Money News: Pension campaigners take case to Europe

Pensions campaigner Ros Altmann, a former adviser to Downing Street, is to petition the European Parliament on behalf of more than 85,000 workers left without a proper pension when their companies went bust.

Ms Altmann - together with Maurice Jones, a representative worker - will take the case to the European Parliamentary Petitions Committee on Tuesday. They will ask the committee to consider forcing the British Government to comply with European pensions legislation, which gives greater protection to employees.

The UK Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, released a report last month highlighting the plight of tens of thousands of workers whose company schemes were wound up when their employers went into administration. Because these firms folded before the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) was launched last year, their employees do not qualify for compensation.

Ms Abraham found evidence of "maladministration" by the Government. It had, she said, misled workers in its official literature by encouraging them to invest in their company pension schemes. She also claimed that the Government had ignored actuarial advice about the weakness of the funding behind many private schemes.

However, her call for compensation was rejected outright by Stephen Timms, the minister for Pension Reform. The Government could not be called upon to pay for collapsed private-sector pension funds, he said.

To compensate workers not covered by the PPF for at least part of their lost pensions, the Financial Assistance Scheme has been established. But this £400m fund has been criticised for being underfunded and slow to administer claims.

Now Ms Altmann wants the European Parliament to look at the British Government's decision not to offer compensation under the terms of the EU's insolvency directive. Separately, she is arguing that the right to protection of property enshrined in the Human Rights Act should be upheld.

Many UK final-salary pension schemes have been closed to new members over the past 12 months because of rising costs.

Debit cards: Cash no longer rules Britannia

The amount Britons spend on debit cards on the high street and online has outstripped cash for the first time, according to new research from the payments body Apacs.

Consumers purchased goods costing £89bn (37 per cent of their overall spending) on cards last year, against £81bn (34 per cent) with coins and notes.

Cash was still king in the UK as recently as 2004, used for transactions totalling £84bn. Debit card spending then stood at £82bn. But consumers have grown more confident about shopping online and debit card use overseas has helped push plastic ahead of hard currency.

Credit-card spending stayed the same in 2005 as in the previous year, at £61bn.

"More businesses accept cards now," said Sandra Quinn of Apacs. "And with debit cards around in the UK for almost 20 years, we also have an entire generation of shoppers who readily delve for their debit card instead of using cash."

Apacs' annual survey of the way we spend our money also showed that the use of cheques has continued to fall, down from £11bn in 2004 to £9bn last year. Spending on credit cards is expected to go up after a recent court ruling that overseas purchases must be afforded the same protection as in the UK if they prove unsatisfactory.

Property: Moving costs go through the roof

Stamp duty has helped push up the cost of moving house by more than twice the rate of house price inflation since 2000, the Woolwich has found.

Moving from an average semi-detached home in England and Wales (priced at £174,744) to an average detached home (£293,248) will cost buyers £12,535 today, it said. In 2000, the same move from an average semi (£91,341) to a detached house (£161,086) cost £4,535 in fees for solicitors, estate agents, the Land Registry, local authority searches and stamp duty.

"That's an increase in fees of 176 per cent compared with house price growth of 70 per cent," said Andy Gray, the head of mortgages at the Woolwich. "This can largely be attributed to detached property prices having gone through the Government's 3 per cent stamp duty threshold at £250,000."

As the UK housing market has roared ahead, so more homes have been caught in the higher-rate stamp duty net. However, for those not so far up the ladder, the average cost of moving has actually fallen, the Woolwich said.

To move from an average terraced home (£149,906) to a £174,744 semi in England and Wales would cost £5,304 today; in 2000, it would have set you back £3,333. This translates as a 59 per cent rise in fees against house price growth of 95 per cent.

Competition among solicitors and estate agents at this level of the market has helped keep a lid on costs, Mr Gray said.

Inflation: Spring price rises kept at bay

The cost of living rose at its slowest pace for more than a year last month.

The annualised consumer price index (CPI) nudged 1.8 per cent in March, wrongfooting many economists who forecast little or no change from February's 2 per cent. A surge in fuel bills had been expected to keep up the inflationary pressure.

In the end, however, a fall in the cost of air travel helped to dampen price rises.

The headline rate of inflation - known as the Retail Price Index - which includes mortgage interest payments, stayed the same at 2.4 per cent.

The surprise CPI figure has prompted industry speculation that the next Bank of England base rate move may be down instead of up.

Independent Partners: 10 top tips for retirement. Get your free guide here

Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

    £32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

    Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

    £Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum