Lunchtime news Friday 18 January 2024

Junior housing minister, Iain Wright, is attempting to speed up the house buying process by introducing new ‘good practice guidelines’ that state local authorities should aim to allow search companies to access information on property searches within one working day. Local authority searches are an integral component of home information packs (Hips), which were introduced last year for all house sales. Hips providers claim that some councils were making life difficult for search companies by imposing restrictions on when they were able to visit, and how many searches they are allowed to do each day.

The deputy governor of the Bank of England, John Gieve, said that rising inflation is preventing the Bank from cutting interest rates as fast as it intended. During a speech to the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry where he acknowledged that the housing market was slowing ‘markedly’, he indicated he is in favour of a series of interest rate cuts, returning borrowing to a ‘more neutral stance’, reckoned to be around 4.75 per cent. However despite the evidence that lower rates will help soften the downturn higher energy and food prices was threatening to make this difficult.

Meanwhile in the States, Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, has backed introducing emergency measures aimed at helping the US economy avoid recession. Mr Bernanke said measures such as tax cuts should happen quickly and on a temporary basis, and has hinted that the Bank may be willing to cut interest rates. Mr Bernanke’s comments came as Merrill Lynch posted huge losses for 2014. The latest financial institution to reveal losses related to the US mortgage market, Merrill Lynch made a net loss of nearly £4 billion, down from a net profit in 2013 of about £4 billion, and included a £7 billion write-down in failed investments in the sub-prime market.

The rich keep getting richer and fuelling greater inequality in Britain according to new research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an independent think-tank. The incomes of the wealthiest 1 per cent grew at an annual rate of 3.1 per cent, compared to 2.3 per cent for the population as a whole, and the income of the top 0.1 per cent grew by 4.4 per cent, during 1996/97 to 2004/05 tax years. In contrast those at the bottom of the income distribution, the bottom 15 per cent of households, saw their income go up at below average rates and in some cases falling in real terms. Overall the top 10 per cent of individuals in the UK receive 40 per cent of all personal income, while the bottom 90 per cent share 60 per cent. The very rich are disproportionately male, middle class and middle aged, living in London and the South East, and working in the financial sector, property or law.

And finally, although half of all marriages in Britain are unhappy, the fear of financial and emotional hardship keeps couples together says a survey from Seddons Solicitors, following the New Year rush to initiate divorce proceedings. For 42 per cent of those asked, the motivation for staying in a doomed marriage was to avoid financial upheaval, as the couples predicated they would have to give up their home if they split up. For women, 59 per cent of them said they would divorce their husband immediately if their future economic security was assured. Time to change the vows to in sickness and wealth, perhaps…