Monthly Archives:November 2017

Few residential-school survivors succeed with Complete income-loss claims

30 Nov 17
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The settlement agreement signed a decade ago with the survivors of Indian residential schools provided compensation to former students who lost jobs because of the trauma they endured as children. But fewer than 20 individuals have successfully claimed that cash.

As the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) made to compensate individuals who survived physical, sexual or psychological abuse in the schools winds down, some people question whether individuals who had been scarred by their experiences in the church-run associations are treated fairly.

Former pupils making an income-loss claim under the IAP were encouraged to choose one of two tracks. The consequential loss of chance (CLO) track required no supporting documents to establish injuries. The actual revenue loss (AIL) track entailed more invasive questioning and a greater burden of proof that a survivor’s inability to retain employment could be attributed to abuse in the schools.

A thriving AIL claim could add up to $250,000 to the basic compensation payout, which averaged $91,713.

Amounts given this week to The Globe and Mail from the adjudication secretariat of the IAP show only 18 of the more than 38,000 people who say they were mistreated at the colleges have successfully maintained for real revenue loss.

Most survivors went directly to attorneys to make their claims, but some used form-filling firms which were started to help survivors with the reparation procedure. A Winnipeg man whose family ran this type of company states the amount of successful AIL asserts was so small because it was easier for attorneys and more economical for the government when Australians didn’t press for the larger sum.

“The lawyers were the ones who benefited over the survivors” by opting to get a faster but smaller claim, William Aitken said.

In addition, he says the IAP secretariat told his company it was submitting a lot of claims for loss of revenue.

Phil Fontaine, the former leader of the Assembly of First Nations who had been instrumental in obtaining the settlement agreement, stated he doesn’t understand why obstacles were put in the way of survivors who wanted to claim for lost income.

“It is pretty obvious that this was one of the results of abuse and we expected that there are a substantial number of those applying under the IAP” for real revenue loss, Mr. Fontaine said in an interview.

David Paterson, a Vancouver lawyer who sat on the subcommittee of the IAP oversight committee that decided what was intended from the income-loss supply of this settlement agreement, stated “the adjudicators have interpreted that provision very, very narrowly.”

Kathleen Mahoney, a law professor at the University of Calgary who helped draft the settlement, and it has worked for survivors making claims, said applying to the AIL track “was quite a steep hill to climb.”

The survivors would need to show that a connection between their inability to hold a job and the misuse was likely, not just plausible, and the adjudicators could use the same standards of evidence for a court of law, Prof. Mahoney said. The claimants also would need to demonstrate a resurfacing of the injury disrupted a proven pattern of earnings.

Given that the income of residential-school survivors will not be high, “your real loss of earnings, if you could go through all those hoops, may not be enough to justify all of the effort that it is going to take and the delay that is likely to lead to them getting their reward,” Prof. Mahoney said.

Mr. Aitken said many survivors were convinced not to apply for reduction of revenue.

The form-filling firm he ran with his father, Allan, helped survivors file their reimbursement claims and subsequently passed the claims on to attorneys for the adjudication procedure.

Whenever a college survivor said they lost income because of injury, the Aitkens filed a claim for real revenue loss. They would compile the files required and allow the adjudicators determine whether the claims were fair.

But officials in the IAP secretariat “really lined up a telephone call [in July, 2009,] together with my dad and one of the attorneys that we were working with in the time and they said it was about the number of claims that we were filing with real revenue reduction,” Mr. Aitken said. “And they efficiently requested us to stop and change it over to lack of chance. They said it would slow down the process.”

Shortly after that conversation, the attorneys working with the Aitkens switched their promises from real revenue loss to loss of chance, Mr. Aitken said. The files provided by the IAP reveal that 48 of the 91 claims for AIL in 2009 were removed and one was successful.

Dan Shapiro, the chief adjudicator of the IAP, chose not to be interviewed for this story, but issued a statement saying his secretariat hasn’t discouraged claims for real revenue loss. Rather, he explained, the secretariat has provided advice to claimants to make sure that, if they go that route, they are aided by experienced personal-injury attorneys and understand the legal and psychological risks.

Mr. Aitken said he considers attorneys or AIP adjudicators persuaded many survivors to not document, or to leave, claims for real revenue loss and take less reimbursement than they deserved. The mindset of the IAP and the authorities toward the claims, Mr. Aitken said, was, “Let us bang out these like widgets and use a short-form choice.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Ottawa not to blame for newspaper closings: Joly

29 Nov 17
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One day after Torstar Corp. and Postmedia Network Canada Corp. announced a deal to exchange 41 newspapers – closing the majority of them and wiping out 291 full-time and part-time jobs – federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly shot back at suggestions that the closings were due to the government’s decision not to offer additional funding for news outlets as part of its new cultural policy.

Ms. Joly told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday that the two companies had made “cynical business decisions” to blame others for their financial problems, and continued to present the Canada Periodical Fund, which provides $75-million a year to magazines and non-daily newspapers, as an adequate vehicle to promote community media organizations. She has promised to modernize the program without providing clear details on her government’s intentions.

“There are many media companies that have been able to make a smooth transition and have been able to innovate and to be profitable,” she said. “It’s up to these [two] companies to explain what they will do to develop their new business model. … It’s not up to the government to explain the business decisions that were made by these companies.”

The closings are a sweeping change to regional news coverage mostly in Ontario, leaving three cities suddenly without a daily newspaper and many more markets with far fewer weekly community papers. The papers slated for closing have a combined total circulation of nearly three million, accounting for both paid and free papers, according to data from News Media Canada. But they are also part of a larger consolidation in ownership of local news media.

“We are trying to pick some areas where we can sustain and stabilize ourselves,” Postmedia president and chief operating officer Andrew MacLeod said. “The [alternative] is, you are spread too far and too thin.”

Since 2008, 234 local news outlets have closed including those announced on Monday, according to April Lindgren, a journalism professor at Ryerson University who runs the Local News Research Project. Of those, roughly 70 per cent were community papers that published less than five times per week, in at least 150 communities across the country.

The squeeze on the market is caused by advertising spending that has been sucked away from print ads and into the digital realm. The majority of that new digital spending is going to Google and Facebook, meaning that even media outlets making the transition to digital readership are struggling to make up the difference. The strategy at play when many of these local news closings take place is to reduce competition among struggling outlets, to theoretically corner more of the readers in a given region and offer a more attractive product to advertisers.

