• From The BBC:

    Union leaders and Labour MPs have called for a windfall tax on energy companies, saying current efforts to tackle fuel poverty are not enough.
    The Labour conference voted in favour of the issue of a windfall tax being sent to Labour’s National Policy Forum for further consideration.
    Tony Woodley, of the giant Unite union, said ministers must “sweep away vested interests” to help the most vulnerable.
    Ministers have said they have no plans at the moment for a windfall tax.
    Chancellor Alistair Darling who addressed conference on Monday, said energy firms were doing their bit.
    ‘Stark choice’
    He defended the energy efficiency and insulation plan, announced earlier this month, saying it had secured more financial support from power firms than would have been forthcoming via a one-off tax.
    Critics have said the £910m plan is flawed because energy firms will simply pass on the cost of funding new schemes onto fuel bills.

    In a debate on fuel poverty, ministers faced a succession of c…

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  • From The BBC:

    Some 38,000 tourists still stranded by the collapse of holiday company XL are to be flown home this week.
    The vast majority had been on two-week breaks when XL’s 21 planes were grounded on 12 September, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.
    It said that in the week following XL’s collapse, 199 flights carrying 46,765 passengers flew back to the UK from 40 holiday destinations.
    It described the repatriation operation as “unprecedented”.
    ‘Smooth’ operation
    A spokesman for the CAA said that after the initial upheaval caused by the collapse, the return of holidaymakers had been relatively smooth.

    He encouraged those still on holiday to enjoy the rest of their break, as they should not have to pay extra for hotel bills.
    Richard Jackson, CAA director of consumer protection, also praised other tour operators for their assistance in getting people home.
    “Their important contribution has greatly helped the smooth repatriation for the vast majority of XL holidaymakers and allowed m…

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  • From The BBC:

    Men who grow up thinking women should stay at home may be labelled “old-fashioned” – but could end up well ahead in the salary stakes.
    A US study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, suggests that they will consistently out-earn more “modern-thinking” men.
    On average, this meant an extra ,500 (£4,722) a year.
    One UK psychologist said men inclined to wield power in their relationships might also do this at work.

    The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Florida, was conducted on a large scale, with 12,686 men and women interviewed in 1979, when they were aged between 14 and 22, and three times in the following two decades, the last time in 2005.
    The researchers asked them whether they believed a woman’s place was in the home, or whether the employment of women was likely to lead to higher rates of juvenile delinquency.
    Predictably, more men tended to hold these views than women, although the gap has narrowed significantly over time.
    However, when…

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  • From This is Money:

    From October, the key part of the controversial packs, the Energy Performance Certificate, will be valid for three years rather than one.
    It is a sign that Labour wants to avoid forcing cash-strapped homeowners to pay for two or even more £100 EPCs on a home which is stuck on the market.
    The move comes as the housing market shows signs of being ‘virtually paralysed’, according to a report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
    Less than one home per week is being sold by estate agencies in London, the South-East and the South-West.
    One RICS member said: ‘There is almost no residential market.’ Another said: ‘It will be a lonely winter for agents.’
    A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: ‘With the change to three-year validity of Energy Performance Certificates we are providing the increased flexibility that many sellers were asking for.’…

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  • From This is Money:

    Housing minister Caroline Flint said she was axing red tape to help families who cannot afford a bigger house or get a mortgage for one.
    The changes will increase the maximum size for building projects that do not require planning permission, which can cost up to £1,000 to acquire. Miss Flint predicted the overhaul will remove around 80,000 planning applications – a quarter of the total – from the system, saving £40million.
    From next month extensions of up to two storeys can be built without planning permission as long as they extend no more than ten feet from the back of a property.
    Loft conversions will also be allowed without planning consent, as long as they extend no more than 8in from the eaves of a property and are no more than 50 cubic metres in size – roughly equivalent to a room 18ft by 12ft.
    But critics warned of an xtensions ‘free for all’ fuelling neighbour disputes, as next month’s new regulations will make it harder to object to extensions that overloo…

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  • From This is Money:

