Pensions unsafe, say self-employed, as Government pledge stalls

A five million-strong army of self-employed workers has no faith staff pensions are the safest way to save, according to official statistics, as a Government manifesto pledge to ensure the rising tide of freelancers is ready for retirement fails to bear fruit.

Among those who work for themselves just 15pc think paying into an employee pension is the best way to guarantee an income in retirement, Office for National Statistics research covering July 2016 to December 2017 found. This compares with 44pc among those who are employed.

Low trust in workplace savings from the self-employed may be expected given employer pensions are not available to them, the ONS said.

But research from IPSE, a trade body for the self-employed, in May found fewer than one in three (31pc) freelance workers are currently paying into any pension at all. Taken together, the ONS and IPSE figures point to millions being at risk of lacking a decent income in later life, a problem that is growing as the number of self-employed swells.

The Government pledged to tackle the issue of self-employed pensions in its manifesto last May, saying “we will continue to extend auto-enrolment to small employers and make it available to the self-employed”.

But it has still yet to put forward any specific plan to enact this.

Self-employed worker numbers have jumped in recent years from 3.3 million people (12pc of the labour force) in 2001 to 4.8 million (15.1pc of the labour force) in 2017.

Under “automatic enrolment” all employers must pay for a pension on behalf of their staff. The policy is intended to bridge the savings gap that means many people will have little or nothing to live on in old age.

The rules, which were conceived a decade ago, did not include anticipate the boom in self-employed working and stated the self-employed are not required by law to enrol in a workplace pension.

Self-employed workers who plan to rely on the state pension may also be disappointed as their numbers grow.

For every one million people moving from being employed to being self-employed, £2.8bn is lost annually from national insurance contributions, which fund the state pension, according to a report from pensions firm Aegon.

The Taylor Review into working practices, published last July, called on the Government to improve pension provision among the self-employed, including auto-enrolling them into a pension and administering this through HMRC’s tax self-assessment process.

In its response in February, the Government said it would carry out “feasibility work, and will seek to evaluate these interventions and consult on next steps before the end of this parliament”.

The Department for Work and Pensions reiterated its commitment to increasing pension provision among the self-employed in its corporate report, published in June.

“[The DWP plans to] take forward wider work to explore ways of increasing retirement saving among the self-employed, and to engage with stakeholders on the proposals set out in December 2017 to extend coverage and increase contributions in the mid-2020s,” it stated.

The ONS figures suggested self-employed people are considering other provisions for life post-work. Investing in the property for retirement (42pc) was viewed as a much better option, despite property investments generally lacking the same perks as pensions such as government tax-relief and employer contributions.

The Bank of England’s interest rate hike was sensible, but an increasingly likely hard Brexit will undo that economic progress

Such was the weight of market expectations that the Bank of England (BoE) would raise rates, that failing to enforce a hike would have caused a minor panic – with investors asking what the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) knows that the rest of us do not.

So it was hardly a shock when they did. As with the last increase, it was the smallest step upwards the Bank could practicably take, and it still leaves rates at historically low levels. A more normal pattern of interest rates, such as obtained before the financial crisis, would be closer to 5 per cent, say, than zero. We’ve become accustomed to very cheap money, which is a dangerous thing in the long run.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney: Brexit has already hit UK GDP by up to £40bn

Still, businesses and mortgage holders will be squeezed a little more, which is the point – to make it harder for the shops to raise their prices. The Bank senses, rightly, that the current trend of wages growth and strong employment figures could convert into home-brewed inflation across the two-year horizon that policy makers try to peer into.

Even with the economy growing sluggishly, and all the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, those inflationary pressures have been slowly building for a year or two, and the Bank has acted to preempt them turning into a self-fuelling wage-price spiral. What’s more, with the financial crisis having passed some time ago, the banks no longer have such need for easy money to stay liquid, and some of the BoE’s other schemes to support business lending and the property market have been quietly dropped.

We are, then, on the road to normalising interest rates, almost a decade on from the emergency cuts that brought them to 300-year lows. Yet the economy is about to enter a highly abnormal phase – Brexit. With the probability of a hard Brexit increasing, the BoE should now refrain from raising rates until the picture becomes clearer, or as clear as it ever gets with Brexit, after the formal leaving date of 29 March 2019. If the worst predictions come true with a “crash out” of the EU, the BoE may even need to take action to underpin the financial system and the wider economy in the light of unknowable consequences.