That strategy is evident in the Postmedia and Torstar deal. The Ottawa region is losing nine free weekly papers covering areas such as Nepean and Barrhaven, Kanata and Stittsville. Without that competition, Postmedia is hoping to be able to draw those readers – and the advertising revenues that follow them – to the Ottawa Citizen or the Ottawa Sun. Torstar is closing a number of free weeklies that could benefit papers owned by its Metroland Media subsidiary in Bradford West Gwillimbury, Innisfil and Collingwood. Metroland’s free weekly Niagara This Week no longer competes with similar products in Fort Erie, Pelham, Thorold and Port Colborne. Its free dailies also could benefit if readers of the now-defunct 24 Hours in Toronto and Vancouver migrate to the Metro papers in those markets.

Under Canadian law, companies are not allowed to engage in anti-competitive behaviour, which would include agreements not to compete in a certain market or to restrict supply of a product. The closings were not part of any discussions related to the newspaper swap, Postmedia’s Mr. MacLeod said. “We didn’t know what their plans were, and they didn’t know the same for us,” he said.

Some of the closings eliminate news outlets without a close equivalent: Smaller communities Cobourg and Orillia have free weeklies but are each left without a daily newspaper. The Orillia Packet & Times had been published since 1870, daily since 1953. The closest daily newspaper for both communities is The Peterborough Examiner. Barrie – a census metropolitan area with a population of nearly 200,000 – lost its daily paper, which was founded in 1864. Readers there could turn to the Toronto Star for a daily paper, without the same local coverage.

“This is a newspaper that was 153 years old. There is other [news] coverage, but the loss of fact-checked, daily coverage is a big loss to the community,” Barrie mayor Jeff Lehman said.

The city is still served by online news startup Village Media, the weekly Barrie Advance and local radio stations, he added, but said he is concerned about diminished resources. “The really in-depth investigative journalism that goes on at a community level, looking into the stories behind the stories and surfacing issues … was championed and regularly upheld by the [Barrie] Examiner.”

The closing of community newspapers continued to reverberate in the halls of Parliament Hill on Tuesday, as many MPs expressed their concerns over the state of local news in their ridings.

“If we needed to hear alarm bells to wake up to the crisis in the media industry, we heard them yesterday,” NDP MP Pierre Nantel said in the House on Tuesday.

In a struggling media industry, many local news outlets face years of staffing cuts, operating on a shoestring by the time they shut their doors for good.

“But even though many of these publications have been reduced to shadows of their former selves, they are still often the largest or the only newsroom in those communities,” Prof. Lindgren said. “… Even with diminished newsrooms, newspapers cover stories that nobody else covers.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

So how much do green taxes add to your energy bills? 

28 Nov 17
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  • We show where every penny of the average £1,135 annual dual fuel bill goes
  • The majority of your bill, some 38%, is made up of wholesale costs
  • Maintaining the vast supply networks takes up roughly 26% of your bill
  • Green and social taxes to prop up renewable schemes add another £90 

Every time energy firms hike prices they blame punitive green taxes imposed by the Government. 

Just last week British Gas said the levies will add £200 to your bill by next year. 

Here, we use official data from energy watchdog Ofgem to show exactly where every penny of the average £1,135 annual dual fuel bill goes…

We used official data from energy watchdog Ofgem to show exactly where every penny of the average £1,135 annual dual fuel bill goes

We used official data from energy watchdog Ofgem to show exactly where every penny of the average £1,135 annual dual fuel bill goes

Buying fuel: £431

The majority of your bill, some 38 per cent, is made up of wholesale costs. This is how much it costs suppliers to buy energy, which they then sell on to you.

The price suppliers pay fluctuates widely depending on issues such as demand, supply, politics and global events.

But this is not always perfectly reflected in household bills because big companies tend to buy a lot of the energy they need well in advance.

 So if you are on a standard tariff, for example, the fuel running into your home now might have been bought at any point up to about three years ago.

This is why when wholesale prices plummet, we do not always see an immediate reduction in our bills.

Some 38 per cent of your bill is made up of wholesale costs. This is how much it costs suppliers to buy energy, which they then sell on to you

Some 38 per cent of your bill is made up of wholesale costs. This is how much it costs suppliers to buy energy, which they then sell on to you

Many smaller suppliers don’t have the ready funds to buy energy so far in advance and so tend to pass on changes to wholesale prices to customers more quickly.

Until 2011, just over half of your bill went towards covering the cost of the fuel.

But as other costs faced by suppliers have risen, the proportion of the bill spent on actual fuel you use has now fallen to 38 per cent.

NETWORK COSTS: £295

Energy companies are responsible for maintaining the vast network of wires and pipes that carry energy around the country and into our homes.

This is expensive, taking up roughly 26 per cent of your bill, with new pipes, cables and electricity pylons regularly installed. So firms pass on these costs to customers.

To keep customer bills down, energy regulator Ofgem limits how much the transmission and distribution companies, which run the network, can charge energy firms for this maintenance. 

It does this partly by restricting how much profit they can make. However, the regulator came under fire in September for allowing companies including National Grid to pocket a 39  per cent profit margin.

grid: Maintaining the vast network of wires and pipes that carry energy around the country and into our homes takes up roughly 26% of your bill

grid: Maintaining the vast network of wires and pipes that carry energy around the country and into our homes takes up roughly 26% of your bill

Mark Todd, of energy switching company Energy Helpline, says: ‘Network costs have been on the rise for years and have gone under the radar. They will soon make up as much of your bill as paying for the raw materials.

‘Suppliers are making a lot of money by charging for something that is already built and simply needs to be maintained.’

GREEN AND SOCIAL TAXES: £90

Energy companies are under huge pressure from the Government to use more power from cleaner, greener sources to combat climate change.

Firms say the costs associated with this, about 8 per cent of your bill, are a major reason for rising household expenditure. Generating energy from renewable sources, such as wind turbines or solar panels, is up to three times more expensive than if they used coal-fired power stations.

Mr Todd says: ‘For example, it costs £40 to keep 1,000 light bulbs lit for an hour using fossil fuels. 

To achieve the same result with an onshore wind turbine is £80; a nuclear power plant is £92.50 and an offshore wind turbine is £120.’

Firms have social obligations and are required to help vulnerable customers with energy saving measures such as free or cheap loft insulation, double-glazing and new boilers. And they provide some low income households with discounts on bills.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), set up by the Government to offer independent advice, estimates that these schemes would add £140 to an annual household bill, rising to £174 by 2020 and £205 by 2030.

Generating energy from renewable sources, such as wind turbines or solar panels, is up to three times more expensive than if they used coal-fired power stations

Generating energy from renewable sources, such as wind turbines or solar panels, is up to three times more expensive than if they used coal-fired power stations

But last week Iain Conn, the boss of British Gas parent company, Centrica, claimed so-called green taxes will add £200 to each household bill by next year.