    The deal from Barratt Developments, which is thought to be the first of its kind in Britain, is valid for three years and offers cover against a possible 15% drop in the market.
    It is among an array of freebies and deals for househunters, giving a stark indication of the pressure builders are under.
    Barratt is also offering to pay stamp duty and acquire property in cases where customers are struggling to sell.
    Chief executive Mark Clare said: ‘What we are trying to say is, “If there are things that concern you as a customer, what can we do to help?”‘
    Customers, however, won’t be able to take advantage of all the Barratt incentives as the cost would be too high.
    The stamp duty deal on a £500,000 home, for example, would save a buyer £15,000 in moving costs.
    The builder’s ‘price promise’, meanwhile, could cost a whopping £75,000 on a property of the same value.
    Other building firms are also offering deals to customers reluctant to shell out for a new home…

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  • From This is Money:

    The US Government’s dramatic weekend decision to bail out its biggest mortgage companies set off a surge in share prices around the world.
    It also exposed the timidity of the British government when faced with the meltdown at Northern Rock and the collapse of property sales.

    Estate agents selling just one home a week
    A Treasury review is already being held into the way the housing market is financed in the UK. It will be given added urgency by a warning from the head of Britain’s biggest building society, the Nationwide, that house prices could fall as much as 25% from last year’s peak, pushing millions of homeowners into negative equity.
    The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, is due to decide within weeks whether to back an expected recommendation to provide taxpayer backing for mortgages worth billions.
    The review is being led by City banker Sir James Crosby, who has already delivered an interim report. Proposals he is considering could see the taxpayer becoming responsible…

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  • From This is Money:

    Figures released today by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors have revealed the paralysis gripping the property market, with the average estate agency selling just 12.7 homes in the past three months.
    This represented the lowest level of activity since the survey began in 1978 and Rics said the confusion sparked by rumours of a stamp duty holiday at the start of August had exacerbated the problem.
    This had combined with the mortgage drought to further slow the market.
    Rics spokesman Jeremy Leaf said: ‘A lack of mortgage liquidity is the key issue which is keeping the housing market from showing any real sign of recovery.
    ‘While money is scarce, many will continue to be denied the next step on the property ladder.
    ‘The Government’s stamp duty policy will not be enough to kick start transactions and is more likely to assist buy-to-let investors with better access to finance than the first-time buyers it was aimed at. More needs to be done to reinvigorate a market whose con…

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  • From This is Money:

    The findings by Savills will depress Britons who bought houses recently and face living in negative equity for up to eight years.
    As their mortgages will be bigger than the value of their homes, they will be trapped in properties they cannot afford to sell.
    A separate report found one in ten homeowners could be in negative equity by next year.
    Research by the Sanford Bernstein bank found house prices could plunge as much as 35% from last summer’s peak.
    A drop of that magnitude would saddle 1.3m households – or 11% of the total – with mortgages worth more than the price of their home.
    The prediction by Savills was less severe, with the estate agents predicting a fall of 25% by the end of 2009 from last year’s peak.
    It believes prices will eventually recover, but the timing will depend on where you live.
    In the South-East and Scotland, prices are predicted to return to their peak 2007 levels in 2012. The South-West, London, the East of England and East Midlands will make…

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  • From This is Money:

    The relief would come if, as expected, the Bank of England cuts interest rates and mortgage lenders follow suit.
    The Bank is widely expected to cut rates several times in the next year. If the base rate falls by one percentage point to 4%, it is thought that mortgage rates will drop too.
    For those with a £250,000 loan, not uncommon in the South, a one percentage point drop would save about £2,000 a year.
    For homeowners with a typical loan of £138,000, the saving would be about £1,300 a year.
    Ray Boulger, senior technical manager at the mortgage broker John Charcol, said he expects interest rates to ‘fall significantly over the next year’. And the consultancy Capital Economics predicts they could drop to 3.5% next year.
    In the last week, many banks and building societies, including Abbey, Lloyds TSB and Halifax, have cut their loan rates – even though the Bank has held interest rates at 5 per cent.
    For some lenders, such as Cheltenham- Gloucester,…

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