customers’ needs, earn their business, and reward their loyalty.’

Spending

ThisisMoney reports on data released by Tilney. The financial planning and investment firm has found that, on average, households in Britain spend an average of £1.9 million over the course of a lifetime.

By the time the average person reaches 50, their household has just spent its first £1 million in today’s prices. A third of this will have been spent on housing costs, while holidays, restaurants and entertainment will have cost them £203,000. At the same stage in life, the wealthiest quarter is halfway through their £2.8 million total, with much higher spending on leisure activities (£342,000).

From 65 onwards, when income from work diminishes, the top quarter of UK earners can still expect to spend £683,000 as a household; 63 per cent more than the £420,500 average.

Economy

Manufacturing grew by 2.1 per cent in December, the Office for National Statistics said this morning. Construction output also grew in December, rising 1.8 per cent largely due to an increase in new work.

Finally…

Have you ever thought that rail ticket machines are complicated? Now new research has revealed they cause so much confusion that one-fifth of passengers who use them buy the wrong ticket.

The rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), has found that while 7 per cent of people underpay and could be fined, 13 per cent are paying too much.

The BBC reports that the ORR wants train companies to refund passengers who accidently buy tickets that are too expensive for their journey.

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