Lunchtime news Monday 19 November 2023

Official Home Office figures show that the number of eastern European migrants and asylum seekers may have peaked. The number of people coming from Poland and other eastern European countries has fallen by almost 20 per cent, to the lowest level in five years. Acceptances of asylum seekers this year is at its lowest since 1992, and the failed asylum seekers who have been deported has also fallen to its lowest level for three years.

Benefit claims by eastern Europeans however have more than doubled in the past year to reach £145 million. Almost 129,000 ‘newcomers’ are receiving payments such as tax credits, child support, and housing support.

Banks and builders saw big drops in yesterday’s financial markets. None more so than the UK’s third largest buy-to-let mortgage lender, Paragon, which saw its shares drop by more than 50 per cent. It has axed dividend payments, but chief executive Nigel Terrington said they would not need a bail out like Northern Rock. Paragon shareholders have agreed to support the lender with a £280 million rights issue.

In America the second-largest guarantor of home loans, Freddie Mac, has warned it was in breach of its minimum liquidity levels. Share prices collapsed 25 per cent as the company revealed a $2 billion quarterly loss, a $1.2 billion provision against bad losses, and $8.1 billion drop in the value of its assets. Generally Freddie Mac does not deal in subprime mortgages, so it is an indication that the problems in the US housing market have escalated.

A Commons Select Committee has delivered a damning report on the regeneration policy in the Thames Gateway. MPs said that organisation of the project was weak; that £650 million had already been spent with little benefit to anyone living there; the government has no idea how much the entire thing would cost; and there is deep confusion about the roles of the 100 plus agencies working there. ‘Without significant improvement in the overall management of the programme it will remain a series of disjointed projects and is unlikely to achieve its potential to make a … difference to economic regeneration and sustainable housing’.