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Everything posted by Shotoflight

  1. The way we buy cars today - the rise of personal contractshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34383082 So popular have the new PCP deals become that, in the twelve months to July 2015, 705,000 people used them to buy new cars. That was nearly 59% of all private new cars sold in the UK during that period. Apparently more than 80% of Mercedes sales in the UK now take place via this sort of deal.
  2. Renewable energy: Subsidy cuts 'could cost 10,000 jobs'http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34434477 Government-backed incentives for wind power and other energy sources are due to end within 18 months. Michael Doran of Action Renewables told the BBC's Inside Business programme that some people who had invested in wind turbines faced massive losses. He said jobs would be lost unless a replacement incentive was introduced. He is a director of the organisation which advises provide expert advice on renewable energy to both the government and commercial investors. "I'm aware of 15 individual farmers who've already bought wind turbines which they now will not be able to put in because they don't have the grid connection from NIE [Northern Ireland Electricity]," Mr Doran told the programme. "Those have cost them between £100,000 and £200,000 each already - so already I'm aware of individuals who have lost over £1m. "My guess is, if there is nothing to replace the renewables obligation whatsoever, it would lead to between 5,000 and 10,000 job losses within Northern Ireland - it's significant." Last week, it was announced that the current subsidy system for on-shore wind energy in Northern Ireland is set to end next April, a year earlier than planned. Stormont's Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell started a two-week consultation on the proposal.
  3. Tax credits cut 'affects 120,000 NI households'http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34384214 The analysis suggests the average loss per household will be £918 per year. Currently tax credits payments start to reduce, or taper, once a family income reaches £6,420. From April 2016 the threshold at which payments taper will be £3,850. There are currently 109,000 claimants in Northern Ireland who are earning above the £6,420 threshold and have a 'tapered' tax credit award. Once the threshold is reduced to £3,850, these claimants will have their tax credit award tapered further. An additional 12,000 claimants will also become subject to the taper once the threshold is reduced to £3,850. The DSD analysis also looks at other welfare changes announced in the budget, including the freeze in most working age benefits up to 2020. Using an assumption that welfare reforms will ultimately be introduced in Northern Ireland, it estimates that the July budget will take £206m off the welfare bill in 2016/17, rising to £361m in 2019/20.
  4. One third of NI construction firms ‘struggling’http://www.u.tv/News/2015/09/24/One-third-of-NI-construction-firms-struggling-45568 The quarterly survey also shows that 16% of companies said they were operating purely in ‘survival mode.’ The outlook for those companies who had made a profit in the first quarter of 2015 also worsened, with profitable companies falling from 50% to 38%. There was some good news however, with 24% of companies reporting that they had increased their workforce in the period leading up to June. CEF Managing Director John Armstrong said that although employment levels were up, some of these jobs were being undertaken in England, with workers commuting from Northern Ireland. "Overall however, while the sector is in a stronger position than when it was at its lowest point after the banking crisis, confidence is lukewarm, output remains between half and two-thirds of the pre-2007 level and there are headwinds around the medium-term economic picture,” said Mr Armstrong.
  5. Northern Ireland’s Trailing Economy http://themarketmogul.com/northern-irelands-trailing-economy The Bank of England’s recent announcement of a delayed interest rate hike will be welcomed by Northern Ireland, whose economic growth is lagging behind the rest of the UK. Out of the UK’s 12 regions, PwC’s latest economic outlook predicts that Northern Ireland will be the poorest performing region in 2015. The projected forecast for NI’s economic growth in 2015 is nearly a third lower than the UK average of 2.6%. So far, NI is on track to achieve a comparatively low growth rate of 1.8%. With recent reforms over welfare cuts and austerity, many people are concerned that the region is at risk of slipping further into its long-standing history of poor private-sector productivity compared to other regions in the UK.
  6. 'Property bubble' warning despite rise in new homeshttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/property-bubble-warning-despite-rise-in-new-homes-31555658.html NHBC chief executive Mike Quinton said the fall in public and affordable homes could be down to housing associations "holding back on developments in light of welfare reforms and the cap on rental increases". 'Land banking' in NI - surely not?
  7. Developers request £43m Invest NI loans for Belfast office projectshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34331100 Invest Northern Ireland has received requests from developers for loans totalling £43m to part-fund new office projects in Belfast. It follows concerns that a shortage of grade A office space after the 2008 property market crash could hinder efforts to attract jobs projects from overseas. Grade A space is new or refurbished open-plan buildings in prime locations. Invest NI has said it has received five applications to borrow money. "All applications are in respect of proposed developments within the Belfast City Council area and from Northern Ireland-based developers," Invest NI said. It is currently assessing the applications. Earlier this year, the then Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster announced the loan initiative, describing it as "a short-term intervention". It came after a report for Invest NI in March stated that a shortage in offices was due to "very few" developers having the capital required to do projects. At the time, low rental returns were also having an impact on the viability of schemes.
