<strong>Chris Grover</strong> says austerity policies are even more punishing than the workhouse, <strong>John Veit-Wilson</strong> on social security for everyone, <strong>Jack Czauderna</strong> on so many reports, <strong>Dr David Alderson</strong> on why he won’t vote for the Lib Dems, and <strong>Paul Nicolson</strong> et al on the inequality between renters and landlords or landowners<p>Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, is right to say that austerity has sought to recreate the workhouse for the 21st century (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/22/un-report-compares-tory-welfare-reforms-to-creation-of-workhouses" title="">Report</a>, 22 May). The idea of “less eligibility” (that the experience of state support should always be felt as being economically and socially worse than earning a living) underpinned the 19th-century workhouse and frames contemporary austerity policies. But, in the weaponising of less eligibility for today’s precarious labour markets, social security policy goes beyond the oppressiveness of the poor law. Though the experience of the poor law was designed to be deeply unpleasant and grudging, it was also designed to relieve destitution by focusing on the needs of all household members.</p><p>In contrast, social security policy, particularly after George Osborne’s 2015 budget, is designed to create destitution by, for example, only providing support for two children per household and limiting benefit payments in arbitrary ways via the benefit cap. The Department for Work and Pensions claims that Alston provides a “completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty”. If anything, he under-emphasises the regressiveness of contemporary social security policies.<br><strong>Dr Chris Grover</strong><br><em>Lancaster University</em></p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2019/may/22/weve-had-so-many-reports-on-inequality-now-act">Continue reading...</a>

We’ve had so many reports on inequality – now act | Letters

May 22, 2019 17:51

Chris Grover says austerity policies are even more punishing than the workhouse, John Veit-Wilson on social security for everyone, Jack Czauderna on so many reports, Dr David Alderson on why he won’t vote for the Lib Dems, and Paul Nicolson et al on the inequality between renters and landlords or landowners

Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, is right to say that austerity has sought to recreate the workhouse for the 21st century (Report, 22 May). The idea of “less eligibility” (that the experience of state support should always be felt as being economically and socially worse than earning a living) underpinned the 19th-century workhouse and frames contemporary austerity policies. But, in the weaponising of less eligibility for today’s precarious labour markets, social security policy goes beyond the oppressiveness of the poor law. Though the experience of the poor law was designed to be deeply unpleasant and grudging, it was also designed to relieve destitution by focusing on the needs of all household members.

In contrast, social security policy, particularly after George Osborne’s 2015 budget, is designed to create destitution by, for example, only providing support for two children per household and limiting benefit payments in arbitrary ways via the benefit cap. The Department for Work and Pensions claims that Alston provides a “completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty”. If anything, he under-emphasises the regressiveness of contemporary social security policies.
Dr Chris Grover
Lancaster University

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<p>I am concerned about the consequences as I will be going against the terms of my buy-to-let deal <br></p><p> <strong>Q</strong> I have been approved for a buy-to-let mortgage. It has always been my intention not to live in the property. I live in London and am buying a property in my hometown further north. It now transpires that my brother would be happy to live in the property. I know family members are not allowed to be tenants as part of the terms and conditions of the mortgage. He will pay rent, but at a reduced rate. What are the consequences for me if we go ahead with this plan? <strong>AM</strong></p><p><strong>A</strong> If you breach the terms and conditions of your buy-to-let mortgage by letting the property to your brother (or any other close relative), your lender would be within its rights to demand full repayment of the loan. If you don’t tell your lender that a close family member is going to be your tenant, you would be committing mortgage fraud, which could also result in you being asked to repay the mortgage in full. Even if your lender did allow you to let to your brother, it might also take issue with him not paying a rent that covers 145% of the monthly mortgage payment, which would have been one of the requirement on which your mortgage application was approved.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/20/can-my-brother-be-my-tenant-even-if-my-mortgage-doesnt-allow-it">Continue reading...</a>

Can my brother be my tenant even if my mortgage doesn't allow it?

May 20, 2019 7:00

I am concerned about the consequences as I will be going against the terms of my buy-to-let deal

Q I have been approved for a buy-to-let mortgage. It has always been my intention not to live in the property. I live in London and am buying a property in my hometown further north. It now transpires that my brother would be happy to live in the property. I know family members are not allowed to be tenants as part of the terms and conditions of the mortgage. He will pay rent, but at a reduced rate. What are the consequences for me if we go ahead with this plan? AM

A If you breach the terms and conditions of your buy-to-let mortgage by letting the property to your brother (or any other close relative), your lender would be within its rights to demand full repayment of the loan. If you don’t tell your lender that a close family member is going to be your tenant, you would be committing mortgage fraud, which could also result in you being asked to repay the mortgage in full. Even if your lender did allow you to let to your brother, it might also take issue with him not paying a rent that covers 145% of the monthly mortgage payment, which would have been one of the requirement on which your mortgage application was approved.

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<p>MPs and peers say plans for register of foreign-owned property should not be delayed</p><p>Proposals for the first register of foreign-owned property aimed at preventing “McMafia-style” money laundering should be put in practice urgently and reinforced to plug potential loopholes, the government has been told.</p><p>Draft legislation contains insufficient verification checks to deter criminals from submitting false information and could allow those exploiting trusts to circumvent controls, MPs and peers have said.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/may/20/uk-foreign-property-register-needed-urgently-money-laundering">Continue reading...</a>

UK property register 'needed urgently' to stop money laundering

May 20, 2019 0:01

MPs and peers say plans for register of foreign-owned property should not be delayed

Proposals for the first register of foreign-owned property aimed at preventing “McMafia-style” money laundering should be put in practice urgently and reinforced to plug potential loopholes, the government has been told.