The Government’s business and energy department says it does not recognise this £200 figure. It points to research by the regulator, Ofgem, which puts the cost at £90 a year. 

And the Treasury said in last week’s Budget that no new green levies will be added to household bills until at least 2025.

RUNNING COSTS AND METERS: £193

This section of your bill, up to 17 per cent, covers the costs suppliers incur in running their own business — marketing, sales, staffing, billing and metering costs, for example.

The cost of the smart meter roll-out is also included in this part of your bill. Under instruction from the Government, every UK household must be offered a smart meter by 2020.

The meters automatically send readings to your energy supplier and let you monitor power use. 

It’s hoped they will put an end to estimated bills and encourage households to cut consumption. But it is expected to cost the industry more than £11 billion and push up bills initially.

PROFIT MARGIN: £57

The profit margin, 5 per cent, is how much your energy company makes before interest, tax and debt repayments are deducted.

Many suppliers make profits in other areas too. For instance, British Gas’s parent company Centrica owns Morecambe Bay gas fields. It extracts gas from the ground, and effectively sells this to itself and to other providers. The profit made is not included in the company’s pre-tax margin.

VAT: £57

Just like with most bills, you have to pay tax on the total cost. On your annual household energy bill, VAT comes to about 4.76 per cent.

OTHER COSTS: £12

A small portion of your bill, 1 per cent, covers a range of behind-the-scenes work involved in buying and selling energy on the wholesale markets and transmitting data between smart meters and providers. 

The commission that price comparison websites charge suppliers to advertise their deals online are also passed onto customers.

s.smyth@dailymail.co.u

 





Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

Green party’s Hannah Bell wins provincial by-election in P.E.I.

28 Nov 17
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Voters in Prince Edward Island delivered Another member of the Green party to the legislature on Monday night.

Hannah Bell captured 35.3 percent of the vote at the Charlottetown-Parkdale by-election, according to unofficial results from Elections PEI.

Liberal Bob Doiron took second place with 28.5 percent, Melissa Hilton of the PC Party came in third with 26.9 percent of the vote and New Democrat Mike Redmond seized 9.3 percent.

Bell — the executive director of the PEI Business Women’s Association — joins Peter Bevan-Baker as the next Green party member at the PEI legislature.

The provincial party leader was chosen in May 2015

The by-election was called to fill a seat left vacant by the resignation of former education minister Doug Currie in October. The Liberal MLA left politics to research other professional opportunities.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Three mull bids to Operate against Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson

27 Nov 17
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Three people are possibly in the race to become the mayoral candidate for the party that hopes to knock off Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver celebration next year.

With 11 weeks to go until civic-election day in a year that promises to bring enormous changes to local politics, the city’s newest councillor, Hector Bremner, the mayoral candidate in the previous election, Kirk LaPointe, and former Conservative MP Wai Young have said they’re exploring the possibility of running for the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral slot.

The party set Feb. 21 as its nomination date for the mayor’s place this week.

“I am determining now what I could supply the city,” stated Mr. LaPointe, a media executive who recently moved to Vancouver from home at the University of British Columbia, a place that sparked some criticism last time he wanted to become mayor of a town he did not even reside in.

Ms. Young explained that she’s had “lots of people approach me to run and it is certainly something I am contemplating.” And Mr. Bremner, who was recently chosen as the city’s 11th councillor at a by-election, stated that “lots of people are asking me to look at it and … as we get closer, I will be making some decisions.”

All three spoke about needing to give voters a choice besides Vision, which they said had failed voters on issues from housing to basic city services to traffic congestion.

George Affleck, a twice-elected councillor who had indicated many times before that he would run to become the mayoral candidate, declared this week he’s leaving politics after this term.

Candidates have until Jan. 22 to sign up new members, although Mr. Bremner, the vice-president of a public-relations business and a former B.C. Liberal political aide, is now in a strong position after having recruited almost 1,000 new members throughout the by-election campaign.

Mr. Robertson and his party are viewed as vulnerable to conquer after being in power for nearly ten years. The Vision offender came in fifth at the October by-election, behind Mr. Bremner and three candidates supported by other progressive parties.

Vision Vancouver, which has raised so much money during its time in office it had been able to employ full-time employees yearlong, which is uncommon for civic celebration, recently laid off two of its three party employees.

At the same time, one of its popular councillors with a strong following among young, environmentally minded people, Andrea Reimer, announced last month that she will not be running again.

Vision Vancouver co-chair Maria Dobrinskaya stated it is not clear yet who may be running.

“We all know we must have a leadership review for our incumbents at all levels,” stated Ms. Dobrinskaya. “That will give us clarity about the amount of spots. But right now, we are waiting for everyone to get through plenty of heavy policy in the autumn.”

She said the party’s staff layoffs are a “restructuring” which is part of “attempting to build in flexibility.”

All of the parties are scrambling to work out how to comply with new campaign-financing rules the state put into effect Oct. 30. That bans corporate and union contributions and limits individual contributions to $1,200.

The new rules will have the maximum impact on the two large parties, Vision and the NPA, which had raised around $2-million apiece during the official campaign period from the 2014 election.

The NPA rushed for individuals to contribute before the deadline for its annual fundraising gala that took place Nov. 22. It had four corporate sponsors listed for this, two of them connected with Beedie Living, the firm that’s been generating controversy for many years with its plans to construct a condominium project in Chinatown.

The rules will restrict the effect of former donors such as Rocky Mountaineer owner Peter Armstrong and programmer Rob Macdonald, who had contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations in previous elections to the NPA. They’ll also hobble Vision, which got a significant percentage of its campaign money from people in construction and development.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Give your budget a boost with help from the Chancellor

26 Nov 17
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Let’s be honest, the Budget was a little bit of a personal finance damp squib with nothing to shock or marvel at. Safety first was the order of the day for Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond.

But Budget week is always a good prompt to take a look at your finances.

Here, The Mail on Sunday’s award-winning personal finance team explains how you can transform your own household budget – with some assistance from the Chancellor.

A new leaf: Charlotte Williams has saved a fortune in fuel costs by going electric

A new leaf: Charlotte Williams has saved a fortune in fuel costs by going electric

MY ELECTRIC CAR’S NIFTY…THEY HAVE TO BE THE FUTURE 

Charlotte Williams welcomes the Government’s pledge to boost the number of electric car charge sites in Britain. There are currently about 5,000 with 14,000 plug-in points.

The 31-year-old part-time model, from Bedford, has an electric Nissan Leaf company car and is an administrator for car power point provider Chargemaster.

