The Week in Review: Home News

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The Independent Online
THE week ended as it began with doom and gloom over the economy. Calls for tax refunds for embattled homeowners were followed by poor financial results from leading companies and a further drop in house prices.

Sir John Quinton, chairman of Barclays Bank, warned that the recession could continue for another two years while the pound sank to its lowest level since Britain joined the European exchange rate mechanism. BP said it was making 11,500 staff redundant and was halving its dividend, the first time it had done so since the First World War.

Depressed householders considering selling their homes were told not only of falling prices but also of the spread of the practice of 'gazundering' whereby offers are lowered just before the signing of contracts.

One person who may have to raise some extra cash is Jani Allan, the South African journalist who lost her libel action against Channel 4 television.

Faced with a legal bill for pounds 300,000, Miss Allan, 40, said she did not have the money. Detailed evidence of her alleged affair with Eugene Terre-Blanche, head of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), resulted in a jury rejecting the claim that the programme The Leader, the Driver and the Driver's Wife defamed her by portraying her as a woman of easy virtue.

The talents and abilities of another woman, Sally Gunnell, hit the front pages in more respectable fashion when she became the first British woman since 1964 to win a gold medal for a track event at the Olympics. Her victory in the 400 metres hurdles was celebrated in a week when most attention was concentrated on events inside the stadium rather than controversy over drugs or commercialisation. The British team was hoping to beat its post-war record of six gold medals won in 1956.

British Rail set a new record of its own by attracting the highest number of passenger complaints made to the Central Transport Consultative Committee, its consumer watchdog.

The number of complaints rose by 4 per cent on the previous year. Lack of information, dirty trains and stations, late arrivals and cancellations were the main points. The committee said there was a pounds 3.1bn gap between the funding available to BR over the next three years and what was needed to sustain adequate investment.

BR managers must be thankful at the reluctance of the British to complain at all. Passengers observed a couple having sexual intercourse on a train from Margate to London but only protested when they lit cigarettes in a non-smoking compartment.