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Immigration rules relaxed to tackle construction worker shortage

An industry body tells Sky News that while the announcement is welcome, there must be better training opportunities if housing and employment targets are to be met.

A shortage of skilled construction workers is being addressed through a relaxation of post-Brexit immigration rules.

The Home Office said bricklayers, plasterers, roofers and carpenters were being added to the shortage occupation list (SOL).


This is the government-agreed list of jobs that allows employers to address recruitment difficulties through immigration, which it has pledged to limit since the UK left the European Union and its freedom of movement obligations.

Roles on the list lower visa salary requirements and application fees.

It has previously been extended to health and social care staff and even butchers.

The government's decision to support recommendations covering builders by the Migration Advisory Committee, is a nod to the recruitment difficulties experienced by the industry since the exodus of workers began in the wake of the financial crisis.

That stampede for the exit was later exacerbated by the COVID pandemic as many workers did not return, mainly from eastern Europe, following Brexit.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported in 2021 that the construction industry had lost more than a third of its EU-born workforce since 2017.

Earlier this year, an industry training board estimated an additional 225,000 workers would be needed to meet demand by 2027.

The easing of immigration rules will especially help housebuilders, who have long complained of a dearth of skilled labour.

Recent research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) showed 41% of members reporting difficulties recruiting bricklayers, with almost half of the respondents delaying work as a result of skills shortages more widely.

Another group, the National Federation of Builders, said: "It's great that the government is listening to industries' long campaign to add these desperately needed roles to the SOL.

"Foreign workers remain vital to make up for a shortfall in the UK construction workforce."

On the issue of securing more domestic labour, both groups called for more training support, explaining that it takes up to three years to conclude many apprenticeships.

The help comes at a time when the sector's short-term ambitions are being hampered by the effects of rising interest rates.

Just last week, the UK's biggest housebuilder cut its construction targets for 2024 by 20%.

Barratt Developments' decision reflects falling house prices due to growing affordability concerns as Bank of England rate hikes to tackle inflation take a toll on demand.

That will do nothing to help the government achieve a target of 300,000 new homes annually by the middle of the decade.

The latest ONS data showed falling volumes for both construction repairs and new orders alike over the three months to May.


Source: https://news.sky.com/story/immigration-rules-relaxed-to-tackle-construction-worker-shortage-12922369


Government unveils 'once-in-a-generation' renting shake-up - including ban on 'no-fault' evictions

The Conservative Party initially promised to ban the evictions in their 2019 election manifesto, but Housing Secretary Michael Gove has only just announced the plans.

Plans to scrap "no-fault" evictions in England will be unveiled by the government today.

The Renters' (Reform) Bill will be published later - three-and-a-half years after the government was elected with a manifesto promise to stop the practice.

No-fault - or Section 21 - evictions allow landlords to take back possession from tenants without giving a reason.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said a new ombudsman will be set up to oversee dispute resolutions.

As well as ending no-fault evictions, the bill will seek to give people the legal right to request having a pet in their home. Landlords will have to consider these requests, and won't be able to unreasonably refuse.

Mr Gove said: "Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them.

"This government is determined to tackle these injustices by offering a new deal to those living in the private rented sector; one with quality, affordability and fairness at its heart."

The plans will impact 11 million tenants and two million landlords in England, according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The government says landlords will also be able to evict anti-social tenants with greater ease, with reduced notice periods for "irresponsible" renters.

Other measures in the bill include plans to make it illegal for landlords and agents to impose blanket bans on benefits claimants or families with children.

It will also apply home quality standards to the private sector for the first time.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has previously said it would introduce the Decent Homes Standard to the sector which will make sure privately rented homes are "safe and decent".

It added that under it, "providers of social housing must take action if hazardous levels of damp and mould are found in properties".

Some campaigners have described the bill as a "once-in-a-generation" announcement - although there are warnings some property owners will still find ways to skirt the laws, such as by using large rent hikes to force unwanted tenants out.

Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of campaign group Generation Rent, said: "Abolishing [no-fault evictions] will take away much of the stress of renting and improve communication and trust between tenants and landlords."

But Siobhan Donnachie, spokeswoman for the London Renters Union, branded the bill "long overdue" and said "inflation-busting rent" will mean renters will still feel insecure.

She warned: "For the many families struggling with housing costs at the moment, a 20% rent hike is simply a no-fault eviction under a different name.

"If the government is serious about bringing renters security in our homes, it must recognise how insecure renters feel speaking out against unsafe housing or planning for the future with the threat of inflation-busting rent increases hanging over our heads."

Battersea Cats and Dogs Home believes the proposed law will significantly reduce the number of animals being "needlessly separated from owners" - and could allow millions of renters to enjoy pet ownership in the future.

And Owen Sharp, chief executive of Dogs Trust, said the reforms are a "potential gamechanger" for responsible dog owners who rent.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow housing secretary, said Labour would go further, with plans to introduce "a four-month notice period for landlords, a national register of landlords, and a host of new rights for tenants - including the right to make alterations to your home, to request speedy repairs, and to have pets".

soource: https://news.sky.com/story/no-fault-evictions-to-be-banned-and-renters-to-have-legal-right-to-request-having-pets-12882501

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and your family to prepare for eventualities.

