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
Switching your current account? Pick one that reflects the way you run your finances
Npower customers waiting for complaints to be resolved must be given free energy, Ofgem rules
Buyers beware of new-build home headaches
Dirty tricks in a divorce can cause some nasty surprises
Simon Read: 'BT Sport wants us to be couch potatoes on charges'
- 1 Cecil the lion: Dentist Walter Palmer blames local guides in Zimbabwe for the scandal
- 2 Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
- 3 Norwich paedophile ring: Woman at centre of gang who made children 'sexual play things' guilty of 23 offences
- 4 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
- 5 Walter Palmer: Cecil the lion killer revealed to be American dentist
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
iJobs Money & Business
£22500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Inbound and outbound calls with...
£18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...
£40 - 45k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Research Associate / Research Anal...
£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Summary: The Green Recruitm...
Day In a Page
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
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.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
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.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
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.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
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.
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 six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
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.