Linden homes: catalogue of serious problems in new Exeter home

“A new build owner has shared shocking pictures of her mouldy bathroom which came to light months after moving into what she thought would be a hassle free home.

Linda Hamlet claims the first problems began from the day she moved into the Linden Homes development Tithe Barn in Pinhoe, Exeter, when ‘snagging’ issues included being unable to lock her front door because it was misaligned.

Since then the main problem in three-bed semi-detached home has been four leaks, including from a u-bend which was not connected properly in the kitchen, and a rotten wall and mouldy floors in the ensuite and bathroom.

Linda said: “I went two months without being able to use the shower in our ensuite as they used mastic instead of grout after the first leak. At same time there was two botch jobs made with our leaking bathroom sink.

“I could smell a horrible smell in the bathrooms and it turns out it was because the floors were mouldy underneath. They were just going to regroup the tiles until I insisted there must be underlying damage. Then they only removed tiles and saw the stinking rotten wall.

“I have spent nearly £300,000 on a new house as I thought it would give me peace of mind because I could close the door and enjoy my life, but I haven’t been able to and now have a problem with missing pointing in the brickwork. I haven’t been given an apology and I haven’t been offered compensation.”

A Linden Homes spokesperson said: “We pride ourselves on the quality of our homes and our customer care. Our dedicated customer care team have been in regular contact with Ms Hamlet to rectify the minor faults in her property that have appeared during the snagging and defects period.

“We have worked to complete these items as quickly as possible, and with minimum disruption for the customer. We will continue to work with Ms Hamlet to ensure that any identified defects are resolved and any repairs are carried out, under the conditions of her warranty.”

Major companies could escape “double check” audit

Owl has just one question – why?

“Britain’s competition watchdog is drawing up plans to exclude some major companies from a controversial new rule that would require many businesses to appoint joint auditors.

Sky News has learnt that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been weighing whether to offer an exemption as part of its heavily scrutinised inquiry into the audit market.

The CMA is expected to publish its final report this week, but has been stung by a backlash from corporate Britain to proposals outlined in December that would force FTSE-100 companies to employ two audit firms.

Sources close to the regulator’s probe say it has floated the idea of offering a “carve-out” from the joint audit rule for “the biggest, most complex companies”.

That could apply to banks such as HSBC Holdings and oil companies including BP and Royal Dutch Shell.

One insider said a crude market capitalisation threshold could apply, with companies worth more than a certain threshold allowed to continue with a single auditor.

The workability of this idea was dismissed by corporate chiefs, however, given the potential impact on companies crossing such a threshold in either direction or on multiple occasions.

It was unclear this weekend whether the exemption would be included in the CMA’s final report, although one source close to the government said the watchdog had appeared to be determined to press ahead with it several weeks ago.

The CMA is also expected to push for a more robust separation of the big four’s audit and non-audit practices than it floated in its preliminary report four months ago.

Its inquiry was launched at the behest of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the wake of anger about the role of auditors in major corporate scandals at BHS and Carillion.

Accountants have also faced probes into their work on the books of companies such as BT Group, the Co-operative Bank, Ted Baker and Patisserie Holdings. …

Universal Credit: a cancer sufferer’s story

“A single mum with breast cancer was left with just 84 pence after a Universal Credit nightmare.

Teacher Gillian Sykes found out she had cancer in January and is preparing to have a double mastectomy operation in the summer, Liverpool Echo reports.

She has had to quit work as a supply teacher but says she has been left to ‘fight for survival’ with the Department of Work and Pensions.

Gillian explained how she has been turned down for support and was even made to take bank statements into the job centre just two days after her first draining bout of chemotherapy.

She said she also had money taken away because of the DWP made mistakes over dates – and was eventually left with just 84p to live on, forcing her to rely on hand-outs from family and friends.

Gillian was also told she needed to be looking for work – which the DWP later said was just an ‘automated response.’

The 45-year-old, who lives in Ashton-in-Makerfield with her two teenage children, spoke about the devastating moment she discovered she had cancer.

She said: “I found the lump myself on the 28th December when I was going to bed – and I cried myself to sleep.