Draft legislation contains insufficient verification checks to deter criminals from submitting false information and could allow those exploiting trusts to circumvent controls, MPs and peers have said.

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<p>Nurse faces losing his property after council demands gigantic sum for refurbishment of block</p><p>How would you feel if a council bill for £146,000 landed on your doormat?</p><p>This monster demand – for £146,257, to be precise – was sent to Lloyd Onuoha, a 62-year-old nurse, by Southwark council in London.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/18/a-terrible-shock-council-flat-owner-bill-tustin-estate">Continue reading...</a>

'A terrible shock': council hands flat owner £146,000 bill

May 18, 2019 7:00

Nurse faces losing his property after council demands gigantic sum for refurbishment of block

How would you feel if a council bill for £146,000 landed on your doormat?

This monster demand – for £146,257, to be precise – was sent to Lloyd Onuoha, a 62-year-old nurse, by Southwark council in London.

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<p>A picturesque commuter town (with a fine collection of toothbrushes)</p><p><strong>What’s going for it? </strong>Hertford is a gentle place of small pleasures, like its greatest son <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jul/06/george-ezra-im-trying-to-figure-out-who-i-am-and-what-i-stand-for" title="">George Ezra</a>. Everyone fancies a bit of George – even if it is just singing karaoke drunk at a ’Spoons on a Friday night. Likewise, only the harshest of hearts could savage <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2011/mar/17/art-fund-museums-prize" title="">Hertford</a>. It might not be where you want your life to end up, but there are worse places. Its grand Saxon street pattern sprawled across the confluence of four rivers, its castle grounds and handsome centre of Georgian townhouses draped in creepers, and half-timbered salmon-pink cottages, speak of a time when Hertford was a big kahuna. Local lore even suggests this is the burial place of the Holy Grail, lurking somewhere in mysterious tunnels beneath the streets.</p><p>These days, though, Hertford is comfortable with a more sedate lot in life, a picturesque commuter town for those priced out of Edmonton. The museum has the largest <a href="https://www.hertfordmuseum.org/page44.html">collection of toothbrushes</a> in the country (plucked from the Addis factory when it closed). Enjoying a pint on the riverside terrace at the Woolpack; small pleasures. That’s not to say Hertford can’t cut some rug when it wants to. Look at the 1970s theatre and <a href="https://www.hertfordartshub.org/hertford-arts-hub">arts centre</a>, poised for reinvention by zippy architects Carmody Groarke, as avant garde as anything one could find in, ooh, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/nov/25/lets-move-to-st-albans-hertfordshire">St Albans</a>.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/17/lets-move-to-hertford-hertfordshire">Continue reading...</a>

Let’s move to Hertford: if it’s cool enough for George Ezra…

May 17, 2019 16:30

A picturesque commuter town (with a fine collection of toothbrushes)

What’s going for it? Hertford is a gentle place of small pleasures, like its greatest son George Ezra. Everyone fancies a bit of George – even if it is just singing karaoke drunk at a ’Spoons on a Friday night. Likewise, only the harshest of hearts could savage Hertford. It might not be where you want your life to end up, but there are worse places. Its grand Saxon street pattern sprawled across the confluence of four rivers, its castle grounds and handsome centre of Georgian townhouses draped in creepers, and half-timbered salmon-pink cottages, speak of a time when Hertford was a big kahuna. Local lore even suggests this is the burial place of the Holy Grail, lurking somewhere in mysterious tunnels beneath the streets.

These days, though, Hertford is comfortable with a more sedate lot in life, a picturesque commuter town for those priced out of Edmonton. The museum has the largest collection of toothbrushes in the country (plucked from the Addis factory when it closed). Enjoying a pint on the riverside terrace at the Woolpack; small pleasures. That’s not to say Hertford can’t cut some rug when it wants to. Look at the 1970s theatre and arts centre, poised for reinvention by zippy architects Carmody Groarke, as avant garde as anything one could find in, ooh, St Albans.

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<p>Get away from busy traffic with these peaceful properties, from Hampshire to West Yorkshire</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/gallery/2019/may/17/homes-in-quiet-cul-de-sacs-in-pictures">Continue reading...</a>

Homes in quiet cul-de-sacs – in pictures

May 17, 2019 7:29

Get away from busy traffic with these peaceful properties, from Hampshire to West Yorkshire

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<p>We thought we would never buy, but just came into some money and are wondering about a mortgage</p><p><br><strong>Q</strong> We are at a complete loss. We never imagined that we would be in a position to buy property as we have struggled for years to save but recently we have come into some money which we could use as a deposit. However, both my husband and I are nearing 40 so are we too late? Where do we even start with trying to organise a mortgage? Surely it would need to be a shorter term one. I am fearful of taking out too much and finding ourselves stuck at age 58 or higher. Most people our age are working towards paying their mortgage off whereas we would just be beginning. Should we just stick the money in a savings account instead?</p><p><strong>A</strong> No, I wouldn’t just stick the money in a savings account. Buying a home of your own is clearly a long-term goal of yours even if you didn’t think it was an achievable one. And at nearly 40, you and your husband are spring chickens when it comes to being considered as older borrowers. Most mainstream mortgage lenders set the maximum age you can be at the end of the mortgage term at 70 or 75 so you could easily get a mortgage with a typical term of 25 years. At least 15 building societies – which, according to the Building Societies Association, ‘tend to be more flexible than high-street banks when it comes to maximum age limits’ – have scrapped upper age limits altogether. As a result borrowers can take out a 25-year mortgage regardless of their age at the time they apply for a mortgage.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/13/were-nearing-40-is-it-too-late-to-buy-our-first-property">Continue reading...</a>

We're nearing 40 – is it too late to buy our first property?

