Lunchtime news Tuesday 16 September 2023

Pensioners are the hardest hit by the rising costs of bills. Those living on state benefits saw their living and housing expenses increase by 5.1 per cent in the year to April, a bigger jump than other households. And as the consumer price index today shows, the inflation rate has climbed to 4.7 per cent, the highest figure in 16 years, with little relief in sight. The rate increase for July on the back of rising utility bills and food prices, has damaged hopes of a rate cut by the Bank of England next month. And the collapse of Lehman Brothers will add to the uncertainty in the financial markets, as banks remain reluctant to loan to each other, resulting in a lack of fund available for people to get mortgages, keeping house prices down.

The department for Communities and Local Government released its house price index for July. Its figures show a 0.3 per cent drop in prices from a year earlier, with a monthly drop between June and July of 0.5 per cent. Scotland bucked the trend again, showing a year on year increase of 3.6 per cent.

Housing charity Housing Justice has questioned the government’s progress in reducing the number of rough sleepers, after it counted twice as many homeless people on the streets of Westminster as the official figures recorded. Last week its volunteers counted 206 rough sleepers, well above the 111 recorded by the council three months earlier. The Department for Communities and Local Government concedes that single night rough sleeping counts ‘may not capture the number of people who may have experience of sleeping rough over the course of a year’ but estimates that the figure for England is less than 500.

The Liberal Democrat party is using its autumn conference to call for councils to be given powers to buy up unsold or repossessed properties and to allow local authorities and other social landlords to borrow against their assets to enable this to happen. Treasury spokesman Vince Cable is to propose a housing motion today that is expected to blame irresponsible levels of lending for contributing to the growing number of home repossessions, while reiterating his call for a statutory code of practice for mortgage lenders, and for borrowers to be offered free financial advice.

Meanwhile, the Lib-Dems yesterday reaffirmed its opposition to the government’s eco-towns. Delegates voted overwhelmingly condemned the plan to create stand alone settlements, opposed new settlements in the green belt, while demanding that new developments be subject to local planning controls, not those imposed by central government.

The government has announced a £56.5 million package to prevent youth crime in communities across Britain. Allocated over three years the money will support all local authority areas, but particularly 20 family intervention projects that work with families facing eviction due to their children’s anti-social behaviour.

And finally, despite there being national legislation for the past 160 years, Exeter council has revealed it has no official guidelines for the naming of streets and the numbering of houses.