“Crest Nicholson to close London office and build more ‘flat pack’ houses as costs bite”

So sad that their profit margin has dropped from 20.3% to 18%! In 2017 Crest Nicholson’s chief executive, Stephen Stone, was set to receive a share bonus worth almost £812,000, on top of a salary of £541,158, while chief operating officer Patrick Bergin was set to net £562,500, in addition to pay of £375,000.

Maybe that’s where their profits are going … just a thought …

And better not anticipate any affordable housing in their “flat pack” developments!

“Housebuilder Crest Nicholson is feeling the pinch of rising construction costs and a slower housing market, prompting it to close its Central London office and expand production of so-called “flatpack” housing structures.

In its half-year results, Crest Nicholson said that it expects its margins to be around 18pc for the full year compared with 20.3pc last year – and at the lower end of its 18pc to 20pc range – due to the “generally flat” pricing environment.

Shares in the FTSE 250 housebuilder fell more than 7pc in morning trade. …”


“Pensioner households paying out nearly £9bn in income tax per year”

“Households with one or more people who are past state pension age are paying out nearly £9bn in income tax a year, analysis has found.

Of the 8.7m so called pensioner households in the UK, 1.4m of them contain a worker generating taxable income.

The research by pension and investment provider Aegon found that the number of people still working past state pension age had increased from 12 per cent in 1997/98 to 17 per cent today.

A growth in people working past pension age was accompanied by a rise in average earnings, as pensioner couples saw their weekly wages after inflation increase 30 per cent from £410 to £534 today.

Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon said:

“Gone are the days when reaching state pension age meant a total end to work. Many people are choosing to keep working and earning, perhaps by cutting back gradually on the amount of work they do, even once they’ve started taking their pension.

These people are contributing significant amounts to the nation’s finances through the tax they generate while also helping the broader economy through their work.”

Cameron also said that despite the current climate being favourable for pensioners, with many living on decent incomes, this “golden era for pensioners” could not last forever.

“Both final salary pensions and inflation busting increases to the state pension are unlikely to continue indefinitely so it’s important that society is changing with more people able to choose to work past traditional retirement ages,” he added.”


“Bank Closures Can Be Devastating For Disabled Customers – Where Is Their Support?”

Dr Lisa Cameron SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow:

“… Whilst it is true that online banking has opened the doors for many, it has also shut the door to others. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability, which I chair, has recently published research revealing the devastating impact bank closures have on disabled customers, for whom the alternate services are found to be both inaccessible and inadequate.

The banking industry must stop leaving disabled people behind as they move forward with their plans. This is a customer-led industry, and this industry is simply failing a sector of society. I’m inclined to point out that if this group of customers were perhaps, wealthy business owners, the service they offer would improve remarkably quicker.

90% of disabled people surveyed in the Disability APPG’s inquiry reported that their use of bank services had already suffered due to the branch closures. Some now have to travel for up to three hours to be able to do their banking at an accessible branch, and others reported being forced to be more reliant on family and friends, losing a sense of their independence. One even said: “My wife has to find time off work to take me [to the bank]”.

These problems are only going to increase as branch closures continue to roll out. While online banking may be presented as a solution for those with mobility disabilities, it is not a complete solution by itself. 93% of respondents to the APPG’s survey felt that online banking services are not a “sufficiently accessible and a satisfactory alternative”. For those with visual, cognitive, memory and learning disabilities, the complexity of online banking and the need to remember passwords and “memorable information” make it overwhelming and difficult to navigate. Many elderly disabled people also lack the necessary internet connection and technical skills. And, of course, doing something like paying in cash to your account still requires an actual branch anyway.

The overall image is that the move to online banking cannot be made in its entirety. Accordingly, some banks have also started to offer mobile bank replacement services – vans that travel around local areas providing a temporary replacement for areas without a permanent branch. According to the inquiry, however, only 12% of survey respondents who had experience with the mobile replacements found them to be an appropriate replacement.