May 13, 2019 7:00

We thought we would never buy, but just came into some money and are wondering about a mortgage


Q We are at a complete loss. We never imagined that we would be in a position to buy property as we have struggled for years to save but recently we have come into some money which we could use as a deposit. However, both my husband and I are nearing 40 so are we too late? Where do we even start with trying to organise a mortgage? Surely it would need to be a shorter term one. I am fearful of taking out too much and finding ourselves stuck at age 58 or higher. Most people our age are working towards paying their mortgage off whereas we would just be beginning. Should we just stick the money in a savings account instead?

A No, I wouldn’t just stick the money in a savings account. Buying a home of your own is clearly a long-term goal of yours even if you didn’t think it was an achievable one. And at nearly 40, you and your husband are spring chickens when it comes to being considered as older borrowers. Most mainstream mortgage lenders set the maximum age you can be at the end of the mortgage term at 70 or 75 so you could easily get a mortgage with a typical term of 25 years. At least 15 building societies – which, according to the Building Societies Association, ‘tend to be more flexible than high-street banks when it comes to maximum age limits’ – have scrapped upper age limits altogether. As a result borrowers can take out a 25-year mortgage regardless of their age at the time they apply for a mortgage.

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<p>The estate agents did all the marketing but I sent them the local couple who wanted to buy</p><p><strong>Q</strong> A few months ago I agreed to have the photographs done and marketing literature for my home prepared by an estate agent in readiness for a move in late summer. I also signed a contract with them to market and sell my home. However, before it actually went up for sale a local couple who are neighbours asked if they could buy the house from us. I directed them to the estate agent who arranged a viewing and they made an offer which was accepted. The house never actually went on the market with the agents or was advertised by them. We are nearing exchange of contracts now and I was wondering if there would be any leeway to negotiate a reduction in the commission seeing as the agent did not actually find the buyer.<br><strong>PP</strong></p><p><strong>A</strong> You could give it a try but I don’t hold out much hope. Because the agent arranged the viewing and the buyers made their offer via the agent, the agent can argue that they did find the buyer. This would not have been the case if you had shown the buyers the property and had accepted their offer from them directly. That’s because if you signed a sole agency agreement with your agent – which is the most common type of estate agent contract - while you can’t instruct another agent to sell your home, you are free to sell it privately without involving the agent you are tied to during the term of the contract. And if you do find your own buyer and don’t involve the agent in the transaction, you are also let off paying the agent’s commission (although you may be asked to cover the costs of getting the photographs and marketing literature done).</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/06/i-sold-my-home-to-a-neighbour-do-i-have-to-pay-the-agents-fee">Continue reading...</a>

I sold my home to a neighbour – do I have to pay the agent's fee?

May 6, 2019 7:00

The estate agents did all the marketing but I sent them the local couple who wanted to buy

Q A few months ago I agreed to have the photographs done and marketing literature for my home prepared by an estate agent in readiness for a move in late summer. I also signed a contract with them to market and sell my home. However, before it actually went up for sale a local couple who are neighbours asked if they could buy the house from us. I directed them to the estate agent who arranged a viewing and they made an offer which was accepted. The house never actually went on the market with the agents or was advertised by them. We are nearing exchange of contracts now and I was wondering if there would be any leeway to negotiate a reduction in the commission seeing as the agent did not actually find the buyer.
PP

A You could give it a try but I don’t hold out much hope. Because the agent arranged the viewing and the buyers made their offer via the agent, the agent can argue that they did find the buyer. This would not have been the case if you had shown the buyers the property and had accepted their offer from them directly. That’s because if you signed a sole agency agreement with your agent – which is the most common type of estate agent contract - while you can’t instruct another agent to sell your home, you are free to sell it privately without involving the agent you are tied to during the term of the contract. And if you do find your own buyer and don’t involve the agent in the transaction, you are also let off paying the agent’s commission (although you may be asked to cover the costs of getting the photographs and marketing literature done).

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<p>I’m not sure whether now would be a good time to sell the house I’ve been renting out</p><p><strong>Q</strong> I’m confused about the proposed changes in the capital gains tax system for people selling their home when it has been rented out. I’m unsure if it would be wise for me to sell my house now as my fixed-rate mortgage expires in July 2019. My initial plan was to go with a new fixed-rate mortgage for two years (starting July 2019) whilst I retrain in a new career and keep the property let out for the duration. However, I have recently read about the changes to the capital gains tax system which may mean that I could end up paying a large sum of tax when I come to sell my house. So I’m wondering if I should sell my house now to avoid this. I am not attracted to the idea of purchasing property in the area where I’ll be retraining and so if I were to sell I would not be looking to buy another property for at least two years.</p><p>I bought my current house in December 2009 for £215,000. I lived in it until April 2016 when I moved out and it has been let since. Around this time the house next door sold for £296,000. I have had a rough valuation by an estate agent who said that my property should fetch around £330,000 in the current market. Two houses very similar to mine have been sold within a week of going on the market so hopefully I should be able to sell quite quickly if I do decide to sell. My outstanding mortgage is around £87,000 and I receive £1,200 a month rent (before tax).<br><strong>LM</strong></p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/apr/29/im-confused-about-renting-and-changes-to-capital-gains-tax">Continue reading...</a>