A sudden rupture of trading patterns and financial contracts would constitute an external shock every bit as destabilising as the 2008 banking crash, or the oil crises of the more distant past.

There is, after all, a close and recent precedent for hard Brexit, which is the aftermath of the unexpected EU Referendum result in 2016, when sterling crashed and the BoE had to act, successfully as it turned out, by slashing rates to just 0.25 per cent to protect financial stability and the real economy alike.

Whatever may be said about Project Fear, and the BoE’s role in it, the economic effects of that political shock were immediate. A weaker pound therefore seems an inevitable consequence of a hard Brexit (or even a soft one) and will pose a nightmarish dilemma for the BoE, as it will also mean higher “imported” inflation feeding into the system, even as the domestic economy weakens.

The BoE will also be aware that a disorderly exit will affect billions of pounds, dollars and euros worth of financial contracts across Europe, previously predicated on the EU membership, EU law, the EU Court of Justice, and EU freedom of movement of capital.

Europe’s financial “plumbing” runs through the City and Canary Wharf; what will happen if it suddenly becomes blocked? What will happen if euro-denominated deals must be legally cleared, or settled, within the EU, not London? Central banks across the EU and the BoE will need to take evasive action to limit the chaos, including on interest rates. Journalists on Brexiteer newspapers can idly blame Barnier, Merkel and Macron, but that won’t settle a single derivative deal. Someone will need to clean up the mess.

Because the path of the economy in such circumstances is difficult to predict, how weak the pound will be for how long is also hard to judge. If history is any guide, then, as in the 1970s, the deterioration of the external worth of the British currency may be more or less unrelenting.

Central banks do not like to have to lower rates midway through an orderly path to raising them, and having to do so next spring after hard Brexit would be disruptive in every sense. Such a scenario might have been avoided had the BoE not pushed the rates higher now. Either way the case for extreme caution on future rate rises is plain. The BoE, for obvious reasons, prefers not to get embroiled in the Brexit debate, but it simply cannot pretend it isn’t there or is economically neutral. At the moment the BoE seems a little in denial about the very thing they warned so hard about in 2016 – a post-Brexit recession. A U-turn probably awaits governor Mark Carney and his colleagues, say around the time of the MPC announcement in February 2019.

What an interest rate rise means for you

A borrower with a mortgage of £100,000 will see an increase of £12 in their repayment, according to the Nationwide.

The UK's wealth disparity has been reveaeled
Image: People with a standard variable rate mortgage of £100,000 will pay £12 more a month

The Bank of England has raised interest rates to their highest level in almost a decade but what are the effects of an interest rate increase on day-to-day finances?

:: Who are the winners and losers?

It is a modest increase of 0.25 percentage points to 0.75%. Households can expect the cost of their loans and mortgages to go up as banks and lenders lift their interest rates.

Savers, who have had the most to complain about in the low-interest rate environment, may see a modest gain.

:: What will be the impact of my mortgage?

Skipton Building Society chief executive David Cutter told Sky News that most new mortgages are fixed for two- to five-years.

“The vast majority of new loans, 90% are on fixed rates. Back book (older mortgages) about 66% so there is going to be no immediate impact regarding affordability,” Mr Cutter said.

This is why interest rates have been raised by the Bank of England

This is why interest rates have been raised by the Bank of England

As the bank took its decision today, the mood could hardly have been more different from the crisis days in 2009

“On an average mortgage, if they do increase by a quarter of a percent, then I think your monthly payment will go up by £16 or about £190 a year.”

According to the Nationwide Building Society, anyone on a standard variable rate will see an increase of £12 on a mortgage of £100,000 and on a £200,000 mortgage, £25.

:: Why will savers benefit?

“The good news, of course, the rest of our membership, we have a million now, is the saving side because they have really suffered for ten years now. If rates do go up to 0.75% that will be highest since early 2009. So hopefully some relief is coming down the line as well,” Mr Cutter said.

Asked by business presenter Ian King whether the full rate increase would be passed on to savers, Mr Cutter responded: “Yeah, we’ll see what the reaction is in the market.”

While savers may be hoping for better returns, Bank of England statistics show that the average interest rate on UK current accounts increased by only 0.09% in the seven months since rates were increased by 0.25% last year.