She says: ‘Anything that encourages more electric cars on the road has to be good news. The idea these vehicles are akin to milk floats is seriously outdated. Nowadays electric cars are nifty.’

Charlotte adds: ‘I used to spend more than £50 a week on petrol for a 40-mile round commute from Bedford to Luton. Now I spend under £5 a week. Electric has to be the future.’ She also welcomes a £40 million Government grant that will look into how to increase battery charge speeds.

Home sockets can take six hours to provide enough electric juice for a vehicle to run 100 miles. Rapid-charge points offered in towns take about an hour to get electric cars fully charged. Despite the Budget boost, they are still expensive to buy – even after a Government subsidy for buyers worth up to £4,500. A new Nissan Leaf can cost £22,000 while the small two-seater battery powered Renault Twizy is £8,000.

BUYING A HOME

WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED?

A pledge was made to build 300,000 new homes each year and stamp duty was scrapped for many first-time buyers.

Stamp duty will now no longer be charged on property purchases made by first-time buyers up to £300,000 in value.

Also, those spending up to £500,000 on a first-time home – including most buyers in London – will pay no stamp duty on the first £300,000.

Currently, the average value of a home acquired by a first-time buyer is just over £207,500. Pre-Budget, a buyer would have paid some £1,650 in stamp duty for such a house. Now, there will be no stamp duty bill to pay.

For London dwellers, where the average first-time buyer price is £410,000, the stamp duty bill will drop from £10,500 to £5,500.

Critics say the Chancellor’s key Budget reform could push house prices up as demand increases for first-time buyer properties. It also does nothing to help existing homeowners move and free up housing stock for buyers at the bottom of the property ladder.

YOUR ACTION PLAN

Anyone hoping to buy a first home from now on will be boosted by the reduction in stamp duty costs.

But there are other ways they can keep purchase costs down to a minimum and smooth the buying process. First, they should check their credit rating – because mortgage lenders certainly will do so before offering you a home loan. The better your rating, the greater the chance you have of having a mortgage application accepted.

Use any or all of the three credit reference agencies – Experian, Equifax or Callcredit – to get an idea of your credit rating.

Do this ideally six months in advance, giving yourself enough time to fix issues that might count against you.

For example, unused credit cards left on your credit file could be misinterpreted as suggesting you have a predilection for debt.

Saving a healthy home deposit is essential. The bigger the deposit, the cheaper the loan you will get. Saving can be made easier by using the Help to Buy scheme.

This allows you to either buy a share of a property (between 25 and 75 per cent) while paying rent on the remainder – or take a Government loan to bolster your down-payment on a newly built home. While these squash the upfront cost of buying a home, a Help to Buy Isa can simultaneously boost your deposit savings.

Put away £200 a month and the Government adds a £50 top-up, up to a maximum £3,000 a year. Joint buyers can each save into a Help to Buy Isa. Find more at helptobuy.gov.uk. Alternatively a Lifetime Isa can be used to help build a first home deposit.

Customers must be over 18 and under 40 and can save up to £4,000 a year until age 50. The Government adds a 25 per cent bonus up to £1,000 a year. There is a choice of investment or cash-based Lisa although only Skipton Building Society currently offers a cash Lisa.

Buyers with small deposits can get on the housing ladder if their parents are happy to act as ‘guarantors’. Lenders Barclays, The Family Building Society, Nationwide Building Society and Aldermore are among those which lend to first-time buyers who have relatives willing to step in for them if they have problems meeting the monthly mortgage costs.

Use a broker to search for a mortgage deal, such as London & Country or Charcol. Find out how much stamp duty you will have to pay by using the Government calculator at tax.service.gov.uk/calculate-stamp-duty-land-tax.

When it comes to conveyancing – the legal process of buying – find a solicitor via the Law Society. Visit solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk or call 020 7320 5650.

WE MISSED OUT ON THE STAMP DUTY GIVEAWAY

Adam Taylor has narrowly missed out on the stamp duty giveaway – with the property tax scrapped for first-time buyers on homes worth up to £300,000, or on the first £300,000 of a property worth up to £500,000.

Adam, 30, bought his first home with his girlfriend in Forest Hill, South East London, just three weeks ago. They would have been eligible for the perk if they had held off the exchange of contracts until last Wednesday.

He says: ‘We wish the stamp duty changes could be applied retrospectively. That said, we are happy with our new home and we have at least benefited from the bonuses we received from saving through a Help to Buy Isa.’

Adam could potentially miss out on new train discounts too. The latest Railcard for 26 to 30-year-olds will be introduced next spring – coinciding with Adam’s 31st birthday. 

Grin and bear it: Adam Taylor bought his first home just three weeks ago

Grin and bear it: Adam Taylor bought his first home just three weeks ago

LONG-TERM SAVINGS 

WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED?

Unlike recent Budgets, there was little in Wednesday’s Budget to cheer, annoy or surprise long- term savers – apart from a nasty stealth tax on those who hold endowment plans or certain types of life policy.

Thankfully there was no change in the tax relief boost that savers get for putting money into a pension – something which recent governments have toyed with but not yet been brave enough to implement.

Nor was there any reduction in the maximum annual amount – £40,000 – people can contribute into a pension or an attack on the precious 25 per cent of a pension fund that savers can take as tax-free cash at retirement.

The only announcement that raised a cheer was an increase in the value of a pension fund before the taxman comes knocking for a slice of it.

The so-called lifetime allowance was increased from £1 million to £1,030,000 from April next year. It means only sums above this amount will be subject to extra tax when someone wants to start taking income from a pension.

There was no increase in the annual amount that can be saved into – or invested in – Individual Savings Accounts. This stays at £20,000. The Chancellor also backed off from using the Government’s savings arm, National Savings & Investments, to launch a new product that would put income in the hands of pensioners – a move that would have proved popular given the reticence of banks and building societies to pass on the recent increase in base rate.

For those who hold investments outside pensions and Isas, there was an increase in the capital gains investors can make from the sale of shares or funds before they are taxed on the profits. This will increase next April from £11,300 to £11,700.

Some experts thought the amount that can be invested in tax-friendly – but high-risk – Venture Capital Trusts and Enterprise Investment Schemes could be trimmed back. But this was not the case. Indeed, for certain types of Enterprise Investment Scheme, the annual allowance will double from next April to £2 million although it will be of limited appeal to most investors.

YOUR ACTION PLAN

Little change should be no excuse for continued lethargy. If you are not using the tax-friendly savings allowances currently available, try to do so because there is no guarantee they will be around for ever.

Certainly, if the Government is forced into an early General Election and a Labour administration is returned, a whole raft of savings incentives will be under threat. Higher rate relief on pension savings will be top of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s hit-list while Isas could be shrunk back.

