Barclays cuts fixed rate mortgages by up to 0.41 percentage points

In its eighth rate reduction in a row Barclays yesterday made cuts of up to 0.41 percentage points to 60 per cent of its Woolwich fixed rate mortgage range.

The Great Escape fixed for two years at 75 per cent loan to value (LTV) sees the largest fall from 3.79 per cent to 3.38 per cent.

Substantial cuts of up to 0.36 percentage points will also take place for the second time this month at 80 and 85 per cent LTV on two and three year fixed rates. At 80 per cent LTV the two year fixed will reduce from 3.59 per cent to 3.38 per cent for customers who qualify for a Barclays Loyalty mortgage and 3.48 per cent for all other customers. At three years it will reduce from 4.13 per cent to 3.89 per cent. The 85 per cent LTV fixed for three years will fall from 4.49 per cent to 4.13 per cent. Cuts will also take place on the five year deals at these LTVs, meaning the cheapest five year we have available is 4.39 per cent (80 per cent LTV).

Other rate reductions include a two year fixed rate at 75 per cent (LTV), cut from 2.89 per cent to 2.79 per cent for customers who qualify for a Barclays Loyalty mortgage and 2.87 per cent for all other customers

Andy Gray, head of mortgages for Barclays, said “The mortgage market continues to be fiercely competitive which has been driven by falling swap rates. This is good news for borrowers as they have the opportunity to fix at a lower rate than they may currently be paying, to save them money now and protect them against future interest rate rises. We have also for the second time this month, made substantial cuts on higher LTVs, slashing around 0.80 percentage points off three and five deals. These changes give borrowers who have a smaller deposit access to even lower rates, making home ownership even more affordable, and helping those with existing mortgages to save money.

“Remortgaging has built momentum this year across the market and our latest Great Escape package is the best deal we’ve offered at 75 per cent LTV since we launched these in the Autumn of 2010. Thousands of borrowers with mortgages at this LTV can now fix well below their SVR rate without having to pay any switching costs, making substantial savings to their monthly mortgage payments.”

All our mortgage deals allow borrowers to remortgage using our ‘Switch and Save’ service which provides free legal work and a valuation or £200 cashback. For borrowers opting for Great Escape this allows them to switch their mortgage with no application fee, free legal work, free valuation and £300 cashback to cover the cost of their existing lender’s mortgage exit fees.

For further information on Woolwich mortgages from Barclays please visit www.barclays.co.uk/mortgages.

Morality demands rethink of UK-Swiss tax deal

Ministers should urgently rethink plans for a deal with Switzerland which would see UK tax evaders let off lightly while harming poor countries, says Christian Aid.

‘We fear that the agreement will be soft on the Britons who have illegally hidden billions in the Alpine tax haven but hard on developing countries, which also suffer from Swiss banking secrecy,’ said Christian Aid Director Loretta Minghella.

‘In a week when there has been a lot of talk in the UK – following the riots – of a moral deficit in society, it is extraordin­ary that the UK Government appears poised to let tax evaders off with nothing more than a regular tax bill.

‘People who have hidden money in secret Swiss bank accounts in order to evade their legal responsibi­lities to the UK will be able to escape unpunished and they won’t even have to reveal their identities to the UK taxman.’

The proposed agreement will lead to Britons with secret Swiss bank accounts starting to pay tax on them, which the Swiss will pass on to the UK – but crucially, without revealing those people’s identities.

Christian Aid believes the deal will seriously damage global efforts to curb tax dodging – a menace which it estimates costs poor countries $160 billion a year, far more than they receive in aid.

Germany is also reported to have initialed a similar deal with Switzerland.

Poor countries lack the political and economic clout to do such deals with Switzerland – but they too lose billions as a result of money being illegally hidden in tax havens.

And just like the UK, they need that money to fund vital public services such as schools, hospitals and justice systems.

Ms Minghella added: ‘I urge UK ministers to reconsider the Swiss tax deal as a matter of urgency.’