:: Will this bring down prices at the shops?

While the Bank of England has raised interest rates partly to tackle inflation, this move will not be reflected in everyday prices for some time to come.

It took six months for the effects of the Brexit-hit pound to raise prices as imports became more expensive.

Retailers fear rate rises as higher mortgage and other bills for consumers mean they will have less money to spend.

The BoE predicted that inflation would be 0.1 percentage points higher this year and next at 2.5% and 2.2% respectively.

UK House Prices Fall as London Decline Intensifies

U.K. House Prices Fall as London Decline Intensifies

U.K. house prices fell for the first time in seven months as sellers adapted to the reality of the weaker market.

Asking prices slipped 0.1 percent in July from a month earlier, property website Rightmove said on Monday. In London, prices slipped 0.5 percent, with smaller apartments falling faster than bigger homes.

The reduction in asking prices can “be a sign of a falling market,” Rightmove director Miles Shipside said. “With more price reductions at this time of year than in any of the last six years, there is likely to be a combination of both initial over-pricing and failure to react fast enough — or to reduce by enough — when initial buyer interest fails to lead to a sale.”

The British housing market is weakening after a three-decade boom amid slower economic growth and the uncertainty created by Brexit. London, where the average house price is more than double the national average, has been hit harder than the rest of the country. This month’s declines also reflect a normal summer slowdown in activity, Rightmove said.

A separate report by Acadata showed U.K. house prices fell 0.2 percent in June. Most regions in the U.K. still have higher house prices than a year ago, the property services firm said.

More Sellers

On an annual basis, Rightmove said house-price inflation slowed to 1.4 percent in July from 1.7 percent. In London, prices fell 1.7 percent from a year ago. The average U.K. asking price stood at 309,191 pounds ($400,000).

There are more sellers coming to the market than buyers, the report showed. The average number of houses in the window of each U.K. estate agency branch is at the highest since September 2015, meaning sellers are having to compete harder on price.

The slump is an opportunity for first-time buyers in London as properties with two bedrooms or fewer saw prices decline. The trendy borough of Hackney posted a 3.5 percent drop.

Made in Chelsea

House prices fell in half of London’s boroughs, but not its most expensive one

Source: Rightmove

Other reports on Monday were more positive for the U.K. economy. Business confidence has reached a two-year high since the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union — and was strongest in London — according to Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. At the same time, consumer spending saw its first back-to-back monthly increase since early 2017, Visa’s Consumer Spending Index showed.

Value of UK property market falls £26.9bn as house prices stagnate

he value of Britain’s housing market has fallen by £26.9bn, or 0.33pc, since the start of the year, as growth in the North East and Wales has failed to counteract falling prices in many other regions across the country.

The nation’s homes decreased in value by an average of £927 each between Jan 1 and June 30 this year, and are now worth a collective £8.2 trillion, according to figures from property site Zoopla.

While the value of the housing market in the North East has risen by 3.31pc, and Wales’ by 1.4pc, poor-performing regions such as the South West, which endured a decline in value of 2.51pc, and Yorkshire and The Humber (-2.12pc), has dragged the overall market value down.

It marks a reversal of fortunes for the UK housing market, which registered an increase in value of 3.5pc in 2017, despite a slowdown in London and the South East.

Zoopla’s most recent data found that on a local level, the English town of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria was the top-performer in terms of house price growth, with prices rising 6.7pc in the past six months. Holt in Norfolk experienced second-best growth of 6.27pc, followed by Pontypool in Torfaen (6.06pc).

By comparison, Reigate in Surrey saw price growth in the first half of 2018 decline in value by 6.7pc. The second and third largest reductions were seen in Lydney in Gloucestershire, and Sturminster Newton in Dorset, which reduced in value by 6.69pc and 6.64pc, respectively.

Despite property prices in London falling at their fastest rate since February 2009, the capital’s homes collectively rose in value by an average of 0.75pc in the six months to June 30.

Zoopla’s Laurence Hall said it was “not surprising” to see a small drop in values since the start of the year.

“Uncertainty around Brexit is a very real factor in the market, however on the positive side, the drop is creating a potential opportunity for first time buyers to get a foot on the ladder in some regions across Britain,” he said.

Analysts have blamed Brexit for the slowdown in the UK’s property market since 2016. House prices have risen more slowly than before the EU referendum, which hit consumer confidence and spending as the pound’s fall pushed up inflation.

