Lunchtime news Friday 11 January 2024

A coalition of children’s charities has won a 20-year campaign to safeguard the welfare of 86,000 children who run away from home in England each year. The children’s secretary, Ed Balls, has agreed to provide a network of safe places where runaways can find shelter and support. Research shows that one in nine children in England spent at least one night away from home before their 16th birthday. Most child runaways are fleeing family conflict, neglect or abuse, with girls aged 14-15 the most likely to run away and stay with strangers, whilst boys were more likely to sleep rough.

The financial markets have been hit hard by the credit crisis and downturn in the housing market. Whereas the Bank of England decided to keep interest rates on hold at 5.5 per cent yesterday to control inflationary pressures, in America, the Federal Bank chairman, Ben Bernanke, hinted that he was prepared to cut rates to support growth. ‘In light of recent changes in the outlook for and the risks to growth, additional policy easing may be necessary,’ said Bernanke. Markets took his comments as a sign that the Federal Bank is contemplating a half-point reduction in rates at the end of January.

Back in England, the Northern Rock saga rumbles on. Chancellor Alistair Darling told a Treasury Select Committee of MPs that Goldman Sachs, brought in to advise the government on what to do with the bank, hasn’t reached a ‘preferred option’ yet. Darling said that he would like to find a private sector solution if possible, rather than nationalisation, although nationalisation may be a short-term option. The bank announced today that it has agreed to sell £2.2 billion, or two per cent, of its mortgage assets to the US investment bank, JP Morgan, in a move to reduce the £25 billion emergency loan given by the Bank of England.

A survey by Inside Housing has revealed that some of the most overcrowded boroughs in England are building the fewest affordable family homes. Overall the proportion of family homes built in the 33 authorities surveyed fell from 37 per cent in 2004/5 to 29 per cent last year in the private sector, and in the social sector the figures went from 30 to 24 per cent respectively. Tower Hamlets in London is ranked the most overcrowded borough in the city and last year saw just 124 affordable family houses built, compared with 923 one- or two-bedroom properties. Councils say the government’s demand for higher density developments is to blame for the drop in the supply of family homes.

And finally, the Housing Corporation has said it would help housing associations buy hard-to-sell homes from developers if the property market crisis deepens. Senior housing figures are in talks about creating a housing market package programme similar to that introduced during the 1990’s housing crash. However many of the houses are likely to be smaller properties, rather than the family houses required. Some developers are offering discounts of up to 15 per cent to housing associations already.