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7 rights British people will lose from 1st Jan 2023

After one EU referendum and four and a half years, the Brexit transition period is over and a new UK-EU agreement has come into force.

But what does this mean for the British public? And what are people going to now miss out on?

1. The right to live and work in European Union

Yep, the freedom of movement is over for UK citizens. This means people who want to settle elsewhere in the EU will have to follow immigration rules and may need to get work visas or face other red tape (with the exception of Ireland). For many, this opportunity will be the most missed and others are concerned about the implications for cross-border families. 

2. It won’t be so easy to travel to the EU either

Ok, so the process of moving to another country in the 27-country bloc won’t be as smooth but what about holidays? They are expected to remain visa-free but Brits will be limited to spending 90 days out of every 180 in the EU. British nationals will also no longer be issued with European Health Insurance Cards and coronavirus travel restrictions may be coming into place.

3. The ability to take part in Erasmus

British students will no longer be able to study - or work, volunteer, teach and train - abroad as part of the Erasmus+ programme, which some have cited as a formative life experience (as well as a lot of fun!). The EU scheme also provides grants to support learners and education providers. 

4. The right to not be charged loads for mobile roaming

The guarantee of free phone roaming as part of your contract has ended, which means Brits could face the dreaded horror of running up a crazy bill for making calls, sending texts or using internet data while in the EU. Despite this, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have all said they have no plans to reintroduce charges although it is best to check before you travel.

5. Being able to set off on a spontaneous road-trip across the EU

British motorists can drive in the EU using their UK licenses but they will need to obtain and carry a physical copy of a “green card” from their insurer and put a GB sticker on their vehicle. Drivers from some territories, such as Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, as well as those with a paper driving licence may need an international driving permit. 

6. The ability to vote and stand as a candidate in European Parliament elections

Wanted to have your voice heard or to go into politics? British citizens have fewer elections to take part in now. 

7. The right to free trade within the EU for your business

As the UK left the single market and customs union on December 31, businesses are expected to face new checks, extra paperwork and additional costs when trading with former EU partners. 

More: Why Brexit is making the future of fish look so bleak

source: 7 rights British people will lose from today (msn.com)

Stamp duty

Stamp duty to be cut from "today". Nothing will be paid for first £250,000 of property's value - double the current amount allowed. The threshold for first-time buyers is to be increased from £300,000 to £425,000. The value of the property on which first-time buyers can claim relief is to also go up from £500,000 to £625,000.

House prices drop for the first time this year, says Rightmove

Asking prices for homes have dropped for the first time this year, down £4,795, because of a summer lull in activity, says sales portal Rightmove.

Although interest rates are rising - which would increase the cost of a mortgage - it said seasonal factors were key to the drop in prices.

The typical asking price fell by 1.3% between July and August to £365,173.

The last two years had been "frenzied" in the UK housing market, said Rightmove.

Prices soared as the pandemic prompted many people to search for more space in which to live and work.

How big an impact the rising cost of living, and consistent increases in interest rates, will have on the housing market will be watched closely.

Tim Bannister, Rightmove's director of property science, said: "A drop in asking prices is to be expected this month, as the market returns towards normal seasonal patterns after a frenzied two years, and many would-be home movers become distracted by the summer holidays."

The 1.3% drop in August was in line with the average drop seen that month over the past 10 years, Rightmove said.

"We are still expecting price changes for the rest of the year to continue to follow the usual seasonal pattern, which means we'll end year at around 7% annual growth, even with the wider economic uncertainty," Mr Bannister added.


He said that data showed the rising interest rates were yet to have a significant impact on the number of people wanting to move home.

"For those looking to move who are concerned about interest rate rises, it's important that they get a mortgage in principle early on in their moving journey to understand what they could afford to borrow, and find out about the rates available to them to assess what they are able to repay each month," he said.

The average five-year fixed rate mortgage has now breached 4%, according to Moneyfacts.co.uk, but experts expect rates to climb further.

The biggest risk to making mortgage repayments is usually the loss of a job, but anyone in that position should get help, at least in the short-term, from their lender.

Debt advisors say anyone in financial trouble should talk to their mortgage provider as soon as possible.


source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-62549477


Cost of living: Can I be evicted and will it affect my credit score? What happens if you can't pay your energy bills

Britain is facing the biggest cost of living crisis in decades and for many, not being able to pay bills is the reality of the biggest squeeze on household spending in 60 years.

An anonymous campaign urging people not to pay their energy bills this winter is gathering pace - but is it safe to do so?

Plans by Don't Pay UK have been called "highly irresponsible" by the government, and charities have warned against rushing to cancel your direct debit.


However, Britain is facing the biggest cost of living crisis in decades, and Citizens Advice said it supported more people who had been unable to top up their prepayment energy meter in June than it had in January 2022.

Cost of living latest: Former PM warns of 'financial timebomb'

So for many, the inability to pay their energy bills is more than just strike action, but a reality of the biggest squeeze on household spending in 60 years.

