THE NUMBER OF households in Britain is expected to rise by almost a quarter over the next 20 years, the government said yesterday, an increase which is likely to put further strain on the country's limited supply of housing, reports The Guardian .
According to the paper, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) raised projections made in 2002 by about 10% and said the main driver would be an increased number of people living on their own due to divorce or living longer at home in old age once a spouse had died.
It said the number of households would rise from 20.9m in 2003 to 25.7m by 2026, an annual increase of 209,000, of which 150,000 would be due to a higher number of single people living alone. Of that 150,000 rise, almost all will be among the over 35s and a third among the over 65s.
About 60% of the expected rise will occur in London, the south-east, the south-west and the east of England. The slowest growing regions are likely to be the north-east (11%), the north-west (18%), and Yorkshire and the Humber (19%), compared with the national average of 23%.
The Home Builders' Federation (HBF) expressed alarm at the figures, saying Britain's restrictive planning regime had caused annual new house-building to fall by 50% over the past 30 years.
The HBF said that if house-building remained at 2005 levels, when about 160,000 dwellings were built, there would be a shortage of 50,000 homes across England by 2026.
THE SON OF A Labour peer has lashed out at a "ridiculous" pension policy introduced by the Government which he blames for pushing a car components manufacturer with 450 employees in the West Midlands and Hull into bankruptcy, reports The Daily Telegraph.
The Armstrong Group, which is owned by steel firm Caparo, was forced to call in the receivers after failing to reach an affordable settlement with trustees to cover its £36m pension fund deficit.
The "substantial funds" available to the pension scheme under the government's Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) should Armstrong become bankrupt made negotiations difficult, according to Angad Paul, chief executive of Caparo.
Paul, son of multi-millionaire Labour peer Lord Paul of Marylebone, told the paper: "This is a bizarre world when a pension fund can only access government subsidy by closing down a successful firm and damaging its suppliers. The FAS was to be available to schemes where companies were already insolvent, not as a reason to push companies into bankruptcy to gain the FAS benefit. "
The Department for Work and Pensions told The Daily Telegraph employers could not ignore their "moral responsibility" to support their pension schemes, and the paper quotes a spokesman as saying: "It is certainly not the Government's intention to force companies into insolvency so members benefit from the FAS. We expect solvent employers to stand by their pension promise."
The defined benefits pension scheme at the centre of the dispute was wound up in 2002 prior to the introduction of the Pension Protection Fund which replaced the FAS. As a result, Armstrong had to settle the total £36m deficit so the fund's 3,000 members receive all their pension entitlements. Since then, Armstrong and the trustees have failed to agree on how to settle the deficit.
STAMP PRICES are to rise further to pay for Royal Mail’s pension black hole after the postal regulator bowed to last-minute pressure from the group, reports The Times.
Postcomm said yesterday that Royal Mail could add an extra penny to stamp prices to help with an expected ballooning in its deficit to £6bn.
Previously, the regulator had set out caps on price increases, which it had said were final. The latest move means the price of a first class stamp could rise from 30p to 37p within four years. Next month it will increase to 32p in the first phase of increases if Royal Mail accepts the pricing programme.
The postal group is expected to decide in the next few days whether it will agree to the scheme or force an inquiry by the Competition Commission.
In common with many large organisations, Royal Mail has seen its pension fund hit by the downturn in the stock market. Some 70% of the fund’s assets of £17bn is invested in equities.
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