  8. Why is the UK's housing benefit bill so high?http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34290727
  9. Province likely to share in the UK mortgage frenzy during rush for dealshttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/province-likely-to-share-in-the-uk-mortgage-frenzy-during-rush-for-deals-31536530.html According to separate figures from the CML earlier this month, mortgage lending here was down 9% in the second quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2014. CML's figures for the second quarter in Northern Ireland said mortgage deals were up 11% to 3,000 during the second quarter of the year, compared to the first three months of 2015. But the number of loans was down 9% on the same period last year, while the value of the loans made was down 6.3% to £300m. And half-year loans of 5,700 were still 57% below a 2006 peak of 13,200. First-time buyer loans in Northern Ireland showed the steepest fall of 15% to 1,700 loans.
  10. 7 times the average salary? Why are houses so expensive? You asked Google – here’s the answerhttp://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/16/why-houses-so-expensive-google Houses aren’t expensive simply because of supply and demand. As long as houses are expensive, people will work to keep them expensive – buy-to-let landlords with far more capital can buy up houses and rent them out at high costs, wealthy British and foreign investors can buy up land and new-build luxury property knowing that the likelihood of profit is a far better bet than with any other investment. Keeping families and individuals locked out of home ownership for a lifetime works as a financial racket, which is precisely what we’re dealing with. But crises reach a head: at the moment, house prices are so expensive, many people will be unable to afford to buy at all, which impacts on birth rates, encourages people to move abroad, and affects the economy, both because people are spending more on rent and less on goods that boost the economy, and because housing is a precarious market to rely on to prop up GDP. It’s because the market has been allowed to grow unchecked, and landlords and investors allowed to distort and inflate the market, that houses are expensive. But to bring prices down, some homeowners have to lose out and end up in negative equity. It depends on who politicians value most – homeowners, or Generation Rent. Or, we can all sit tight and wait for the bubble to burst.
  11. Economy watch: It can't go on for one in nine to claim Disability Living Allowancehttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/economy-watch/economy-watch-it-cant-go-on-for-one-in-nine-to-claim-disability-living-allowance-31525939.html Northern Ireland receives the highest levels of social protection expenditure in the UK. The £8.5bn of social protection spending (25% of GDP) in 2013/14 equates to £4,622 for each man, woman and child. This is 20% above the UK average. When Northern Ireland's enhanced welfare package (through not introducing reform) is taken into account, the gap widens further. The number of people claiming DLA has increased by 22,700, or 12.4%, over the last five years. DLA is an extremely important benefit, and many people are very deserving of it. But the number of DLA claimants has grown at six times the rate of employment growth (+1.9% or +13,440 jobs) and almost five times the rate of population growth since 2010. Over the last decade, the number of jobs in Northern Ireland has increased by 25,360 jobs, or +3.6%. Meanwhile, the number of DLA claimants has risen by one quarter (+40,500) in the same period and by 71% (+85,410) since the Good Friday Agreement. As a result, the number claiming DLA is now 206,000, which is broadly the same number of people employed in Northern Ireland's entire public sector. Northern Ireland's top 100 private sector firms currently employ 130,000. Twenty years ago the figure was less than 5%, or 1 in 20 people. Today it is one in nine, with some parliamentary constituency areas numbering one in five. These rates compare with one in 20 for Great Britain. If the current growth rates for Northern Ireland were to continue, assuming no reforms were adopted, this would be one in eight by 2019 and one in seven before 2024. At the current rates of growth, DLA claimants would rise by 40% in the next 10 years - an additional 82,000, which is above the number of people currently employed within the manufacturing sector. So why hasn't more been done about this unsustainable situation? One reason is that it is a politically difficult subject to broach. Bear in mind that more people claim DLA here than voted for either of Northern Ireland's two largest political parties in the last General Election. It is striking to note that the incidence of DLA per head is still growing.
  12. Nama deal: Ex-adviser Frank Cushnahan rejects critical claims at Stormont inquiryhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34239644 Mr Cushnahan said that he was never informed his calls were being recorded and he believes it was illegal to do so. He added that they deal with "all aspects" of his professional and personal life, and that Mr Graham had no right to listen to them or disclose their content. The recordings were made between 2005 and 2008. It is understood Mr Graham stands fully behind the evidence he gave and will point to a staff handbook that referred to the fact that all calls were recorded. In his letter Mr Cushnahan states that he never had "any meetings, dealings, correspondence or contact" with Cerberus or any of its representatives. The letter also criticises the conduct of the committee and expresses concern that the loyalist campaigner Jamie Bryson may be asked to give evidence in public.