Firstly, the vans used for this mobile service were frequently described as inaccessible, having large stairs that require individuals to climb into. Secondly, many respondees reported that the services offered by these mobile replacements are “extremely limited”, and that the vans did not stay long enough in each place.

All in all, the inquiry indicates that disabled people are significantly and disproportionately disadvantaged by the closure of physical bank branches. For some disabled people, anything other than face-to-face banking is an impracticable and stressful experience, and the only real solution is to retain access to physical bank branches or provide, well-located alternatives with the full range of services.

This failure to account for disabled people is not only a disservice to valuable customers, but may also breach the law. The Equality Act 2010 requires public bodies not to put disabled people at a “significant disadvantage” if they can avoid this by taking “reasonable” steps. The closures, for many respondents, cause extensive difficulties and have left them isolated and dependent, unable to access vital services that are important to everybody, and the alternatives provided are clearly insufficient.

Disability groups have done the job of the UK Government once again and proposed solutions to this problem; community banks. These accessible and well-located buildings can house a number of different banks under one roof, reducing the costs to the banks to keep branches open. Whilst banks in competition with one another might resist such plans, perhaps the needs of the customer for once could take precedent.”


“Just look at housing to see the true cost of privatisation”

“Council homes are being sold off far more quickly than new social homes are being built, a new report has warned. The research into the government’s right-to-buy scheme, by the Local Government Association, finds that this has been the case since 2012: at no point has the social housebuilding rate matched, or come close to matching, the rate at which homes are being sold.

Right to buy was given a boost by the Conservatives after the 2010 election in an attempt to sell even more homes, since traditionally homeowners tend to vote Tory. In 2013, the then chancellor, George Osborne, announced the maximum discount available for those renting a council home in London would rise to £100,000. In effect he’d approved the asset-stripping of some of our most-needed council stock.

But right to buy needs to be viewed for its long-term effects, and not just with regard to how it helped those families who bought their council homes in the 1980s and 90s. Today, 40% of the homes sold under the scheme are rented privately at far higher rents than local authorities would ever charge. Right to buy has become right to buy to let.

Across the country, home ownership is in crisis, with renting exorbitantly expensive and young people especially – even those in professional jobs – being priced out of the market. Their earnings disappear into the pockets of private landlords, while the finances of local government are given a kicking.

Council housing works because it pays for itself relatively quickly: the rent paid by tenants covers the building costs in the long term, and eventually makes a profit for the local authority, which continues to invest in the local area. The money continues to circulate within the community rather than simply boosting the profits of landlords.

But with councils forced to sell to tenants through right to buy, then being obliged to give a chunk of the receipts straight to Whitehall, building becomes ever more difficult. And the property shortfall is expensive, as authorities struggle to house their homeless residents. Last year £8.4m was spent by 23 councils to rent 725 flats as temporary accommodation, the magazine Inside Housing found. A vast transfer of wealth has taken place from the public to the private sector, under the guise of helping the aspirational working class. Instead, we’ve just made it harder to provide housing for those most in need.

The folly of right to buy echoes the mess that is Britain’s rail system. In the mid-90s, John Major – echoing Margaret Thatcher’s disdain for the state a decade earlier – believed that breaking up British Rail would create competition, and that competition would ensure greater services and be far more efficient than control by the bloated state. Instead, the cost of train travel has become exorbitant, the service appalling almost everywhere you attempt to travel, and the state is constantly required to intervene – either because a franchise has collapsed, in the case of the east coast mainline, or because the rail service has become chaotic, witness recent weeks in the north and the south-east.

The long-term effects of privatising both rail and housing, aside from ensuring we live in a country of crumbling infrastructure (in contrast to mainland Europe), is one of diminished social and personal opportunities. Many people are unable to see friends and family as often as they’d like due to the cost of rail travel. Others are delaying having children, or wondering if they can afford them at all, since they cannot afford to buy a home and landlords can be hostile to children. Those with children are in no better position: well oOverMore than 100,000 children are living in temporary accommodation, usually due to eviction.