I'm confused about renting and changes to capital gains tax

Apr 29, 2019 7:00

I’m not sure whether now would be a good time to sell the house I’ve been renting out

Q I’m confused about the proposed changes in the capital gains tax system for people selling their home when it has been rented out. I’m unsure if it would be wise for me to sell my house now as my fixed-rate mortgage expires in July 2019. My initial plan was to go with a new fixed-rate mortgage for two years (starting July 2019) whilst I retrain in a new career and keep the property let out for the duration. However, I have recently read about the changes to the capital gains tax system which may mean that I could end up paying a large sum of tax when I come to sell my house. So I’m wondering if I should sell my house now to avoid this. I am not attracted to the idea of purchasing property in the area where I’ll be retraining and so if I were to sell I would not be looking to buy another property for at least two years.

I bought my current house in December 2009 for £215,000. I lived in it until April 2016 when I moved out and it has been let since. Around this time the house next door sold for £296,000. I have had a rough valuation by an estate agent who said that my property should fetch around £330,000 in the current market. Two houses very similar to mine have been sold within a week of going on the market so hopefully I should be able to sell quite quickly if I do decide to sell. My outstanding mortgage is around £87,000 and I receive £1,200 a month rent (before tax).
LM

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<p>I could end up losing 25% of it or having to leave my savings there until after I retire</p><p><strong>Q</strong> I’m single, earn around £20,000 a year at age 34 I have a pension pot which is currently worth £15,000. I want to save for my retirement and eventually buy a house. </p><p>I recently opened a lifetime Isa, as I know they can help me to buy a house although so far I’ve only put in £100.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/apr/22/if-i-inherit-my-mums-house-will-i-be-able-to-use-my-lifetime-isa">Continue reading...</a>

If I inherit my mum's house will I be able to use my lifetime Isa?

Apr 22, 2019 7:00

I could end up losing 25% of it or having to leave my savings there until after I retire

Q I’m single, earn around £20,000 a year at age 34 I have a pension pot which is currently worth £15,000. I want to save for my retirement and eventually buy a house.

I recently opened a lifetime Isa, as I know they can help me to buy a house although so far I’ve only put in £100.

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<p>I’m making a cash contribution to the purchase and paying half the mortgage</p><p><strong>Q</strong> My boyfriend is buying a house and I plan to make a cash contribution towards its purchase. The mortgage will be solely in his name as I already own another property (which I plan to keep and rent). The value of the property is £487,000 so I plan to contribute £48,700 plus £1,435 stamp duty in order to own a 10% share of the property. I will then be paying half of the mortgage with my partner every month. I queried whether this was fair as if we were to split I would only walk away with 10%. He will contributing £50,000, plus the remainder of the stamp duty and fees. He has two children and has been through a divorce and so is trying to protect himself as he has mentioned that I already own a home. It bothers me that this arrangement isn’t the fairest way to work this out. Any advice would be much appreciated.<br><strong>CL</strong></p><p><strong>A</strong> I’m with you on the arrangement not being the fairest, because it isn’t. Paying 10% towards the purchase price and then paying half the mortgage each month should make you entitled to share of more than 10% (because part of the monthly mortgage repayment goes towards paying off the loan, therefore increasing your equity). However, I can also appreciate that going through divorce proceedings may have made your boyfriend a bit once-bitten-twice-shy about jointly-owned property, but if that is the case, perhaps he should avoid joint ownership altogether. And perhaps you should too if you doubt the fairness of it all – not least because such a lack of trust can’t be great for your relationship. This might also make sense from a financial point of view. Because you already own a property which you will not be selling, the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) due on the whole purchase price of the new property would be at the higher rate (ie standard rate plus 3%) so your 10% share of the total SDLT bill would be £2,896 rather than £1,435. The higher rate of SDLT will also apply if your boyfriend’s erstwhile family home has not been sold and he still has an interest in it. However, if any agreement about the family home with his ex-spouse has been recorded in a consent order approved by the court, he will be exempt from paying the higher rate of SDLT.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/apr/15/im-buying-a-house-with-my-boyfriend-is-10-a-fair-share-of-the-equity">Continue reading...</a>

I'm buying a house with my boyfriend – is 10% a fair share of the equity?