Christian Aid is calling on the UK and other G20 Governments to use their November summit meeting in Cannes to bring about an end to the tax haven secrecy exemplified by Switzerland.

Specifically, the G20 should broker a new system of automatic information exchange between Governments – including those of poor countries – to help them to detect when citizens hide wealth offshore.

Who needs a degree? UK’s self-made vocational elite worth £17.6 billion

 A-level students might think twice about their career options as research released to celebrate WorldSkills London 2011 the UK’s biggest showcase of vocational skills for over 20 years reveals the riches accrued by Britons with a vocational education.

The City & Guilds Vocational Rich List ranks wealth among those who have built their fortunes following an Apprenticeship or other practical qualification. And defying the downturn, the seventh edition of the List shows Britain’s self-made, vocational elite are worth a collective £17.6 billion – a billion pound increase since 2008.

The List, independently compiled by Philip Beresford, author of the annual Sunday Times Rich List, will be welcome news to many as it proves you don’t need to be born rich to become rich. Now worth millions, 94 of the top 100 have made their way in the business world on their own merits. Instead, household names including John Frieda (position 22) and Formula One backroom star Ross Brawn (position 34) began their careers as apprentices.

24 of the top 100 vocational millionaires have made their fortune following an engineering Apprenticeship. This includes Sir Anthony Bamford, the JCB billionaire, who saw his family fortune shoot up to £2.15 billion this year, putting him in pole position.

Dragon’s Den judge and leisure industry magnate Deborah Meadon (position 63) adds a boost to the number of women on the list with her self-made fortune valued at £40 million. Deborah is one of a handful of well-known women including fashionastas Linda Bennett, founder of LK Bennett (position 41), City & Guilds qualified Karen Millen (position 63) and Stella McCartney and cook and food writer, Delia Smith (both position 89).

Delia joins a host of other well-known TV Chefs including Jamie Oliver (position 33), Rick Stein (position 79) and Gary Rhodes (position 100) all of whom started their careers having completed a vocational catering qualification.

But while celebrity chefs may have cooked themselves up a fortune, it’s the entrepreneurs from industry, including high tech sectors, that lead the way in the 2011 List making up 30 of the 100, up nine from 2008. They are followed by property and construction with 25 millionaires and the leisure industry with ten.

The regional spread is as even as the spread in industry with only 24 of the 100 coming from the South East, breaking the North South divide.  Scotland is second with 20 individuals on the list, followed by the North West with 11 and Yorkshire and the Midlands tie in fourth place with nine.

Chris Jones, CEO and Director General of City & Guilds said:

“Our latest Vocational Rich List proves you don’t need a degree to succeed. The List not only celebrates the success of Britain’s leading business men and women, but also serves as an inspiration to others to discover their talent and unlock their potential through vocational education and skills training. Many of the contestants at this year’s WorldSkills London event have done just that and I have no doubt that one day we will see some of their names on the List.”

Entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, who appears at position 63 in the list, added:

“As someone who set up their own business at a young age, I know only too well how important it is to have the right skills and the right attitude to become successful. I think it’s wonderful that industrious, talented young people are being celebrated through WorldSkills London 2011; skills really do mean business and I hope that the Competition inspires people to think about different ways to achieve their goals.”

Young Drivers Hit With £4,000 Average Car Insurance Cost

This is the first time since the Confused.com/Towers Watson Car Insurance Price Index began in 2006 that average annual car insurance costs for young men have exceeded £4,000.

Bizarrely, young male drivers in this age bracket see their car insurance costs reduce by around £1,000 if the driver is married and adds their partner to the policy.

In order to afford a £4,000 a year premium and cover the cost of running a car, the average single male would need to spend £6,500 a year – almost half of the average salary of full-time employees at this age. This effectively prices them out of the market.

