Positive signs for global growth
A chink of light has opened up for the global economy. A ‘positive momentum shift’ is spreading from the US and Japan to other developed countries, according to the OECD’s latest survey of growth prospects. Signs of an upward change were also identified in India and Russia, although signals for all other OECD economies, the eurozone and Brazil continued to point to below-trend growth.
Despite this the body which represents the world’s developed economies said it detected “tentative signs” things are improving, with prospects better for seven of the countries in the eurozone. It also said it expected the UK to avoid recession. Ironically China is bucking the improving trend, with economic indicators pointing more strongly to a slowdown.
Change of plan for many due to retire
Almost 40,000 people will delay their retirement this year because they cannot afford to stop working. According to insurance company Prudential, more than one
in 10 of the 550,000 people who were due to retire this year have changed their plans.
While a third are delaying retirement because they enjoy working, about 70% – equating to 38,500 people – say they are putting it off because they cannot afford to retire. Savers have seen their retirement pots reduced by low savings levels, poor stock market returns and the decline of final salary workplace retirement schemes.
Ding-dong – revenue & customs calling
Everyone from Avon ladies to those holding Ann Summers parties have been warned to get their finances in order ahead of a planned crackdown by the Revenue. HMRC has used new technology to identify parts of the economy likely to have a high number of missing tax returns.
The flourishing ‘direct selling’ industry is one of these, with many people new to direct selling unaware that they need to fill in a self-assessment tax return to declare their earnings.
The new HMRC campaign will also target a number of other industries, from builders to semi-professional eBay sellers.
Warranties warrant investigation
The results of a year-long investigation into extended warranties will raise fresh doubts over their value to consumers and the way they are sold. Often aggressively promoted by electrical retailers, these are supposed to help if expensive items need repair or replacement after the manufacturer’s guarantee runs out. But they can cost almost as much as the item they cover.
Retailers have not implemented previous recommendations on selling practices from the Office of Fair Trading, triggering the latest investigation.
Research suggests there is a one in 10 chance that a major appliance will require repairing in the first five to six years. An estimated £750 million a year is spent on warranties, and there are claims that these offset retailers’ losses from the deep discounts on products.
Refusal to name high earners
Councils have refused government demands to identify staff earning more than £58,200 a year because there are so many it would be an “onerous burden”. Last year Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, ordered councils to publish details of high-earning staff. But council chiefs said they had so many well-paid staff the cost of listing them could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. They also said staff safety would be at risk if the public knew how much they earned.
Other councils claimed taxpayers lacked the necessary “evaluation skills” to decide whether spending was good value for money. Several insisted there was little demand locally for information on how they spent public money.
Monthly money spent after 17 days
The average person is worrying that they are broke just 17 days after pay day, according to a report from the Halifax. This reflects the squeeze from rising household and other costs while salaries have been frozen. For the worst-hit the money worries begin even sooner.
The research revealed one in 10 people admitted things get tight within a week of receiving their monthly salary. Even the average person whose cash lasts 17 days is now spending close to a fortnight every month worrying about money – an outcome forcing many to borrow and so go ever deeper into debt.
Card fraud costs paid by customers
Account numbers and passwords of British bank customers are on sale on Russian websites for as
little as £19. The details were stolen using devices attached to cash machines, or from online scams. Such websites contribute to the £308m worth of card fraud in the UK each year. Victims are usually refunded by their banks, but this cost is passed back to customers through higher fees and charges for other services.
On average, each set of stolen card details costs banks £120. Among the more common ways of stealing details is infecting computers with a virus, which reads its files and registers passwords. Card and pin numbers can also be copied by a device called a ‘skimmer’ attached to cash machines.
Less demand for small firms credit
The five main UK banks have missed their target for lending to smaller firms, but exceeded their overall lending target, British Bankers’ Association figures show. The banks said they met their overall commitments agreed with the Government, with gross new loans last year of £215 billion against a target of £190bn. They narrowly missed the small firms target of £76bn by just over £1bn, however, because demand for credit from smaller businesses fell.
Under the Government’s Project Merlin deal, the five major UK banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander UK – all agreed to make it easier for smaller firms to access credit.