Lunchtime news Thursday 31 January 2024

New housing minister, Caroline Flint, has pledged to hold community level talks on government plans to build three million new homes, according to Inside Housing. Ms Flint said she was keen on greater involvement of councils, housing associations and other social housing providers, and also that more options be made available for people to buy their own home.

Professor Martin Cave has warned that the the housing regulator proposed under the Housing and Regeneration Bill could act in a way that would remove housing associations independence and force them into the public sector. He believes the new regulator must be independent of government: ‘The government’s role is to set key policy, the regulator’s role is to achieve those objectives…’

HSBC has become the first bank to allow customers to extend their mortgage deals at the same rates of interest for up to another five years. The new ‘ratematcher’ policy is available to customers for a fee that is proportionate to the size of the loan.

Tax avoidance by large companies and wealthy individuals costs the government £25 billion a year, or £1,000 for every working person in Britain. The study, commissioned by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), shows that the wealthy avoid tax worth £13 billion, while the country’s largest firms avoid tax worth £12 billion a year. The TUC have called for all capital gains on assets held for less than a year to be charged as ordinary income tax.

And finally, the historic Chelsea Barracks in London is changing hands today. The 12.8-acre site near Sloane Square had been bought from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by a consortium including the Qatari government and the Candy brothers, for a record £959 million. The MoD said the money will be used for military accommodation to ‘rectify decades of neglect’. The new owners are planning to build 650 units designed by architect Richard Rogers – half of which will be luxury apartments worth up to £20 million each and the rest will be affordable housing.