News: Families spared as Revenue calls off tax clawback
U-turn in credit overpayment row; casual workers losing out; Truro is No 1 property hotspot; garages slated for poor service
Sunday 26 June 2005
Struggling families embroiled in a dispute with the taxman over tax-credit overpayments were thrown a lifeline last week when the Government suspended his attempts to recover the money.
The decision follows two reports from the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) criticising the automated benefits system. As a result of these criticisms, the Prime Minister was forced to apologise for the "distress and hardship" caused to families.
In an emergency statement to the House of Commons, Dawn Primarolo, the Paymaster General, then announced she had asked Revenue and Customs (the merged body replacing the Inland Revenue) to suspend its recovery of overpayments wherever there was a dispute with a claimant.
According to the CAB, a third of claimants whose tax credits had been overpaid fell into poverty when asked to repay. Many families were trying to survive on as little as £56 a week and, in extreme cases, the Salvation Army was helping with food parcels.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman's report focused on poor administration. The tax-credit system, one of the Government's flagship policies, was introduced in 2003 to streamline the payment of benefits; some six million families are recipients.
But the complex nature of the scheme, coupled with the Revenue's own computer errors, has led to misery for hundreds of thousands of families. Part of the problem is that the "reclaim" mechanism for overpayment is built into the system and does not operate independently.
Tax-credit awards are calculated on family income figures dating back two years. Any significant increases will automatically reduce entitlement to benefits and so prompt the Revenue to claw back the money. But many recipients either weren't prepared for the repayment or found themselves short-changed by the administrative process; low-income families saw vital benefits disappear.
Worse, computer errors at the Revenue resulted in inaccurate calculations of individual claims. Around £600m was overpaid, and the Revenue then demanded this money back, adding to families' problems.
Of the £13.5bn paid out in tax credits in 2004, the first full year of operation, some £1.9bn - 14 per cent - was overpaid.
Ms Abraham has recommended that all overpayment resulting from government error be written off. The Treasury said it was reviewing its credit reclaim procedures.
TUC fights for temps
The employment rights of the UK's temporary workers are among the worst in Europe, a report from the TUC has found.
Most of the UK's 600,000 temps receive no pension, paid holidays, training or sickness pay and have no protection from unfair dismissal. On top of that, they are usually paid less than colleagues doing the same job.
Of the 20 EU countries with information available for comparison, only the UK, Hungary and Ireland did not give temps the right to be paid the same as a permanent employee doing a similar job.
And the UK does not require employment agencies that find work for temporary staff to have a licence to operate.
The problem is partly down to delays in introducing an EU directive that would give temps greater protection at work, including equal pay, maternity rights and safeguards against discrimination. The directive has been stalled by a disagreement over when a temp should get these rights. Some countries want them to kick in after one year's employment; others say six months is fairer; others believe they should start from day one.
The TUC wants the Government to use its EU presidency to implement the reform. However, the CBI, which represents businesses, said that this would force companies employing temps to make cutbacks because of the burden of extra regulation.
Truro, a cathedral city in Cornwall, has played host to the greatest house price growth over the past 10 years, new research has shown.
Between 1995 and 2005, prices increased by 272 per cent, according to a report by County Homesearch, a company that seeks properties for buyers.
Using data from the Land Registry, it found that towns and cities with the biggest rises included Exeter (224 per cent), Bath (221 per cent) and Northampton (217 per cent). The slowest growth was seen in Middlesbrough (116 per cent) and Hull (123 per cent).
Repairs on the ropes
Less than one in four cars are properly serviced in UK garages, say trading standards officers.
In a "mystery shopper" test, 88 cars were sent in for service with faults such as loosened wheel nuts, blown circuit fuses, defective brake lights and soft tyre pressures. When the cars were picked up, only 21 had been correctly serviced. Over a third were left with serious faults.
If the quality of workmanship does not improve, Trading Standards intends to call on the Government to tighten its regulation of car-repair services. This could lead to compulsory licensing of garages.
Several garages in the survey now face either prosecution or written warnings. The Retail Motor Industry Federation, some of whose members were involved, said it would be working with trading standards officers to investigate the claims.
The motor repair industry is under increasing pressure to clean up its act. In April, the National Consumer Council threatened to lodge a "supercomplaint" to the regulator about poor service.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Crowd-to-let: How crowdfunding sites can give investors a slice of the property market for £500
General Election 2015: How you vote next week could affect your finances
Social tenants locked into energy tariff for 40 years
Winter heating underpayment brings summer pain
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
- 1 Katie Hopkins gives rare glimpse of sensitive side with heartfelt open letter to her children penned in case she dies from epilepsy
- 2 Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...
£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...
Day In a Page
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business