So, if you can put money into a pension do so, especially if you are self-employed and do not have a benevolent employer boosting your contributions.

The same goes for Isas – try to use as much of your annual £20,000 allowance as possible so as to build a tax-free fund for the future.

Although your contributions are made from taxed income, you can access an Isa when you want to irrespective of age – unlike a pension – and the proceeds are tax-free (again, unlike most of a pension).

Some venture capital trusts are currently available to invest in. For every £10,000 you invest, you get back £3,000 from the Government up to an annual maximum investment of £200,000. But you must hold your investment for five years. Dividends are free from tax. According to wealth manager Tilney, schemes open include those managed by Albion, Maven and Mobeus.

Although cash savings may be unattractive, remember that up to £1,000 of interest per year remains tax-free if you are a basic rate taxpayer – £500 for higher rate.

Will the Budget help you …or anyone? Listen to the This is Money Podcast 

It was billed as a make or break Budget, so did the Chancellor pitch it right? 

In this week’s podcast, Simon Lambert, Rachel Rickard Straus and Georgie Frost pick apart the Budget to try to find out who the winners and losers will be.

From an up to £5,000 tax saving on a first home, to railcards for the under-30s, zero mentions of the word saver, and whether Just Eat can really solve the productivity puzzle, they round-up what you need to know.

Plus, what exactly was Simon’s stamp duty idea that drew 296 reader comments – of which about 295 were calling him an idiot? Listen to the podcast to find out.

Press play to listen to the show below, or listen (and please subscribe if you like the podcast) at iTunes, Acast and Audioboom or visit our This is Money Podcast page.     

SAVING FOR CHILDREN

WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED?

Santa Claus largesse it is not, but a tweak to tax-free savings plans from next April means friends and family will be able to put a little more away for the younger generation out of the taxman’s reach.

As a result, the annual subscription limit for Junior Isas (Jisas) and Child Trust Funds will rise from £4,128 to £4,260 – £355 a month. Money can be squirrelled away in cash or shares, or a mixture of both.

YOUR ACTION PLAN

Do not delay saving for children. Through the magic of compounding – where interest is earned on interest each year – savings grow faster the earlier they are started. For children, with time on their side, equities or investment funds make best sense – in terms of what to hold inside a Jisa. This is because over the long term shares almost always outperform cash savings.

Remember that adult cash Isas (with an annual allowance of £20,000) are also available to children from the age of 16 – and eligible children can also hold a Jisa at the same time.

Do not delay: Through the magic of compound interest, savings grow faster the earlier they are started

Do not delay: Through the magic of compound interest, savings grow faster the earlier they are started

For parents with an eye on an even longer term horizon, consider starting a pension for your children. You can put up to £3,600 a year into a personal pension and receive basic rate income tax relief – currently 20 per cent – on the contribution.

Your children may not be able to access the pension until at least age 55 but when the time comes they may well thank you for your foresight. Robert Gardner, pictured right, is co-founder of pensions consultancy Redington and a campaigner on financial education. He says: ‘Parents should open a pension for their child as soon as possible.

‘All they have to do is invest £5.50 a day – the equivalent of £7 with tax relief on top – from birth until their child’s tenth birthday, and then stop. Their child will then be on course to having a £1 million pension fund at retirement age 65.’

THE HOME FRONT

WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED?

Households struggling with a squeeze on their wallets due to higher food costs and low or no pay rises were offered some cheer last Wednesday.

The Chancellor wished them a ‘Merry Christmas’ – with a nudge to toast the festive season in their local public house by freezing the duties on most alcohol other than high strength booze.

Drivers who have suffered hefty increases on both fuel and motor insurance over the past year were awarded a little relief with a freeze on fuel duty. But buyers of new diesel motors from next April will see their road tax – Vehicle Excise Duty – leap in the first year if they pick a model that fails to meet stringent new emissions standards.

But many families will hopefully be able to free up a bit more cash from April for spending – or saving – thanks to an increase in certain tax allowances. The personal tax allowance – the amount you can earn before parting with any cash to the taxman – will rise from £11,500 to £11,850 in April. Plus the number of people falling out of the higher rate tax net will also increase when the threshold for those paying 40 per cent tax is lifted from £45,000 to £46,350.

YOUR ACTION PLAN

These tiny tweaks to tax breaks will not make you feel much better off. As a result, like the Chancellor, families will need more than ever to balance expenditure against outgoings and squeeze the most they can from their finances.


Quick fixes for beating the pinch include finding cheaper options for everyday bills such as energy, broadband and home and motor insurance. Do this by using comparison websites such as GoCompare or comparethemarket – or simply haggling with your current provider.

Consider buying anything from insurance to TV sets via a cashback website such as TopCashback or Quidco. These give you a cash payment for making purchases through their websites.

Also, take control of your household debts, especially the mortgage. If you are paying a standard variable rate – on average 4.7 per cent – switching to a keenly priced five-year fixed rate at 1.74 per cent could save a typical borrower with a £100,000 loan £1,864 a year – or £9,322 over the five years.

Similarly, check the interest you pay on credit cards and see if you can switch.





Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

Patrick Brown Promises to cut taxes, hydro rates in Ontario PC campaign Claims

26 Nov 17
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Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives would decrease income taxes and ship the state back into deficit if they form the government after next June’s election, and would take over and enlarge Toronto’s subway system, pioneer Patrick Brown claimed as he unveiled his electoral routine.

The 78-page program, dubbed the People’s Guarantee, comprises 147 guarantees and is Mr. Brown’s strategy to conquer Premier Kathleen Wynne next summer and finish 14 years of Liberal government in Ontario. If it wins, the opposition party would maintain the majority of Ms. Wynne’s marquee initiatives intact, such as tuition rebates and expanded drug coverage, but would finish the state’s climate change program and dismantle the cap-and-trade system.

Unveiled on Saturday in a speech to 1,500 delegates at a party conference near Toronto’s primary airport, the election strategy comprises fives promises that Mr. Brown stated he would send by 2022 or not run for another term. Those promises include a tax reduction for Ontarians earning less than $86,000, an enlarged refund for child-care expenses, a 12 percent decrease in residential hydro bills, more money for mental health, and a more powerful accountability act.

“Beneath Kathleen Wynne, you work hard, you pay more and you get less. Under our stage, you may spend less and get more,” Mr. Brown said in a half-hour address. In a statement published with his address, Mr. Brown said there’s “nothing wrong with Ontario that can not be fixed by a change in government.”