Right to buy was popular, but with 1.8m council homes having been sold off, there are now about 750,000 households paying far more than a local authority rent. Housing, not buying, should be a right – and available and affordable for all. Right to buy is devastating our housing system, just as rail privatisation has devastated our transport infrastructure.

Privatisation rarely works: we need new ideas, and far more public ownership of housing, infrastructure and utilities, if we wish to provide for our citizens.”


Adult social care on its last wobbly, fragile knees

“Social care services for vulnerable adults are on the verge of collapse in some areas of England, despite the provision of extra government funding, senior council officials have warned.

The fragile state of many council social care budgets – coupled with growing demand for services, increasing NHS pressure, and spiralling staff costs – is highlighted in research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services(Adass).

It says councils “cannot go on” without a sustainable long-term funding strategy to underpin social care and warns that continuing cuts to budgets risk leaving thousands of people who need care being left without services.

“The overall picture is of a sector struggling to meet need and maintain quality in the context of rising costs, increasingly complex care needs, a fragile provider market and pressures from an NHS which itself is in critical need of more funding,” the annual “state of the nation” survey says.

It reveals English councils plan to push through social care cuts of £700m in 2018-19, equivalent to nearly 5% of the total £14.5bn budget. Since 2010, social care spending in England has shrunk by £7bn.

A government green paper on adult social care funding is expected in the next few weeks, and while councils are hopeful this could put budgets on a firmer footing over time, they warn that extra funding is needed to shore up services in the short term.

“Social care is essentially about making sure we not only look after people with profound and increasingly complex needs, but also help many transform their lives. Sadly, however, this budget survey reveals, once again this essential care and support is just not being given the resources it needs,” said the president of Adass, Glen Garrod.

He added: “We cannot go on like this. How we help people live the life they want, how we care and support people in our families and communities, and how we ensure carers get the support they need is at stake – it’s time for us to deliver the secure future that so very many people in need of social care urgently need.”

A government spokesperson said: “We know the social care system is under pressure — that’s why we’ve provided an extra £9.4bn over three years. We will shortly set out our plans to reform the system, which will include the workforce and a sustainable funding model supported by a diverse, vibrant and stable market.”

The Adass survey says the social care market is “increasingly fragile and failing” in some parts of the country, with almost a third of councils reporting that residential and nursing home care providers have closed down or handed back contracts.

Although councils are spending an increasing proportion of their total budget on adult social care – almost 38p in every pound in 2018-19, compared with 34p in 2010 – social care directors admit they will have to continue to reduce the number of people in receipt of care packages.

The survey reveals councils are increasingly reliant on so-called “self help” or “asset-based” approaches to care – in effect using networks of family and neighbourhood groups to provide volunteer support for some social care recipients.

Half of local authorities overspent on adult social care budgets in 2017-18, the survey finds, with half of these drawing on council reserves to meet the overspend.

The National Audit Office has warned that about 10% of councils will exhaust reserves in three years at current rates of deployment, putting them at risk of insolvency.

Ministers acknowledged the financial crisis facing council adult social care services last year, when they provided £2.6 billion, enabling councils to raise extra social care funds locally through a council tax precept.

Adass says this injection of cash helped stave off financial collapse in some council areas. But it warns that the additional funding has “temporarily relieved, rather than resolved” the long-term funding needs of the sector and there is a danger council services could collapse before any new arrangements are in place.

Although councils have a legal duty to ensure there is a functioning care market in their area, nearly four in five say they are concerned that they are unable to guarantee this because of the fragility of many care firm balance sheets and rising care staff wage bills.

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, the chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Councils and providers are doing all they can to help ensure older and disabled people receive high quality care, but unless immediate action is taken to tackle increasingly overstretched council budgets, the adult social care tipping point, which we have long warned about, will be breached and councils risk not being able to fulfil their statutory duty under the Care Act.”

Richard Murray, the director of policy at The King’s Fund, said: “This latest evidence, from every council in England, lays bare once again the need for, as the prime minister put it herself, a proper plan to pay for and provide social care.

“Older and disabled people and their families and carers continue to be let down by a system that is on its knees.”