Apr 15, 2019 7:00

I’m making a cash contribution to the purchase and paying half the mortgage

Q My boyfriend is buying a house and I plan to make a cash contribution towards its purchase. The mortgage will be solely in his name as I already own another property (which I plan to keep and rent). The value of the property is £487,000 so I plan to contribute £48,700 plus £1,435 stamp duty in order to own a 10% share of the property. I will then be paying half of the mortgage with my partner every month. I queried whether this was fair as if we were to split I would only walk away with 10%. He will contributing £50,000, plus the remainder of the stamp duty and fees. He has two children and has been through a divorce and so is trying to protect himself as he has mentioned that I already own a home. It bothers me that this arrangement isn’t the fairest way to work this out. Any advice would be much appreciated.
CL

A I’m with you on the arrangement not being the fairest, because it isn’t. Paying 10% towards the purchase price and then paying half the mortgage each month should make you entitled to share of more than 10% (because part of the monthly mortgage repayment goes towards paying off the loan, therefore increasing your equity). However, I can also appreciate that going through divorce proceedings may have made your boyfriend a bit once-bitten-twice-shy about jointly-owned property, but if that is the case, perhaps he should avoid joint ownership altogether. And perhaps you should too if you doubt the fairness of it all – not least because such a lack of trust can’t be great for your relationship. This might also make sense from a financial point of view. Because you already own a property which you will not be selling, the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) due on the whole purchase price of the new property would be at the higher rate (ie standard rate plus 3%) so your 10% share of the total SDLT bill would be £2,896 rather than £1,435. The higher rate of SDLT will also apply if your boyfriend’s erstwhile family home has not been sold and he still has an interest in it. However, if any agreement about the family home with his ex-spouse has been recorded in a consent order approved by the court, he will be exempt from paying the higher rate of SDLT.

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<p>Tread in the footsteps of the stars with these properties featured in the likes of Harry Potter and Spaced</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/gallery/2019/may/10/homes-used-as-film-and-tv-locations-in-pictures">Continue reading...</a>

Homes used as film and TV locations – in pictures

May 10, 2019 7:00

Tread in the footsteps of the stars with these properties featured in the likes of Harry Potter and Spaced

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<p>If you like quirkiness or interesting period structures, here are some homes from the Scottish Borders to Bath</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/gallery/2019/may/03/houses-out-of-the-ordinary-in-pictures">Continue reading...</a>

Houses out of the ordinary – in pictures

May 3, 2019 7:00

If you like quirkiness or interesting period structures, here are some homes from the Scottish Borders to Bath

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<p>From a Grade II-listed house in Shropshire to a hunting lodge in London, here are some floral picks</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/gallery/2019/apr/26/blooming-wonders-five-of-the-best-wisteria-clad-homes">Continue reading...</a>

Blooming wonders: five of the best wisteria-clad homes

Apr 26, 2019 7:00

From a Grade II-listed house in Shropshire to a hunting lodge in London, here are some floral picks

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<p>Slightly more affordable than its posh neighbours, and it still has a ‘proper’ high street, nice parks and stout Edwardian pubs</p><p><strong>What’s going for it? </strong>I like a hill. I live on a hill. I get claustrophobic in the vast, mostly hill-free (or hill-lite) stretches of east or west London. I can’t see out. “Always buy on a hill,” an estate agent once told me, “won’t get flooded” – a bit of folk wisdom that, in our benighted times of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/21/uk-weather-country-enjoys-record-breaking-easter-sunday-temperatures" title="">April heatwaves</a>, has an added urgency. It’s borne out in social geography, in the UK at least, where posh Johnnies tend to live on hills, all the better to escape the noxious fumes and hoi polloi. Most of north London’s hills – from Hampstead to Muswell Hill – have long, long been out of bounds for the likes of us. Hornsey, sliding down Lea Valley hillside and touched by Harringay and Wood Green, is still out of bounds, but, I don’t know, maybe on a good day, with the wind behind us, and saving all our pennies from the back of the sofa, we could club together for a roomshare. Its high street is still “proper”, with hardware shops and “continental grocers” alongside the inevitable incoming coffee palaces. There’s a nook of the old village by the parish church, nice parks, stout Edwardian pubs such as the Great Northern Railway Tavern, and, looming above all at the crown of the hill, the crouching bulk of Alexandra Palace. At least the view from the top is free.</p><p><strong>The case against</strong><strong> </strong>Still blooming expensive, just, in the way that London works, not quite as expensive as its fancier neighbours.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/10/lets-move-to-hornsey-north-london">Continue reading...</a>

Let’s move to Hornsey, north London: pricey, yes, but not bad for these parts

May 10, 2019 16:30

Slightly more affordable than its posh neighbours, and it still has a ‘proper’ high street, nice parks and stout Edwardian pubs

What’s going for it? I like a hill. I live on a hill. I get claustrophobic in the vast, mostly hill-free (or hill-lite) stretches of east or west London. I can’t see out. “Always buy on a hill,” an estate agent once told me, “won’t get flooded” – a bit of folk wisdom that, in our benighted times of April heatwaves, has an added urgency. It’s borne out in social geography, in the UK at least, where posh Johnnies tend to live on hills, all the better to escape the noxious fumes and hoi polloi. Most of north London’s hills – from Hampstead to Muswell Hill – have long, long been out of bounds for the likes of us. Hornsey, sliding down Lea Valley hillside and touched by Harringay and Wood Green, is still out of bounds, but, I don’t know, maybe on a good day, with the wind behind us, and saving all our pennies from the back of the sofa, we could club together for a roomshare. Its high street is still “proper”, with hardware shops and “continental grocers” alongside the inevitable incoming coffee palaces. There’s a nook of the old village by the parish church, nice parks, stout Edwardian pubs such as the Great Northern Railway Tavern, and, looming above all at the crown of the hill, the crouching bulk of Alexandra Palace. At least the view from the top is free.

The case against Still blooming expensive, just, in the way that London works, not quite as expensive as its fancier neighbours.

