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House prices, consumer confidence, tax bills and holiday costs

31 August 2016

9:54 AM

31 August 2016

9:54 AM

August saw a ‘slight pick-up’ in house price growth despite the Brexit vote, according to the Nationwide building society, but the outlook is still ‘clouded’.

The building society said prices rose by 0.6 per cent compared with July, making the average cost of a home £206,145. Prices in August were 5.6 per cent higher than a year earlier, compared with 5.2 per cent in July.

‘The pick-up in price growth is somewhat at odds with signs that housing market activity has slowed in recent months,’ Nationwide said.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph reports that families should be blocked from selling their homes if they fail to meet minimum energy efficiency standards, under radical proposals from a Conservative think-tank.

Households should also be forced to install measures such as insulation or new boilers when they carry out other home improvement works, under the proposals from Bright Blue.

The tough new regulations to tackle draughty homes should be accompanied by new schemes to help households afford the required upgrades, such as ‘Help to Improve’ loans and ISAs akin to the Help to Buy home ownership schemes, the think-tank suggests in a report.

Consumer confidence

Confidence among UK consumers improved in August, a survey has suggested, but remains below pre-Brexit vote levels.

Market research firm GfK said its consumer confidence gauge had recovered to -7 in August, up from -12 in July. Encouraging economic data, low interest rates, falling prices, and high levels of employment have all contributed to a rise in confidence, it said.

GfK’s survey also indicated a sharp drop in people’s propensity to save in August.

Motorists

More than half a million company car drivers face higher tax bills under a proposed crackdown on valuable perks by the Treasury, according to the Daily Mail.

‘Salary sacrifice’ schemes allow employees to give up some of their taxable pay for perks such as company cars. Employees cut their tax and National Insurance bill, while employers have to pay less National Insurance for the employee. The biggest savings are made by those who have opted for low carbon emission cars, which benefit from generous tax breaks.


The Treasury’s proposed rules could come into force next April and would effectively kill off tax benefits worth thousands of pounds a year for company car drivers. Under the plans, workers would be taxed on the full amount of salary sacrificed.

Insurance

The Daily Mail also reports that home and car insurance firms are secretly drawing up plans to collect details about your hobbies, habits at home and even the length of your driveway to decide how much you pay for cover.

They want to monitor social media and property records, as well as striking deals with other firms to use personal information they have never had access to before in order to set premiums.

They could even tap into customers’ home security systems so they know when properties are left empty.

Discrimination

‘Urgent action’ is needed to give new and expectant mothers more protection at work after a ‘shocking’ increase in discrimination, MPs have said.

The Women and Equalities Committee is calling for a German-style system, where it is harder to make women redundant during and after pregnancy. The number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their jobs has almost doubled to 54,000 since 2005, it said.

The Government said it would consider the recommendations carefully.

Apple

The Republic of Ireland’s Cabinet will meet later today to discuss the European Commission’s decision that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to €13 billion (£11 billion) to Apple.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said the Irish Government will appeal the ruling. The Irish Government has said it ‘disagrees profoundly with the commission’s analysis’.

‘Ireland did not give favourable tax treatment to Apple,’ it added. ‘Ireland does not do deals with taxpayers. No fine or penalty has been levied against the Irish State. This decision has no effect on the 12.5 per cent rate of corporation tax and is not about Ireland’s wider corporation tax regime.’

Education

British parents are among the least likely to have saved money for their child’s education, according to a global survey of parents released by HSBC, The Value of Education, Foundations for the Future.

Less than one in two have, which compares to the global average of 67 per cent. This is almost half the proportion of parents in Indonesia or India. Only parents in France and Mexico are less likely than those in the UK to have put money away for this.

In fact, the data reveals that over three quarters of UK parents are funding their child’s education from their everyday income, and the majority (59 per cent) say that paying for their child’s education makes it more difficult to keep up with their other financial commitments.

Energy

A ‘smart energy’ revolution could help ensure that the UK does not suffer blackouts, according to National Grid’s new UK chief.

Nicola Shaw, its executive director, said technological advances will reduce the need to build new conventional power stations in the UK.

An ‘internet of energy’ will allow fridges, washers and dishwashers to help balance energy demand. Some commentators say the UK needs more gas-fired power to prevent blackouts.

Holiday costs

Generous grandparents are making it possible for the whole family to go away together as one in seven over 50s have been on holiday with their children and grandchildren and a third have paid for the whole trip, according to Saga Travel Insurance.

Inter-generational holidays are popular with the whole family. Not only do children have their choice of people to play with but parents have a built-in babysitter as grandparents are keen to spend time with their grandchildren. This could be why one in ten over 50s say they are planning a holiday with children and grandchildren for next year.

However, paying for the whole family to go abroad is not cheap as inter-generational holidays costs around £4,000 on average.

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