The platform would see Ontario return to a deficit in 2018 with a $2.8-billion shortfall, before posting surpluses in future years. The document includes no mention of doubt over the future of the North American free-trade arrangement and worries of economic disruption if discussions to renegotiate the trade deal were to fall. The most recent financial projections from Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa promised balanced budgets through to 2020.

In accordance with the Tories, part of the deficit during their first year in government would come from a costly transition from the state’s existing cap-and-trade program to another carbon tax that Mr. Brown would present.

The party’s platform would provide some tax relief for Ontarians. A cut to the lowest income tax bracket, representing an income of around $42,960, would see the present tax rate of 5.05 percent fall to about 4.5 percent. The following tax bracket, which the party says represents the “middle course” earning $42,960 to $85,923, would see a cut from the current rate of 9.15 percent to 7.1 percent. Once phased in by 2022, the tax cuts will cost the provincial treasury about $3.2-billion annually.

The party promised no significant spending cuts over its first four years in power, but stated that it would find $2.8-billion in annual savings by 2022.

A proposal to take over Toronto’s subway system was among the biggest promises in the record. While Toronto’s transit service could be left with buses and streetcar routes, the provincial government would take over the city’s subway infrastructure and spend $5-billion expanding subway lines. Toronto would continue to amass subway fares, according to the celebration.

Pointing to stagnating incomes and the higher cost of living in Ontario over the last ten years, Mr. Brown promised he would leave Ontarians with more cash in their pockets if his party wins. “Job number one for a PC government is to make life more affordable for you,” he told the audience at a campaign-style event. This weekend’s convention is Mr. Brown’s final key party gathering ahead of the next election.

The program would also introduce a new tax credit for child care, offering a family with a child under the age of six earning less than $35,000 annually a refund of around $6,750. The party also promised to invest $1.9-billion within the next ten years on mental healthcare.

Mr. Brown, 39, is a lawyer by training and had served in the national parliament as an MP from Barrie for almost a decade. He’s been the provincial party’s chief since September, 2015, and has yet to lead the Tories to a general election.

Steven Del Duca, the state’s Transportation Minister, was in the conference on Saturday as a Liberal agent and ignored Mr. Brown’s plan as a “say anything” platform. “We all know that if it seems too good to be true, then it is not accurate,” he said in a statement. “Anytime a Conservative says they could lower taxes without making cuts they end up cutting services.”

There was no mention in the stage about the impending legalization of cannabis. The program’s section on property claims no changes to the state’s tax on overseas property buyers or rent controls, although party officials said those two programs could be changed if the state’s property market went into sharp decline.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Beware fake sites preying on the fear of funeral costs

25 Nov 17
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People searching for prepaid funeral plans online are being warned to avoid fake comparison websites that dupe customers into supplying names and telephone numbers.

Most people looking to pay for their burial or cremation in advance do so to save their families the hassle, expense and heartache in future. But a lack of regulation over these plans and how they are sold has allowed for an eruption of websites claiming to be able to compare quotes.

In reality, many are predatory number-catching websites known as ‘lead generators’. Telephone numbers entered into the website can then be passed on to companies that deliver a hard-sell.

'Hounded': Heather Bridger used a prepaid funeral website to compare prices

‘Hounded’: Heather Bridger used a prepaid funeral website to compare prices

The warning comes after The Mail on Sunday last week exposed aggressive and illegal sales tactics used by a call-centre selling funeral plans on behalf of provider Avalon. Staff were caught on camera boasting about bombarding people with nuisance calls despite pleas to be left alone.

Fake comparison websites can look authentic with big lettering inviting consumers to click on buttons saying ‘compare now’ or ‘compare quotes’.

They fool people into believing they will see a panel of quotes after entering a few personal details. But instead they are directed to a page telling them to expect a phone call. Ensuing calls may come from a genuine broker, but more likely from a sales agent tied to one provider. The consumer has no way of knowing exactly who will call them once they hand over their details.

James Daley, founder of consumer champion FairerFinance, is calling for regulation of funeral plans by the Financial Conduct Authority – which would impact how business is conducted online.

He says: ‘These websites, which pose as independent, verge on being criminal. In a regulated market they would be shut down.’

Daley adds that people searching for a plan ‘need to be extremely careful’.

Sally Hill spotted a gap for a genuine comparison service when her research demonstrated how unscrupulous the online market was. She is now director and founder of FuneralPlanMarket, a website that shows whole-of-market funeral plan comparisons without customers needing to share personal details.

Scandal: The probe found a call centre was using aggressive tactics to sell pre-paid plans for funerals

Scandal: The probe found a call centre was using aggressive tactics to sell pre-paid plans for funerals

Hill says: ‘Lead generation websites dressed as comparison websites inconvenience customers twice over because the comparison tables they expect to see do not exist and they are then bombarded with unwanted sales calls.’

A HARD SELL DURING HARD TIMES

Heather Bridger says she was ‘hounded’ by sales calls after using a prepaid funeral website to compare prices. The 52-year-old department sales manager from Perth, Scotland, started searching for a deal after witnessing first-hand the emotional upheaval of planning a funeral. Earlier this year her best friend’s husband died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 56, despite being a healthy sportsman.

Heather says: ‘The stress was horrific. He was self-employed for 14 years and had no life insurance, no funeral plans and no savings.

‘It was then I realised just how much I wanted to have my own funeral organised so my family would never have to go through that ordeal.’

HOW TO BUY A PLAN WITHOUT THE PITFALLS

  • Spot the hallmarks of a fake comparison website. If you cannot compare plans without supplying a telephone number, alarm bells should ring. Do nothing without reading the website’s terms and conditions.  You should also check whether the firm is registered with Companies House, the official registrar of UK businesses. Visit beta.companieshouse.gov.uk.
  • Compare deals on the FuneralPlanMarket website, using the ‘comparison tables’ section if you want to get an idea of cost and level of cover. The company also offers free advice over the phone (0371 811 0161).
  • Check exactly what costs are covered in a plan you select. Few guarantee to cover third-party costs – such as cremation and doctors’ fees. Many offer an ‘allowance’ to cover such fees, but amounts paid out will vary between providers.
  • Note other exclusions. For example, if you move house to an area where funeral directors’ costs are higher, your family may be asked to pay a top-up after you die. Some deals will protect customers against this.
  • Read more about funeral plans on the Money Advice Service website at moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/funeral-plans.
  • Buy from local independent funeral directors or established companies. James Daley, of consumer group FairerFinance says: ‘Reputable providers include Co-op, Dignity, Golden Charter and Perfect Choice.’ l PAY for part or all of the plan with a credit card. This gives you added protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, meaning you can get your money back from your credit card provider if a company goes bust.

