UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

The reform that breaks the camel’s back?

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Trade union leaders have been warning for some time now that it would be pensions reform — not pay freezes or job cuts — that could prove the trigger for widespread public sector strikes this year.

Now activists, eager to punish the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, have all the ammunition they need in the Hutton pension review.

Few can argue that pensions do not need to be reformed. People in Britain are living longer, making it more expensive for the government and taxpayer to fund pension payments.

And private sector workers have long grumbled that the public sector has it too good when it comes to retirement.

Satisfied bank customer?

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We’re wondering who is.

We see bailed-out banks returning to profit at the same time as headlines about others still refusing to lend. The personal finance pages are bristling with stories about mortgage famine . Big businesses may have been overcharged for banks’ services in raising new equity capital;  lending to smaller businesses is down, and the interest offered on savings is so derisory, would-be savers are being pushed into taking more risk to try to preserve their capital.

What are we missing? What is the magic ingredient that makes you as a customer happy with your bank? Or are we right in thinking “customer satisfaction” is a figment of executive imagination? Tell us your stories.

from The Great Debate UK:

Budget boost for savers

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--Fay Goddard is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society. The opinions expressed are her own.--

As predicted, Budget 2009 was heavy on figures and forecasts and hard on the highest earners. Unsurprisingly it is the latter that the press has picked up on. We all knew that there would be a new top rate of income tax – though some were taken by surprise at the rate of 50 percent and the speed at which it will be introduced.

Pre-budget report: what it means for personal taxes

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Here is a guide on what the pre-budget report means for personal taxation by accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward. Income tax – changes to allowances and rates

The basic personal allowance for 2008/09 was increased above inflation from £5,225 to £6,035 as a one off measure to compensate for the loss of the 10 per cent starting tax rate.

Equitable Life: another nail in the coffin for retirement savings?

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Nine years after the near collapse of Equitable Life, pensioners and savers are still unsure if they see any compensation despite the long-awaited report by the parliamentary ombudsman, described by commentators as a “damning indictment of UK financial regulation.”

The victims may still be in for a long wait to get their estimated 4 billion pounds in compensation. Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier this week indicated that he would not allow billions to be paid out automatically and maintained that Equitable Life’s “culpability” in the case had been proved.

Why life doesn’t begin at 40…

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pensioners.jpgThink you’ve got plenty of time to save for retirement, boost your bank balance or achieve the level of wealth you’ve always aspired to? Think again.

While it might be said that life begins at 40, this is far from the case on the financial front: wage growth stalls 30 years before the average retirement age, according to personal finance website Fool.co.uk.

Preparation key to riding out recession

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cash-3.jpgWe are living in uncertain times. House prices are falling, the economy is slowing and consumers are under the cosh from the fall-out from the credit crunch, which is sending borrowing costs higher.

Preparation is the best defence for your finances. As Karen Torson, partnerships business manager at the Cheshire Building Society, says: “An uncertain economy can cause worry for many individuals, but taking the time to ensure you are well prepared can provide peace of mind and make a big difference — whatever the future holds.” Whatever might lay ahead, our top tips should help:

“Hoodie” of financial world continues to lurk

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cash2.jpgBorrowers might be under the cosh, but savers have never had it so good. Historically, when the Bank of England (BoE) base rate changes, mortgage and savings rates follow suit. But amidst the current credit crunch, those with spare cash and prepared to move their money around can take advantage of banks’ and building societies’ eagerness to attract retail funds.

The last time the base rate stood at its current level of 5 percent was 17 months ago — in November 2006. And there are huge differences between then and now in fixed savings rates. The top six-month fixed rate bond is now paying 1.59 percent more interest on a 10,000 pound investment, at 6.86 percent. Kaupthing Edge and Icesave top the best buy tables with that rate, Heritable Bank is close behind with its new offering of 6.80 per cent as of this weekend, and Alliance & Leicester this week issued a fixed rate bond with a competitive 6.83 percent. “With many people thinking  that the base rate is likely to fall further this year some of the fixed rate products available now look outstanding value,” says David Black, principal consultant for banking at financial research company Defaqto.

Consumers go it alone as storm clouds gather

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storms21.jpgThe dust has settled on Alistair Darling’s first Budget and consumers have been given little reason for celebration. The Chancellor, though announcing various measures designed to increase housing affordability, has done nothing to help the masses.

There were no moves to give a helping hand to hard-pressed householders, already struggling amid rocketing mortgage, food, fuel and tax costs, to ride out an impending recession. Darling did pledge to introduce a savings scheme targeted at low and moderate earners, often least able to save: the “saving gateway” will attract government matching for savings over the duration of people’s participation in the scheme. This has the potential to introduce up to eight million people into mainstream savings in the UK who otherwise might not make thrift a priority.

A good budget?

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darlin2.jpgThe headlines say it was a budget that hit drinkers, smokers and gas-guzzlers.

Chancellor Alistair Darling hiked up the usual “sin taxes” in his first budget.

But he also postponed a 2p rise in fuel taxes until October.

He also made a bid for the green vote with a call for a new road pricing scheme and for retailers to charge customers for plastic bags.

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