  13. Major lenders return to low-deposit mortgages - UKhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34244220 Mortgage broker Aaron Strutt, of Trinity Financial, said: "It is great to see more lenders offering straightforward 5% deposit mortgages and specifically targeting first-time buyers. "We have been waiting a long time for the biggest banks to return to this market." In a blow to some existing mortgage holders, he said some lenders had raised the interest rates on some of their mortgages.
  14. Private sector growth in Northern Ireland slowed in August, says Ulster Bankhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34238558 Northern Ireland's private sector continued to grow in August, but at its weakest rate in four months, according to Ulster Bank. The bank's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) is a monthly survey of firms' activities, tracking new orders, employment and exports. It suggests there has been a "notable slowdown" in the manufacturing sector.
  15. Portadown firm Prentice Estates owes £23m to US investment fundshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-34212328 A County Armagh-based property firm that was placed into administration earlier this year owes more than £23m to two US investment funds. The main creditor of Prentice Estates in Portadown is Lone Star, which is owed £21m, while Cerberus is owed £2m. Lone Star bought its portfolio of Prentice loans as part of the liquidation of the former Anglo Irish Bank. The loans held by Cerberus were originally made by Ulster Bank. The administrators report describes how the firm had been selling properties to pay down its debts. It had also entered a voluntary arrangement with unsecured creditors that involved selling two unmortgaged assets.
  16. Home loss fears over one-in-12 struggling with negative equityhttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/home-loss-fears-over-onein12-struggling-with-negative-equity-31518403.html Indeed, almost half of all UK houses stuck in negative equity are located here - and one local property expert has warned that "the dam is about to burst". The shocking statistics show that, in the past four years, the number of local homes where the mortgage is higher than the value of the property has risen from 44,000 in 2011 to more than 56,000 in 2015. But the boss of GDP Equity Experts told this newspaper there could be as many as 70,000 local households in negative equity - or one in 10. Conor Devine, who runs the Ulster brokerage that acts as a go-between for homeowners and their lenders over unmanageable mortgages, also said the problem was "massive". "At the minute we are handling £220m of distressed debt," he said. A staggering 56,034 households are recorded as being in negative equity in the first quarter of 2015. That's up 27.4% from the first quarter of 2011, when there were 44,000 homes with a mortgage higher than the value of the property. Mr Devine, whose company had debts of £14m written off in the first six months of this year, said the situation was going to get much worse. "The dam is about to burst because there was an avalanche of interest-only mortgages handed out in the glory days," he said. "There are three types of people in Northern Ireland. There are those who are doing well (around 10% of the population), those who are running out of money and those who have run out of money."
  17. UK Number of households struggling with problem debt climbs 28% in three years as economic recovery fails to reach vulnerablehttp://www.independent.co.uk/money/households-struggling-with-problem-debt-climbs-28-in-three-years-as-economic-recovery-fails-to-reach-vulnerable-10490207.html ‘Britain In The Red’ reveals that 700,000 more households have falling into problem debt since 2012 leaving them forced to spend a quarter of their monthly gross income repaying credit cards, loans and overdrafts. And the hardest hit have been young people, the self-employed and low-income families. Problem debt costs the UK economy £8.3bn, according to the debt charity StepChange. Union leaders warn today that the financial difficulties facing vulnerable people reveal how economic growth has failed to reduce the burden of debt repayments for many and that wage stagnation has left an increasing proportion of households having to borrow more than they can afford just to get through each month. “Rising household debt is not the sign of a healthy economy,” pointed out TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said. “People raiding their piggy banks and borrowing more than they can afford is what helped drive the last financial crash. The fact that more and more are getting into problem debt is particularly worrying given the prospect of interest rates going up.”
  18. Irish News, though often firewalled online, seem to be giving this the most comprehensive coverage. Cerberus: Northern Ireland's billion pound debt collectors http://www.irishnews.com/news/2015/09/05/news/cerberus-northern-ireland-s-billion-pound-debt-collectors-252461/ The First Minister's 'confidential memorandum'http://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2015/09/05/news/the-first-minister-s-memorandum-of-understanding-sent-to-nama-252488/
  19. More on the International Liability Mismanagement Collective (or NAMA as they reassuringly like to call it) Nama NI loan sale: Documents reveal sell-off concernshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-34162669 Mr Hamilton accepted it was a Nama matter, but minutes of a phone call in December 2013 show he voiced concern at an alternative sale on the open market. He believed "if a 'for sale' sign was put up over Northern Ireland assets in Nama panic could follow, with particular significance to the fragile recovery of the property market".