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<p>It has seen battles aplenty and the scars are there, if you care to look</p><p><strong>What’s going for it?</strong> With its red-brick Georgian townhouses, porticoed coaching inns, award-winning bookshop and black-and-white half-timbered cottages, Oswestry looks harmless, as pretty as a picture, as if it had peeled itself off the lid of a box of fudge fancies. Don’t be fooled. We are in border country here, and any border country hides a sizable cupboard of skeletons in its past. Oswestry has seen battles aplenty, horrifying dismemberments (don’t even <em>think</em> of Googling the tale of poor Oswald of Northumbria’s arm), pillaging, and regular burnings to the ground. It’s a wonder there’s anything left of the place and its people. The scars are there, if you care to look, deeply incised in the landscape beneath the undergrowth, like the mammoth <a href="https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/old-oswestry-hillfort/history/" title="">iron-age fort of Old Oswestry</a>, looming at the city limits (and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/27/old-oswestry-hill-fort-housing-development" title="">home to Guinevere</a> – yes, <em>that</em> Guinevere), and <a href="https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/offas-dyke-path" title="">Offa’s Dyke</a>, a few minutes further. This is a place that has been fought over for millennia. It’s happy in its slumber these days. Don’t mention the wars. Let sleeping dogs lie.</p><p><strong>The case against</strong> It’s a trek away from anywhere (but a lovely trek), and there’s no train station in town (though there is one nearby, at Gobowen). It suffers, like so many places, from a spot of town-centre blues, although there are plans afoot for revitalisation. Culture-wise, it could do with some rocket fuel; the less easily entertained and those with metropolitan habits should look elsewhere.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/03/lets-move-to-oswestry-shropshire">Continue reading...</a>

Let’s move to Oswestry, Shropshire: chocolate-box pretty with skeletons in its past

May 3, 2019 16:30

It has seen battles aplenty and the scars are there, if you care to look

What’s going for it? With its red-brick Georgian townhouses, porticoed coaching inns, award-winning bookshop and black-and-white half-timbered cottages, Oswestry looks harmless, as pretty as a picture, as if it had peeled itself off the lid of a box of fudge fancies. Don’t be fooled. We are in border country here, and any border country hides a sizable cupboard of skeletons in its past. Oswestry has seen battles aplenty, horrifying dismemberments (don’t even think of Googling the tale of poor Oswald of Northumbria’s arm), pillaging, and regular burnings to the ground. It’s a wonder there’s anything left of the place and its people. The scars are there, if you care to look, deeply incised in the landscape beneath the undergrowth, like the mammoth iron-age fort of Old Oswestry, looming at the city limits (and home to Guinevere – yes, that Guinevere), and Offa’s Dyke, a few minutes further. This is a place that has been fought over for millennia. It’s happy in its slumber these days. Don’t mention the wars. Let sleeping dogs lie.

The case against It’s a trek away from anywhere (but a lovely trek), and there’s no train station in town (though there is one nearby, at Gobowen). It suffers, like so many places, from a spot of town-centre blues, although there are plans afoot for revitalisation. Culture-wise, it could do with some rocket fuel; the less easily entertained and those with metropolitan habits should look elsewhere.

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<p>There’s a flawless cityscape, damn fine tearooms and even an ancient hornblower</p><p><strong>What’s going for it?</strong> One can snigger at local customs – you know, the Ye Olde Knee-Painting Ceremony of Nuneaton, that kind of thing. But I think there’s something just fabulous about <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/29/ripon-invites-applications-for-ancient-role-of-hornblower" title="">Ripon’s ancient hornblower</a>, who blows his horn (stop sniggering at the back) at the four corners of the obelisk in the Market Square, every night at 9pm. First of all, someone still bothers to blow a horn four times <em>every night</em>, even when it’s throwing it down, even when there’s something good on the telly. Second, I do love a custom that takes us back to a distant past, when much of the country was ruled by Vikings and Danes. Alfred the Great is said to have given the horn to the people of Ripon to be blown for reassurance that no pesky Vikings were lurking, poised to pillage. These days the horn has <a href="https://the-ripon-hornblower.webs.com/" title="">its own website</a>, YouTube videos and everything. It says much about this handsome, independent city of ancient history, modern twists, a flawless cityscape and damn fine tearooms. All seems right in the world here under the bunting on Kirkgate, which, considering all is very much not right in the world, is quite an achievement. One thing’s for sure: when the hornblower stops blowing, the end is nigh.</p><p><strong>The case against</strong> Some might find it a bit dull. There’s local culture aplenty, but not enough to keep the cool cats among you satisfied. Where do you think this is, Halifax?</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/apr/26/lets-move-to-ripon-north-yorkshire">Continue reading...</a>

Let’s move to Ripon, North Yorkshire: where all seems right in the world

Apr 26, 2019 16:30

There’s a flawless cityscape, damn fine tearooms and even an ancient hornblower

What’s going for it? One can snigger at local customs – you know, the Ye Olde Knee-Painting Ceremony of Nuneaton, that kind of thing. But I think there’s something just fabulous about Ripon’s ancient hornblower, who blows his horn (stop sniggering at the back) at the four corners of the obelisk in the Market Square, every night at 9pm. First of all, someone still bothers to blow a horn four times every night, even when it’s throwing it down, even when there’s something good on the telly. Second, I do love a custom that takes us back to a distant past, when much of the country was ruled by Vikings and Danes. Alfred the Great is said to have given the horn to the people of Ripon to be blown for reassurance that no pesky Vikings were lurking, poised to pillage. These days the horn has its own website, YouTube videos and everything. It says much about this handsome, independent city of ancient history, modern twists, a flawless cityscape and damn fine tearooms. All seems right in the world here under the bunting on Kirkgate, which, considering all is very much not right in the world, is quite an achievement. One thing’s for sure: when the hornblower stops blowing, the end is nigh.