But her search came to a halt after simple enquiries turned into nuisance sales calls. She says: ‘Every time I used a comparison website I was hounded by phone calls from different companies who really just wanted me to sign up. But I did not feel confident about it.’

After a second friend passed away recently, Heather returned to her search and this time used FuneralPlanMarket. She has now found a plan with which she is comfortable.

Costly: Average funerals in the UK cost more than £4,000 according to insurer SunLife

Costly: Average funerals in the UK cost more than £4,000 according to insurer SunLife

LACK OF REGULATION

Average funerals in the UK cost more than £4,000 according to insurer SunLife. Costs are likely to keep rising. Funeral plans offer buyers the chance to pay for tomorrow’s costs at today’s prices.

But large sums of money to cover future expenses are given to providers of prepaid plans well in advance of their use.

THREE OTHER WAYS TO MEET THE COSTS

FUNERAL INSURANCE

Known as over-50s plans, you pay a low monthly sum and receive a payout to cover costs such as funeral plans after you die. 

But these deals can be poor value if customers end up paying in more than they ever get out of it. If a customer stops paying, the plan is no longer in force and money already paid has been wasted.

SAVINGS AND INVESTMENTS

Rather than gamble with a poor plan riddled with exclusions, it makes sense to put aside money each month into ordinary savings and investments.

 The money can be used to cover funeral costs if needed by your family in future. Yet there are no guarantees of you saving enough or refraining from using the funds for something else. 

Furthermore, relatives would still need to pay upfront funeral costs and would only be repaid if they are benefactors when your estate is divided up.

WHOLE OF LIFE INSURANCE

This type of life insurance pays out a lump sum to relatives after you die. Other life insurance policies last only for a set term, such as the life of a mortgage or until children are grown up and independent. 

A whole of life policy pays out whenever you die – but may require you to pay monthly sums for the rest of your life. Some policies allow you to cease paying when you reach a certain age. These policies can also be linked to investments.

Despite this fact, the products are not regulated. The Funeral Planning Authority oversees the industry with its own Code of Practice and rules for members to follow. Most large providers are signed up – including Dignity and The Co-operative Funeralcare – but membership is voluntary.

Daley says: ‘The main problem with this market is there is no proper regulation. It is clear from The Mail on Sunday’s story about Avalon that the voluntary regulator is struggling to keep on top of poor practice among members.

‘We would also like to see the Information Commissioner’s Office doing more to tackle illegal practice around data handling that is prevalent among some third-party lead generating firms.’





Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

Deadly mine Attack highlights accusations NAFTA Utilized to exploit Mexican workers

25 Nov 17
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This was a little after 10 p.m. Saturday when a convoy of pickup trucks carrying balaclava-clad guys rolled up into a roadblock near Torex Gold’s mine in Mexico’s Guerrero state. As a part of a wildcat strike, workers at the Canadian-owned surgery had cut its water source and were barricading a dirt road leading to the wells.

The attackers opened fire with assault rifles and shotguns, miners told The Globe and Mail in interviews in the scene, chased the protesters to the surrounding scrubland and beat them up. After the shooting stopped, two men lay dead: Brothers Victor and Marcelino Sahuanitla Pena. Locals said the pair had worked delivering diesel to the mine and were manning the blockade that night.

What exactly led to the violence is an issue of dispute. The protesters blame their trade union, the Confederacion de Trabajadores de Mexico (CTM), which they accuse of being too near Torex and handling the business behind their backs. Some miners have been trying to leave the CTM to combine a more independent marriage, Los Mineros. State authorities, meanwhile, assert the carnage was really a struggle between two rival militias that had nothing to do with the attack.

Since the bloody episode unfolded in the rugged mountains near a village called Atzcala, negotiators from Canada, the USA and Mexico were gathered in a luxury resort 240 kilometres to the north in Mexico City, trying to hash out an overhaul of this North American free-trade agreement.

Canadian negotiators have required the pact’s labour standards be toughened, which makes it easier for Mexican workers to join unions of their choice and doing away with so-called “employer security contracts” — prices negotiated between unions and corporations without the participation of employees which are a frequent occurrence at CTM-represented offices in Mexico.

Whatever the truth of the Sahuanitla brothers’ deaths, the timing shone a spotlight on accusations that Canadian and American businesses are using the trade pact, along with lax Mexican labor standards, to exploit the citizens of the southern neighbour.

Standing at the blockade at dusk three days after the killings — the areas where the guys fell marked by a pylon and a vehicle tire, each adorned with candles — Torex employees and other locals rhymed off a list of complaints. They accused the company of underpaying them, thwarting their attempts to join an independent union, reneging on pledges to improve the neighborhood rather than compensating the village for much of the water that the mine was using.

“They promised work for everybody, the streets would be paved, that households would have adequate housing,” said Hedilberto Peralta Fabian, who identified himself as an area commissario, approximately equal to a city councillor. “Nothing.”

Toronto-based Torex Gold and the Guerrero attorney-general’s office claimed there was no link between the killings and the labour dispute. The business described the attack as an “illegal blockade” by 15 percent of workers who had closed down the operation since Nov. 3.

“We can only imagine how painful this process has been around for the families of those men, besides having their deaths utilized for political grandstanding,” Gabriela Sanchez, the business’s vice-president of investor relations, wrote in an email.

Ms. Sanchez said the men killed weren’t directly employed by the business, but that one ran a company that allowed equipment to a mine builder. She said Torex was paying the Mexican federal authorities for the use of water in the mine and isn’t in arrears. Ms. Sanchez said her firm is an “attractive regional employer,” whose cover is great by Mexican standards.

She said the company had built new homes for 170 households in the region, paved some streets, refurbished a gym and a school, and that over half of the mine’s workforce is composed of locals.

“Our salaries are above average for the mining industry in Mexico, our workers have great benefits and we’re heavily engaged in the economic growth and advancement of the communities we work with,” she wrote. “We listen to our communities and consider their requests for additional aid. Unfortunately, we’re not always able to deliver the extra infrastructure and services they request.”

The leader of this Guerrero branch of the CTM didn’t respond to a request for comment. Someone who answered the phone at the union’s Mexico City headquarters said nobody was able to reply The Globe’s questions.

Roberto Alvarez Heredia, a state government spokesman, said the Sahuanitlas were murdered in a struggle between two armed groups that acted as local police forces. “When both groups which were carrying firearms fulfilled, a dispute arose, which resulted in the murder of two individuals,” he wrote in a statement posted to Facebook.

Miners at the website, however, insisted that they were unarmed when the attack occurred. They rejected any suggestion that the violence was different from the dispute with Torex. When told that the company was saying the attack was unconnected to the attack, they broke into a chorus of “No.”