According to figures from Nationwide in April, house prices were growing by about 5pc a year around the time of the Brexit vote, but in 2018 growth has consistently hovered around 1pc.

A buoyant property market depends on the UK’s economic health, so if the pound weakens further, inflation surges, and interest rates are raised, the capacity for house price growth would be reduced.

Equally, if Brexit negotiations are successful, economic growth continues to remain positive, and confidence is boosted, house prices could increase faster than initially thought.

Source The Telegraph

No Brexit Impact for 75% of UK Buyers & Sellers

One year on from the Brexit vote, a new survey has revealed that the intentions of those in the housing market have been minimally affected by the referendum results.

Commissioned by UK estate agent haart, the independent survey of more than 2,000 homeowners revealed that it has not been Brexit that has had the largest impact for buyers and sellers in the last 12 months, but the lack of supply.

According to 75.2% of those surveyed, the Brexit vote has had no bearing on their decision to sell their homes or to buy new ones, with just 16.1% indicating that Brexit was a concern for them.

Providing much larger barriers to the purchase and sale of properties were the issues of affordability and the magnitude of a house move, with 43% and 33% of respondents respectively stating them as the reasons behind their hesitance.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Paul Smith, CEO of haart estate agents, said:

‘Nearly a year on from the UK’s vote to leave the EU, the UK property market remains sound … Our findings underline the faith that the average British homeowner has in the UK property market remain resilient, even amidst time of political uncertainty.’

Smith continued: ‘A severe lack of stock continues to hold back fluidity in the market … we need to look deeper into creating housing solutions that will help buyers get the homes they desperately want.’

How a a £15,000 loan led to a 1,500 residential property portfolio

Empire Property Concepts founder Paul Rothwell tells the Telegraph Business Club about his company’s focus on converting disused commercial property into residential accommodation

Paul Rothwell’s career in property development began while he was a student. He used a £15,000 loan from his dad to buy a house and convert it into flats for himself and fellow students.

When he graduated, he didn’t sell the house but let it out and took out a second mortgage to help fund another.

That was how Empire Property Concepts (EPC) started out, and now, just 13 years later, it has a portfolio of more than 1,500 residential units across various portfolios.

Empire’s response to Permitted Development Rights (PDR) legislation was to set up a new company, Empire Property Holdings (EPH).

EPH issues Loan Notes across several Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) to finance EPC’s developments, focusing on converting disused commercial property into residential accommodation.

With interest rates low or negative, these Loan Notes offer sophisticated investors an innovative way to engage in the UK property market.


Company website:

Business sector: Consumer & Retail

Location: Doncaster, UK

Annual turnover: £4.5 million

Number of Employees: 16

Year Founded: 2009

Brexit Bulletin

Brexit Bulletin

304 Days to Go

Today in Brexit: While the Irish border and customs arrangements are the most pressing concerns, work on everything else needs to accelerate. And there’s a lot left.

The U.K. Parliament is in recess, but London has its homework to do. Brussels expects British negotiators to return next week with a clear plan about how the government proposes to solve the Irish border problem. The European Commission insists a backstop – the solution that will have to do until something better comes along – can’t be the government’s U.K.-wide customs arrangement with the European Union.

But amid all the talk about the Irish border and the endless customs union debate, it’s easy to forget there’s still a lot else that needs to be hashed out by October. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, used a speech in Portugal over the weekend to spell out the differences. The system for settling disputes – which the EU maintains must include a strong European Court of Justice role but which the U.K. wants to be run by joint political committee – also needs to be included in the final text of the Brexit treaty.

The details about the foundations of the future relationship – which includes trade, ddefenceagreements, financial-services arrangements and regulations for industries such as fishing – are supposed to be completed by October, too.

A senior EU official raised British hackles last week, accusing the U.K. of chasing “fantasy” ideas and failing to accept responsibility for the consequences of walking away. In a background briefing for reporters, given on the condition of anonymity, the official laid out areas of dispute. From the EU’s perspective, here’s where these stand:

  • Mutual recognition of standards and regulations in areas such as food safety and financial services
  • Security: The U.K. can’t stay in Europol or take part in the European Arrest Warrant system, the EU believes
  • Foreign policy: The EU is unlikely to comply with a U.K. request for a significant say in decision making
  • Galileo satellite navigation system: The U.K. can’t turn the program into a U.K.-EU joint project and have privileged access which could give it the right to turn the system off unilaterally, the EU says
  • Data protection: The EU is unlikely to allow the U.K. to have a bespoke agreement that would lead to the EU losing its autonomy over privacy rules

There’s much work to do over the summer to lay the plans for the full-scale negotiation on the two sides’ post-Brexit ties. “Time is running out,” Barnier warned on Saturday. “If we want to lay the foundation for our future relationship before the withdrawal of the U.K., we must accelerate.”

