Tuesday, 21 October 2014

No need to turn up the thermostat

Public Health England has cut the recommended temperature that people should heat their homes to from 21 degrees C last winter down to a minimum of 18 degrees this year, opening the way to families reducing their bills by turning down the heating. 

It says the change follows a full review of the available science.

As householders start to turn on their heating, there can be uncertainty, even arguments, over where to set the thermostat.

It's not just a question of comfort, it's important for health and for the bank balance because of the high cost of gas and electricity.

Last year Public Health England said rooms occupied during the day should be kept at a minimum of 21 degrees celsius and at 18 degrees at night.

But when the government body checked the evidence this year, it found that the guideless were based on outdated World Health Organisation figures from 30 years ago.

A fresh review has resulted in a lower recommendation of at least 18 degrees, day or night, which they say poses minimal risk to the health of a sedentary person, wearing suitable clothing in winter.

Below that the danger of stroke or heart attack begins to increase.

They do add that the over 65s and those with medical conditions may benefit from a slightly higher temperature.

Savings from turning down the thermostat by 3 degrees could be substantial.

British Gas says a reduction of just one degree could cut the typical gas bill by as much as 10 per cent.

Monday, 20 October 2014

CHAPS up and running

CHAPS statement

“The Bank of England’s RTGS system is now processing payments again following a resolution of the technical issue experienced earlier today. As such, CHAPS is now processing the backlog of payments and is confident that all payments submitted today will be processed today. To help customers and to ensure payments can be processed today CHAPS is extending  its operating times until 19.40 hrs. Customers are advised to contact their own bank for any queries they may have on their specific payments.” 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Britain's £34bn tax gap

Britain's tax gap -- the gap between was is collected and what should be -- widened to £34bn in the year to April 2013.

HM Revenue and Customs say there was a rise from £33bn the previous year, partly the result of an increase of nearly a billion in the VAT shortfall and a widening of the tobacco tax gap.

It is the biggest overall gap in cash terms since 2009 and will add to concerns that some are managing to avoid tax in a time of austerity.

HMRC says causes include taxpayers simply not taking enough care with their tax returns and criminal attacks on the tax system.

It points out that the shortfall on the £500bn which should be brought in is much narrower in percentage terms than in 2006, at 6.8 per cent of tax owed compared with 8.5 per cent seven years before.

And that some other countries have much bigger shortfalls: Mexico's is in excess of 25 per cent.

Monday, 6 October 2014

£1m deposit guarantee

The Bank of England is to boost protection of bank deposits to £1m, for people who have a short-term jump in their account balance because they have sold a house or received compensation or an inheritance.

The proposal, which would come into force by July next year, would mean that the normal guarantee covering £85,000 of a bank account balance would be raised temporarily for a period of 6 months.

The Bank of England's Prudential Regulation Authority is bringing in the new rule to comply with a a European directive.

The PRA is also planning to create a "seamless" process of transferring accounts from a failed bank to a new account provider, so that customers will be able to use them as normal within 24 hours.

Christmas cut for parcel prices

Royal Mail is moving to defend its share of the Christmas parcels business by slashing some charges.

From 20th October to 18th January, small parcels weighting up to 2kg will cost £2.80 to go Second Class, the same as 1kg parcels -- that's a £1 reduction.

And there will be a permanent increase in the permitted dimensions of small parcels, so some currently defined as medium -- costing £8 -- will drop down a category.

People whose gifts qualify as "small" rather than "medium" could save £5.20 from the size-change and the Christmas offer.

The promotion comes as Royal Mail tries to head off challenges from DHL, TNT and Yodel and hang on to the 115 million parcels which it usually handles over December.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Wonga rebrand

Wonga has clarified it's position on ditching its name after the brand was tainted by a series of revelations.

Andy Haste, chairman of the payday lender, said overnight: "I wouldn't rule out a name change in the future, but at the moment it's about real, customer-focused change at Wonga that shows we have a role to play in financial services - not a new name"

Wonga announced yesterday that it would write off the debts of 330,000 borrowers who were behind on their repayments.

It had not checked properly whether they could afford the loans.

In June the lender was fined for sending debt collection letters emblazoned with the names of fake legal firms.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Free iPads in mortgage war

Lloyds is offering home buyers free iPad minis, in an intensifying mortgage war between major lenders.

However, mortgage experts warned against choosing a loan purely on the basis of a freebie.

The £349 internet-connected iPads, on offer for two months, up the ante in a contest for customers.

So far, the battle has featured lower fixed rate deals, cashback offers and free legal fees.

Lenders are vying for market share as the housing market recovers.