Gareth Kloet, Head of Car Insurance for Confused.com commented: “For young male drivers it has never been more important to shop around for the best price. Our consumer research shows that 50% of under 25s could save up to £556 on car insurance* by using Confused.com. This is one way to help combat these rises.”

The news isn’t only bad for young drivers though. The average cost of a comprehensive car insurance policy across the UK stands at £858 (as of the end of June 2011), marking a year on year rise of £170.

Despite the huge increase in the last twelve months, prices are still continuing to rise. In Q2 of 2011, prices inflated by an average of 25% compared to Q2 2010.

Statistics from Quarter 2 of 2011 tell us that:
* The average cost of comprehensive cover in the UK is now £858, up £22 in the last 3 months and up £170 in the last 12 months.
* The annual rate of price inflation for comprehensive cover is now 25%.
* The average price of a comprehensive policy increased 2.7% across the UK in Q2, with drivers in Northern Ireland hit hardest with a 5.1% increase.

* The average price of a comprehensive car insurance policy rose by 2.7% in the second quarter of 2011, the fourth consecutive quarter in which price rises have been less than in the previous quarter.
* Third party, fire and theft (TPFT) cover increased the least in Q2 by just 1%, but the cost a TPFT policy is still up 33% in the last year.
* The biggest increases this quarter have been seen among the 29-33 year old age group.

Over 4 million quotes are used in the construction of each quarter’s insurance price index – this makes it the most comprehensive insurance index in the UK.

^Office for National Statistics, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2010; average wage of full-time employed 16-21 year olds is £14,833
*Based on online independent research, Consumer Intelligence (June ’11). 50% of consumers, aged 17 – 25, could achieve this saving.

Britains got talent benefit fraud

THE mother of a Britain’s Got Talent finalist has been exposed as a benefits cheat after receiving more then GBP20,000 in social security she was not entitled to.

Mandy Davis, mother of dance star and CBBC presenter Aiden Davis, today escaped a jail sentence for scaming the system.

The 43-year-old was overpaid GBP20,548 in benefits over a three year period between June 1 2006 and May 22 2009.

Birmingham Magistrates Court heard the mother-of-two was living with Leroy Davis – the father of her two children – as husband and wife during that period but failed to inform the Department of Work and Pensions.

When interviewed by officials she said Mr Davis, who she married in January last year, worked away and only stayed with her at weekends, therefore she thought she did not have to declare the change in circumstance.

But JPs took a different view and handed down an eight week prison sentence, suspended for 12-months. She was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work over the next 12-months.

Mrs Joanne Good told Davis, who starred at the ground as she was sentenced: “We are making this order because these offences are so serious custody is the only option.”

The court was told Davis, from Birmingham, had received income support since September 1990 on the grounds she was a loan parent and had no means to support herself or her family.

She also sought assistance from Birmingham City Council for housing costs.

But she had been living with her partner, who had bank accounts, car registration, a mobile phone and life insurance registered to her address.

She maintained they did not live together as husband and wife and said he was a good dad and supported their children – who are aged 14 and 22 and still live at home with their mum.

Davis was charged with two counts of failing to notify a change in circumstance and pleaded guilty on July 19.

Since she was exposed, she has been making repayments of GBP350 a month for the last eight months, magistrates were told.

Defending, Abid Hussain told the court Davis had behaved ‘naively’.

He said: “This is a matter which is going to stick with her for the rest of her life and no doubt have an impact on her future employment and more importantly her two children, who still reside with her.

“The two children are probably going to feel the brunt of any attention over the next few days by any press coverage.

“Her belief,perhaps naively, as he was staying over as and when he could, was she did not believe it acted upon her entitlement to benefits but now does accept it did.”

Davis was also ordered to pay GBP100 court costs in full within 28-days.

Her son Aiden shot to fame after appearing on the third series of the ITV1 talent show, where he finished fifth overall.

He has since performed on the ‘Diversitoys’ tour with dance group Diversity and also presents a new show on CBBC called Friday Download.