Ian Wishart

Today’s Must-Reads

  • The Financial Times’s Tony Barber argues there’s a fierce battle emerging over the future of the EU that’s been ignited by the crisis in Italy
  • Bloomberg Opinion’s Mohamed A. El-Erian says markets fear a populist backlash in the country

Brexit in Brief

Air Agreement | The U.K. is ready to agree to an “open skies” agreement with the U.S. this summer that will keep planes between both countries flying after Brexit, the Daily Telegraph reports, citing four unidentified sources. The newspaper also says the EU has moved to shut the door on British and other non-EU companies participating in the European Defense Industrial Development Program.

Carry On Spending | Britain will help to determine the EU’s 1 trillion-pound budget up to 2027 after European countries defied Brussels and invited British officials to take part in negotiations, the Times reports. The European Commission was opposed to the plan devised by individual member states, the newspaper says.

Scotland in Brussels | Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated her goal for the U.K. to remain in the customs union and single market in a meeting with Michel Barnier in Brussels.

Dynamic Deals | Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson repeated his call for the U.K. to make a clean break from the EU when it leaves the bloc, warning Prime Minister Theresa May that Britain won’t be able to take full advantage of the split unless it does.

No Plan B
| The government’s preparations for a “no deal” Brexit have largely ground to a halt, the Financial Times reported. This will make it almost impossible for Theresa May to walk out of negotiations with the EU in the next 10 months, the paper said.

Hunky Dory | A Bank of England spokesman ,refuted suggestions of a rift between the central bank and the U.K. Treasury after a report in the Financial Times said the institutions are at “loggerheads” over the future of City of London regulations after Brexit.



East Midlands is Most Confident Region for House Price Growth

Consumer confidence in the housing market has increased by its largest rate since 2016, according to the latest Housing Market Sentiment Survey by Zoopla.

Over eight in ten homeowners (84%) predict house prices in their area will grow by 6.9% over the next six months.

This is a marked increase on the previous survey held in November 2017, when a price increase of 4.9% was forecast by 70% of consumers.

The East Midlands remains the most confident region, with 93% expecting prices to rise compared to 79% in November’s survey, closely followed by the East of England (90%).

Although North Eastern homeowners have the least optimism, market confidence has nearly trebled in the region from 22% in November to 63%. In London, 76% of consumers are anticipating prices in the capital to grow.

However, in terms of the rate at which prices are predicted to rise, homeowners in the West Midlands are the most optimistic, predicting property prices in the region will grow by 10.6% in the next six months.

Zoopla believes that the rise in confidence is a result of wider activity in the housing market, due to a seasonal increase in momentum.

Build-To-Rent Development Pipeline Exceeds 100,000

New research by Hamptons International proposes that the private rented sector will continue to grow despite recent policy changes.

Demand for rented property will be a key driver of the sector’s performance, due to long-term demographic changes and a consistent decline in homeownership levels as house price increases outpace income growth.

As a result, the estate agency forecasts that 20.5% of households will be renting in Great Britain by 2022, up from 19.4% in 2018, and that there will be six million households renting privately by 2025.

The research goes on to explore the different ways in which properties can appear on the market. For example, it estimates that around 80,000 homeowners decided to let their home out as they struggled to sell.

However, Hamptons predicts that the build-to-rent sector will become a larger part of the market, as it found the development pipeline will deliver more than 100,000 units, with more expected to come in the future.

Cash owners outnumber those buying with a mortgage, the research also highlights, noting that cash buyers have increased for 23 out of the last 25 years.

In 2017 alone, 65% of investors purchased using cash, equating to billion in property.

“The mass of cash in the market alongside increasing institutional interest is acting as an insulation to changes in policy. Creating a firm foundation on which the sector can continue to grow, particularly as the demand for rented homes will continue to rise,” the research concludes.