  20. The number of millionaires in Northern Ireland has increased by 40% over the past five years, a study has revealed. (for balance) http://www.u.tv/News/2015/08/27/Number-of-millionaires-in-NI-on-the-rise-43833 According to Barclay’s UK Prosperity Map, there are now more than 14,000 millionaires here, putting the region’s total above that of Wales and north-east England. The report also found that Northern Ireland is the sixth most affluent region of the UK and has the highest level of charitable giving. It said NI displays the best exam achievement, with nearly three quarters of pupils receiving at least five A* to C grades at GCSE. However, despite the positive indicators, Northern Ireland also has one of the lowest GDP per capita, average house price and business births-to-deaths ratio, the bank continued. Jonathan Dobbin from Barclays said: “Recovering house prices, albeit from a very low base, in Northern Ireland have created a significant increase in new millionaires, and this number is steadily increasing as we recover from our most recent recession. “A strong rebound in global stock markets since the nadir in 2008 has also been an important factor, whilst there has also been an increase in the number of M&A transactions, which has, in some cases, created significant personal wealth for shareholders.” The prosperity map looked at average annual pay, number of millionaires and other factors to generate a ‘prosperity index score’ for 12 UK regions. London was the top-scoring area with 0.81 points, compared to Northern Ireland in sixth place with 0.35.
  21. Economist: UK economic slowdown hitting Ulster hardesthttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/economist-uk-economic-slowdown-hitting-ulster-hardest-31500945.html A sluggish performance for the UK's powerhouse services sector - which embraces everything from restaurants to retailers and estate agents - is expected to result in a slowdown in economic growth in Britain in the third quarter. The latest Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) survey for the services sector, which accounts for more than three-quarters of UK growth, showed a reading of 55.6 last month. A figure above 50 indicates growth. Last month's reading is down from 57.4 in July and marks the worst performance since May 2013, driven by a sharp slowdown in new business. But PwC Northern Ireland chief economist Esmond Birnie said indicators such as the province's own monthly purchasing managers' indices showed that the Northern Ireland economy had been slowing down since towards the end of last year. And within the services sector, he said the trend of late had been "fairly downbeat", with falling shopping footfall and high vacancy rates.
  22. 101,000 children living in poverty as income of Northern Ireland families fallshttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/101000-children-living-in-poverty-as-income-of-northern-ireland-families-falls-31501336.html The research also revealed 376,000 people were classed as being on relatively low incomes last year. It emerged that, across the region, 213,000 working-age adults and 63,000 pensioners were living on the breadline. The grim statistics were laid bare in the Households Below Average Income annual report 2013/14, which was published by the Department of Social Development yesterday. It showed the average (median) household income here dropped by 1% to £404 a week, or £21,100 annually, before housing costs are taken into account - which represents a fall for a fifth consecutive year. Factfile Northern Ireland's average household income was £404 a week, or £21,100 a year, before housing costs. There were more children (101,000 or 23%) living in poverty here last year compared to Britain (17%). There are proportionately more people (376,000; 21%) in Northern Ireland on low incomes than UK average (15%). There were also more pensioners (63,000 or 21%) in poverty locally, with the UK figure at 16%. The number of working-age adults who are struggling has crept up to 213,000 or 20%, which is an 18% hike and the highest level in over a decade. By comparison, that trend has been going down in the UK and it is now at 14%.
  23. Towns the UK property boom forgot: ‘We sold at a £410,000 loss’Thanks to The Preacherman-main thread http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/aug/29/towns-property-boom-forgot-house-prices-newry-conwy-ferryhill
  24. Why buying houses is just like Monopoly... there are winners and losershttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/life/features/why-buying-houses-is-just-like-monopoly-there-are-winners-and-losers-31468846.html Jamie Burton (29), from Banbridge, is a branch manager with Robert Wilson Estate Agency in Lurgan and also a first time buyer. Jamie naturally welcomes the increase in prices, but has professional as well as personal reasons for doing so. He says: Personally, I would have found it very difficult as a single person to get on the property ladder if the prices hadn’t fallen. When the market was at its peak I had no chance of buying my own home. I bought my first house in December 2012 and it was a three bedroom, modern town house which had been repossessed. When I bought the property I got it at 65% of the outstanding mortgage and it has gone up in value since then, so I’ve been very lucky.
  25. NAMA scandal: Jamie Bryson promises ‘explosive, career-ending evidence’ - 20 Augusthttp://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/northern-ireland-news/nama-scandal-jamie-bryson-promises-explosive-career-ending-evidence-1-6916357 Mr Bryson, who describes himself as an “anti-Agreement Ulster Protestant” and who came to prominence during the 2013/13 flag protests, has written a string of internet posts about this NAMA affair. He said he now expects to be sent the Stormont committee’s terms of reference. He understands the committee will ask him to indicate the relevance of his evidence. He added: “What I have to say and show will be shocking, explosive and it is no exaggeration to say that it could – and should – end some big political careers.”
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