“We’ve got a family history of it – its the 20th anniversary of my mum’s death this year.

“I was in an absolute panic and got an appointment shortly after – then two weeks later I was sent to see an oncologist who confirmed what I already knew, that it wasn’t a cyst, it was a solid mass.

“A week later I got given the news and things progressed quite quickly from there. I’ve now had three rounds of chemotherapy. My hair is coming out in handfuls daily.”

“This summer I will be having as double mastectomy – which is not nice.”

Gillian began a lengthy, draining battle with the Department of Work and Pensions to get the benefits she needed to help her through an incredibly difficult time.

After her cancer diagnosis, Gillian said she was never told she qualified for Limited Capability for Work Related Activity – which is supposed to provide extra cash for those who are unable to work.

She was left battling with the department for weeks in a bid to get the extra support.

Gillian said: “To be going through that is enough, only to then to deal with this – after paying into a system as a teacher system that I desperately need help from.

“I’m having battles left, right and centre with Universal Credit – and issues with not being told what I can and can’t claim.

“I’ve had more support from Macmillan nurses than the government.”

“Two days after my first chemotherapy session, I was told I had to take my bank statements in to the job centre to prove that they had taken money from me that they shouldn’t have.

“I’ve had statutory sickpay penalised – I complained and complained. I spoke to a different person on the phone every time.

“I just feel like I’m fighting for survival with benefits, that I shouldn’t be fighting with right now. I’ve got enough stress.”

After spending weeks waiting to find out if she could get the vital extra LCWRA payments, Gillian decided to apply for what is known as a Universal Credit budgeting loan – used to help those who are struggling.

She said: “This particular month was really hard, I rang them to be told by someone that nothing was available to me because ‘all the buttons were greyed out – and we don’t know why.”

“Someone else told me nothing was available because I had earned at least £2,600 in the last six months – well of course I did, I’m a teacher, I was working full time with my agency up until Christmas – so I’ve been punished for actually going to work.

“What I do get from Universal Credit, I’m paying a mortgage, I’ve got two kids. I didn’t expect this to happen to me.

“I have suffered with depression for several years, which has been greatly under control and I have been able to work – and this is now what’s happening on a daily basis when I find out the next step, the next fight.”

After she spoke to the Liverpool Echo, the Department of Work and Pensions told her she did in fact qualify for the extra cash.

The following day she was told she would be backpaid hundreds of pounds that were owed to her, and an apology from the DWP followed.

A spokesman told the ECHO: “We have apologised to Gillian Sykes for the distress caused by this delay and are paying her full arrears.

“She has been placed in the long-term health condition group, meaning she receives a higher level of support and will not be required to seek work.

“We want to ensure that anyone with a health condition gets the support they need, which is why the Government is rolling out a recovery package to support people diagnosed with cancer and over 300,000 people will benefit every year by 2020.”

Voters under 50 hold key to election success or failure – even for Boris Johnson

Young voters are vital to democracy in East Devon, where older voters are, by and large, over-represented on voting day compared to younger ones. If young(er) people in the district want their say and want to influence it, they must register and vote.

“Boris Johnson could lose his seat to a surge of younger voters, research shows.

The Tory leadership hopeful’s 5,000 majority is at risk after his party has failed to attract enough voters under the age of 40.

Research conducted by new Conservative supporting thing tank Onward has suggested that Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip is “vulnerable”.

Their analysis suggests that a Conservative seat is vulnerable lose if the ratio of younger voters, under 40, rises above 1.1 for every older voter over 60.

According to the think tank in 2017 the ‘tipping point age’ – the median age at which a voter is more likely to vote Conservative than Labour – was 47 years old.

But it has increased in the last two years to 51 years old. … “

‘Help to Buy’ costs first-time buyers an average £33,000 extra

“First-time buyers who use Help to Buy to get on to the property ladder face paying a premium of more than £30,000.

That’s according to new research by the price comparison website Reallymoving, which claims first-time buyers using Help to Buy paid an average £303,000 in February, significantly more than the average of £270,000 spent by those who bought a home on the open market. …”

First-time buyers face a £33,000 premium when using Help to Buy