Lunchtime news Thursday 25 September 2023

A report from Citizens Advice detailing the financial, emotional and physical impact of poverty for children has said that Britain’s poorest families are ‘cold and hungry’ and often living in inadequate housing. One in three children live in poverty in the UK and this figure is rising again. Citizens Advice has called for the government to make dramatic improvements to benefits and the tax credit system to increase the take up of benefits, and wants the government to provide more support and better financial incentives to ensure that families who move off benefits and into work are genuinely better off.

The Office of Fair Trading blames the planning regime for failing to develop vacant land and fuelling accusations of anti-competitiveness in the sector. After a year long study, the OFT dismissed complaints that house builders were accumulating land and not developing it in the hope it will increase in value in the meantime – so-called landbanking, and said the sector was ‘broadly competitive’. The report says that arcane planning regulations meant that house builders needed to keep a stock of land to cope with the fluctuations in the housing market and to reduce exposure to risk should planning be denied. However, the report also demanded that a code of conduct and a redress scheme needs to be set up to give consumers better protection.

A social landlord in the North West of England is launching a low-cost loan service to counteract the effects of extortionate interest rates charged by doorstep lenders. The Riverside Group has received funding from the Department for Works and Pensions to offer affordable loans to people who need them, and will be working to help people manage their finances better in the future. Research has shown that 13 per cent of its tenants do not have access to a bank account. If the scheme is successful it may be rolled out across the region.

Banks and building societies have blamed the global financial crisis for a rise in the interbank lending rate causing a further increase in mortgage rates. Abbey, the UK’s second largest mortgage lender is expected to withdraw some of its most competitive deals today; yesterday Yorkshire Building Society raised rates; and it is expected that Lloyds, Northern Rock and Woolwich will also raise the cost of borrowing in the next few days.

Meanwhile house prices are falling globally, with signs that it will get worse before the situation improves. The cost of property fell during the past year in 21 of the 33 countries looked at by a global property guide, with the Baltic states, America, and the UK and Ireland leading the decline. Quarterly data suggests that the worst is yet to come as all but nine of the 33 countries tracked faced house price falls.

The way local authorities identify and assess land for future redevelopment could be transformed due to advances in technology and changing information needs, according to a study into the 10-year-old national land use database of previously developed land. Recommendations of the review into the database include replacing the current system with one that would be more accurate and easier for local authorities to maintain, and suggests providing 60 per cent of all new homes on brownfield land by 2020.

In Scotland, MSPs have been given a dire warning about the state of the housing industry by Homes for Scotland. It says that 30,000 jobs could go, house building will fall by half this year and the economic downturn will see significant cuts in estate agents and surveyor jobs.