What happens if you don't - or can't - pay your energy bills?If you miss a payment, the supplier will first send you a reminder. If they still don't hear from you, they may try and visit you at home to work out the best way to pay - but some, such as SSE, will add the cost of this visit to your account.

If you don't agree to a repayment plan, they may try and force you to have a prepayment meter installed. This means you would have to pay for your energy upfront, as well as a weekly amount to cover any debt.

If you haven't paid your bill after 28 days, you may be threatened with disconnection of your supply. While this is rare - with Don't Pay UK claiming as few as eight people were disconnected in 2018 - it could still happen.

Your supplier must first give you a chance to pay your debt through a plan first.

If you can't reach an agreement with them, they can apply for a court warrant to enter your home to disconnect you. Those with smart meters could be disconnected remotely, but the energy company must first visit your home to assess your personal situation.

Paying by direct debit is normally the cheapest way to pay for energy, so you could face higher bills if you cancel.

If you have reached State Pension age your supplier cannot disconnect you between 1 October and 31 March if either you live alone or live with other people who have reached State Pension age or are children under the age of 18.

How it affects your credit score

Energy bills aren't a loan, so missing payments aren't guaranteed to affect your credit score - but they still can, and this could make it harder to borrow money in the future (for example, applying for a mortgage).

Some suppliers report missed payments to credit agencies, so it is possible these could show up on your credit report.

Will it affect my rent or mortgage?

If you are renting, you are unlikely to be evicted if you don't pay your energy bills - unless they are included in your rent.

If they are included and you stop paying, your landlord could evict you for being in rent arrears.

Your mortgage and monthly repayments are agreed directly with your bank or building society - so if you stop paying your energy bills it should have no effect on your mortgage.

But not paying your bills could make it harder for you to get a mortgage, or remortgage, so it's not advisable in the long run.

What help is available?

Earlier this year the government announced a new energy bill support package, which means almost all households will get £400, starting in October. Some may get as much as £1,000 to help pay soaring costs.

Citizens Advice offers help for anyone who may be struggling to pay their energy bills. You may be eligible for help from your local council.

You can find out more information online.

source: https://news.sky.com/story/what-happens-if-i-dont-pay-my-energy-bills-can-i-be-evicted-and-will-it-affect-my-credit-score-12668373


Two indicators slowdown already under way after Bank of England warns of 15-month recession

The bank rate is now at its highest level since 2008 as the Bank of England warns of tough times ahead - but signs of slowdown are already there.

Just a day after the Bank of England warned of a 15-month recession, there are signs in housing and recruitment that the slowdown is already well under way.

Figures out on Friday showed that house prices fell in July (in monthly terms) for the first time in more than a year, with warnings that the market is likely to weaken further following the bank's hiking of interest rates from 1.25% to 1.75%.


The bank rate is now at its highest level since 2008, as the bank tries to fight inflation which is running at 9.4% - well above its 2% target - and is forecast to pass 13% later this year.

It comes as households face record-breaking increases in energy bills, and mortgage lender Halifax said that this rapidly-spiralling cost of living would have its effect on the market, as buyers look to rein in spending.

In July the average house price stood at £293,221 - down £365 or 0.1% from the previous month's record high. In annual terms, however, prices still rose by 11.8%, compared to the 12.5% seen in June.

Russell Galley, Halifax managing director, said: "House prices are likely to come under more pressure as those market tailwinds fade further and the headwinds of rising interest rates and increased living costs take a firmer hold.

"Therefore a slowing of annual house price inflation still seems the most likely scenario."

It comes after a report from rival lender Nationwide which showed house prices rose in July, but at the slowest monthly pace seen in a year.

source: https://news.sky.com/story/two-indicators-slowdown-already-under-way-after-bank-of-england-warns-of-15-month-recession-12665852

Sweeping changes to rental market proposed - affecting pets, rent rises and 'no-fault' evictions

The government says the new blueprint for renters reform will "redress the balance" between landlords and the estimated 4.4million private tenants in England.

Plans to ban "no-fault" evictions and to make it easier for tenants to keep pets will be unveiled as part of the government's new deal for private renters.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is set to publish its fairer private rented sector white paper, which it describes as "the biggest shake-up of the private rented sector in 30 years".


Among the proposals to be unveiled on Thursday are a pledge to outlaw section 21 "no-fault" evictions that allow landlords to terminate tenancies without giving a reason.

More than a fifth of private renters who moved in 2019 and 2020 did not end their tenancy by choice, figures suggest, including 8% who were asked to leave by their landlord.

These types of eviction notices are contentious and the government promised to ban them three years ago.

The department has also promised to change the rules to make it easier to own a pet in rented accommodation, with the white paper stating that landlords "must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse" requests by all tenants to keep an animal in their home.


The new deal will also extend the decent homes standard to the private sector for the first time, meaning homes must be free from serious health and safety hazards, and landlords must keep homes in a good state of repair so renters have clean, appropriate and usable facilities.

source: https://news.sky.com/story/plan-to-ban-no-fault-evictions-unveiled-by-govt-and-it-could-get-easier-to-own-a-pet-if-youre-renting-12634583

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