The case against Some might find it a bit dull. There’s local culture aplenty, but not enough to keep the cool cats among you satisfied. Where do you think this is, Halifax?

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<p>‘I can imagine a rather fabulous Nordic-noir inspired TV detective series being set there’</p><p><strong>What’s going for it?</strong> It’s an odd place, Ely. For a start they have an annual eel-throwing competition on <a href="http://elyeelfestival.co.uk/eelday/eel-day" title="">Eel Day</a>. (That’s toy eels, animal lovers.) But that makes it all the weirder. I can imagine a rather fabulous Nordic-noir-inspired TV detective series being set there, under the flat, relentless Fen skies – possibly set in the 15th-century (Ely’s heyday); possibly starring Paddy Considine as a monk detective, with issues of course. (You can have that idea for free, scriptwriters.) It’s the city’s uncanny combination of isolation and exposure, brought on by its geography and history: all by itself high up on an island of clay, surrounded by marshes and miasmas. What an astonishing spot it must have been in medieval times, with its fantastic cathedral newly completed, the Ship of the Fens, and hooded clergy dominating this isolated, lonely place of gothic arches and misericords, eel traders and clay potters. Executive estates may now cling to the island, tour buses come to gawp at the cathedral, and Cambridge is only 15 minutes away on the train, but its intense past seems seeped into the stones, haunting the place centuries on.</p><p><strong>The case against</strong> Its unique sense of place won’t be for everyone. It remains, despite good train links, decent local culture and community, relatively alone, quiet and small.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/apr/19/lets-move-ely-cambridgeshire">Continue reading...</a>

Let’s move to Ely, Cambridgeshire: still haunted by its past

Apr 19, 2019 16:30

‘I can imagine a rather fabulous Nordic-noir inspired TV detective series being set there’

What’s going for it? It’s an odd place, Ely. For a start they have an annual eel-throwing competition on Eel Day. (That’s toy eels, animal lovers.) But that makes it all the weirder. I can imagine a rather fabulous Nordic-noir-inspired TV detective series being set there, under the flat, relentless Fen skies – possibly set in the 15th-century (Ely’s heyday); possibly starring Paddy Considine as a monk detective, with issues of course. (You can have that idea for free, scriptwriters.) It’s the city’s uncanny combination of isolation and exposure, brought on by its geography and history: all by itself high up on an island of clay, surrounded by marshes and miasmas. What an astonishing spot it must have been in medieval times, with its fantastic cathedral newly completed, the Ship of the Fens, and hooded clergy dominating this isolated, lonely place of gothic arches and misericords, eel traders and clay potters. Executive estates may now cling to the island, tour buses come to gawp at the cathedral, and Cambridge is only 15 minutes away on the train, but its intense past seems seeped into the stones, haunting the place centuries on.

The case against Its unique sense of place won’t be for everyone. It remains, despite good train links, decent local culture and community, relatively alone, quiet and small.

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<p>From embracing buttercups to candy-coloured planting, these are the highlights of this year’s show</p><p>Green was the dominant theme at Chelsea, literally and metaphorically. Main Avenue, home to the major show gardens, was awash with broad-leaved trees among a calming palette of green, pale yellow and white flowers, including swathes of cow parsley, euphorbias and meadowsweet. <a href="https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/Gardens/2019/the-m-g-garden" title="">Andy Sturgeon’s M&amp;G garden </a><a href="https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/Gardens/2019/the-m-g-garden" title="">was a masterclass</a> in the green sanctuary: echo the look in your own garden by underplanting a hornbeam, elder or field maple with the green-flowered <em>Mathiasella bupleuroides</em>, marsh spurge (<em>Euphorbia palustris</em>), Californian poppy ‘Ivory Castle’ and airy grass <em>Melica altissima</em> ‘Alba’. For shadier spots, try an angelica (<em>A</em><em>. archangelica</em>) underplanted with pachysandra and rodgersias.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/may/22/chelsea-flower-show-2019-top-garden-trends">Continue reading...</a>

Chelsea flower show 2019: this year's top garden trends

May 22, 2019 10:59

From embracing buttercups to candy-coloured planting, these are the highlights of this year’s show

Green was the dominant theme at Chelsea, literally and metaphorically. Main Avenue, home to the major show gardens, was awash with broad-leaved trees among a calming palette of green, pale yellow and white flowers, including swathes of cow parsley, euphorbias and meadowsweet. Andy Sturgeon’s M&G garden was a masterclass in the green sanctuary: echo the look in your own garden by underplanting a hornbeam, elder or field maple with the green-flowered Mathiasella bupleuroides, marsh spurge (Euphorbia palustris), Californian poppy ‘Ivory Castle’ and airy grass Melica altissima ‘Alba’. For shadier spots, try an angelica (A. archangelica) underplanted with pachysandra and rodgersias.

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<p>Flowers get all the attention, but don’t overlook the dramatic effect that decorative bark brings to a garden<br></p><p>When it comes to picking out trees for small gardens, there are several attributes that jostle for top place on people’s wish lists: spring blossom, autumn colour and winter wildlife value to name just three. However, there is one spectacular feature guaranteed to delight the senses all year round that somehow rarely gets a mention, the dazzling colour and reach-out-and-grab-it texture of ornamental bark. With smart species choice and the right design technique, I believe bark can rival any other botanical feature for real wow factor, so here’s a beginner’s guide to doing just that.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/may/19/james-wong-ornamental-bark">Continue reading...</a>

Ornamentally barking up the right tree | James Wong

May 19, 2019 11:00

Flowers get all the attention, but don’t overlook the dramatic effect that decorative bark brings to a garden

When it comes to picking out trees for small gardens, there are several attributes that jostle for top place on people’s wish lists: spring blossom, autumn colour and winter wildlife value to name just three. However, there is one spectacular feature guaranteed to delight the senses all year round that somehow rarely gets a mention, the dazzling colour and reach-out-and-grab-it texture of ornamental bark. With smart species choice and the right design technique, I believe bark can rival any other botanical feature for real wow factor, so here’s a beginner’s guide to doing just that.

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3D printed soil, urban farming and artificial intelligence will all make an appearance at this year’s event<p>Weed is not a word often associated with the immaculate gardens of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/chelseaflowershow" title="">Chelsea flower show</a>. But with hydroponics and urban farming making grand appearances at this year’s event, it will be on a lot of visitors’ lips.</p><p>“With the right lights you can grow whatever you like, even if you’re inside a dark, north-facing flat in London or Birmingham,” said <a href="https://bespokeoutdoorspaces.co.uk/" title="">Jody Lidgard</a>, one of Chelsea’s most decorated designers. “It’s almost like marijuana,” he chuckled. “It’s funny, but it’s true. They’ve been leading the way.”</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/may/19/chelsea-flower-show-hydroponics-science-crops-food-design-growing">Continue reading...</a>

Hi-tech gardens bloom at London’s Chelsea Flower Show

May 19, 2019 9:59

3D printed soil, urban farming and artificial intelligence will all make an appearance at this year’s event

Weed is not a word often associated with the immaculate gardens of the Chelsea flower show. But with hydroponics and urban farming making grand appearances at this year’s event, it will be on a lot of visitors’ lips.

“With the right lights you can grow whatever you like, even if you’re inside a dark, north-facing flat in London or Birmingham,” said Jody Lidgard, one of Chelsea’s most decorated designers. “It’s almost like marijuana,” he chuckled. “It’s funny, but it’s true. They’ve been leading the way.”

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<p>It’s time to grill sausages and talk about hopes and plans for the plot</p><p>Spring barbecue, the tribal gathering. The collecting together of the allotment community after winter. Much strimming and sweeping of sheds and paths, cutting back overgrown spillage, sorting through the compost bays. With sausages, spicy chicken, vegetarian options.</p><p>It is the busiest day of the year so far. Tables are laid with an oilskin cloth. Chairs are cleaned, early summer flowers gathered for a jug: borage, dandelion, bluebells and forget-me-nots. There is a carpet of them, the beauty of benign neglect from a neighbour no longer with us. This was a favourite plot, a couple of fruit trees, a few cardoons, a quiet sitting space against a warming wall. It is more productive now, feeding a family, vines and yellow marigolds, a different beauty.</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/may/19/good-gardening-and-good-food-eating-together-on-the-allotment">Continue reading...</a>

Good gardening is also about good eating | Allan Jenkins

May 19, 2019 6:00

It’s time to grill sausages and talk about hopes and plans for the plot

Spring barbecue, the tribal gathering. The collecting together of the allotment community after winter. Much strimming and sweeping of sheds and paths, cutting back overgrown spillage, sorting through the compost bays. With sausages, spicy chicken, vegetarian options.

It is the busiest day of the year so far. Tables are laid with an oilskin cloth. Chairs are cleaned, early summer flowers gathered for a jug: borage, dandelion, bluebells and forget-me-nots. There is a carpet of them, the beauty of benign neglect from a neighbour no longer with us. This was a favourite plot, a couple of fruit trees, a few cardoons, a quiet sitting space against a warming wall. It is more productive now, feeding a family, vines and yellow marigolds, a different beauty.

Continue reading...

You can navigate your way through what can be a long and complex process by following these steps<p>Buying a home can be a long and complex process, but typically it involves going through these steps:</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/24/factsheet-buying-home-property">Continue reading...</a>

Factsheet: Buying a home

Nov 24, 2014 14:10

You can navigate your way through what can be a long and complex process by following these steps

Buying a home can be a long and complex process, but typically it involves going through these steps:

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'How to' guides for a wide variety of personal finance issues including: claiming benefits, taking out a loan, interest rates, buying a house, insurance, pensions, savings and tax<p><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/money/2007/oct/25/state.pensions">State pensions</a><br><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/money/2008/sep/11/taxcredits.familyfinance">Tax credits</a></p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/nov/20/money-factsheets-benefits-loans-interest-rates-buying-house-insurance-pensions-savings">Continue reading...</a>

Money factsheets: How to organise your finances

Nov 20, 2013 12:35

'How to' guides for a wide variety of personal finance issues including: claiming benefits, taking out a loan, interest rates, buying a house, insurance, pensions, savings and tax

State pensions
Tax credits

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