“We all know what happened,” Oscar Garrido Ontiveros said. “We don’t need to take it any more. Two people got killed and that is enough.”

Torex’s Atzcala-area projects, including one working mine and others under development, are the major industry in this rural area. Bulls wander down the country roads, which, like the stone in the surrounding mountains, are a champagne gold color, emitting a pale dust that coats the thick green underbrush.

Daniel Garrido said he did not even know he had been a part of CTM for a couple of decades, so divorced is the marriage from its members. “They are not doing anything for us. It is the opposite. If we bring in a different marriage, they wish to fire us. We’ve received a great deal of threats.”

Several protesters revealed The Globe their pay stubs, with internet pay ranging from 978 to 3,102 pesos a week — approximately $67 to $212. Local officials said the company is two years behind paying its water bill.

Kimberly Nolan Garcia, a labor expert at the Centre for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City, said the dispute at Torex Gold’s mine is common in Mexico. The CTM, which is near the country’s governing party, is accused of signing security arrangements with firms and intimidating members that wish to join rival unions.

“It is an issue in Mexico where a marriage is going to be assigned to a mill without consulting with the employees,” Prof. Nolan Garcia said in an interview. “These type of sweetheart deals are endemic to the Mexican labour-relations system.”

Ms. Sanchez, the Torex vice-president, supported her firm “engaged CTM” before hiring employees. But she pledged Torex would accept another union if the employees chose one.

The leader of Canada’s biggest private-sector marriage, Jerry Dias, said Canada won’t agree to a revamped NAFTA unless it contains stronger protections for workers’ rights. The Unifor president, who had been in Mexico City advising the Canadian negotiating team, visited the Torex site to deliver this message to the miners.

“We have proposed to remove the CTM in Mexico, remove protection arrangements and to have free marriages,” he told a crowd of employees at the website of the shooting, to shouts of “gracias!” and applause. “We are here in order to be certain your struggle is our struggle and we fight this together.”

Whether the proposals will come to whatever remains an open question. The mood this week in the Camino Real Polanco resort — where negotiators indulged in designer cocktails and wagyu beef — was decidedly downbeat as talks deadlocked over President Donald Trump’s attempts to bring in new protectionist measures to favour U.S. corporations over international competitors.

In Atazcala, the protesters said they were tired of waiting for things to get better.

“We are living like this,” one girl, who said she works as a cleaner for Torex, gestured toward a corrugated metal shack in the village. “Meanwhile, they get wealthy.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Four of the best Black Friday deals to save money all year

24 Nov 17
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It is easy to get swept up in the Black Friday madness and end up buying a whole basket of stuff you may not actually need, and perhaps isn’t quite as good value as you first thought.

As more and more companies get in on the Cyber Weekend action savvy consumers can now find deals that won’t just pay today, but could save you money all year round.

We have scoured the web for the top deals to help your personal finances rather than those that drain your bank balance from discounted broadband or car insurance deals to cheap flights or an Avios points boost.

Beat the Black Friday madness: We round up the best deals that could see you saving money all year round

Beat the Black Friday madness: We round up the best deals that could see you saving money all year round

GET AN AVIOS BOOST ON YOUR BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING

If you collect Avios points it’s worth knowing that you can shop through eStore this Black Friday and earn extra airline points. 

If you have an account all you need to do is search for the retailer you want and click through as normal to buy.  

Avios is offering double points (typically 4 points per £1) with a bunch of retailers while spends with some shops earn as much as 8 or even 12 Avios per £1. 

Buying a new TV from John Lewis for £500, for example, could earn you 2,000 Avios. You could earn nearly as many Avios from a £160 coffee machine from Selfridges, as the eStore offers  1,920 points with its current 12 point per £1 promotion with the department store.

It’s list includes the likes of Apple, M&S, Currys and House of Fraser, Tesco Direct and John Lewis all of which have Black Friday and Cyber Weekend promotions on. You can view the full list here.

Broadband and TV deals

There are a handful of providers offering Black Friday or Cyber Monday discounts on contracts, which could save you hundreds all year round.

Most of the big names have discounts and some chuck freebies and cashback your way if you sign up today too. 

For example Now TV is offering two months for the price of one on Sky Cinema and Sky Entertainment passes.

BT is offering a £100 reward card, PlusNet gives £75 cashback, Post Office offers £30 off your bill and Sky gives a £50 prepaid Mastercard. 

Here are the top Broadband deals: 

TOP BLACK FRIDAY BROADBAND DEALS
Provider Package Offer Offer end date
BT BT Unlimited Infinity 1 + Weekend Calls BT Sport included and £100 reward card 27-Nov-17
Plusnet Unlimited Broadband Get £75 cashback when you sign up 28-Nov-17
TalkTalk Fast Broadband Discounted contracts and prices won’t go up during contract 30-Nov-17
Sky Broadband Unlimited Get £50 prepaid card 07-Dec-17
Post Office Unlimited Broadband and Weekend Calls Get £30 bill credit 27-Nov-17
Vodafone Unlimited Fibre 38 6 months’ free F-Secure SAFE anti-virus software 27-Nov-17
Virgin Media Full House Bundle Get all the BT Sports channels in HD 27-Nov-17
Source: Broadband choices, correct as of November 24   

Got your eye on a new iPhone X: You might be able to get a cheaper deal using the Black Friday sales

Got your eye on a new iPhone X: You might be able to get a cheaper deal using the Black Friday sales

Mobiles

Buying a smartphone is eye-wateringly expensive with handsets now reaching prices  you would typically associate with a new computer or flat screen TV.

If you are in the market for a new phone, Sim-only contract or pay-monthly deal now could be the time to act.

The best deals tend not to be available on the newest and smartest handsets though as most companies want to drive more people to their slightly less popular mobiles. 

You also MUST make sure any contracts you choose fit your usage – otherwise you will end up paying far more in penalties for going beyond your contract limits. 

The below table shows the top deals rounded up by Broadband Choices.

CHEAPEST BLACK FRIDAY MOBILE DEALS
Provider Device Data, minutes, texts Price Contract length
Three Sim-only 12GB, Unlimited, Unlimited £13 12 months
Virgin mobile Sim-only  Unlimited,Unlimited,Unlimited £20 12 months
BT mobile Sim-only  4GB data, Unlimited, Unlimited £10 for existing customers (£15 for new customers) 12 months
Tesco mobile Sim-only  £10GB, 3000, 5000 £15 12 months
Plusnet mobile Sim-only  2GB, 2000, Unlimited £7 1 month
iD mobile  Sim-only  2.5GB, 250, 5000 £6 1 month
Direct mobiles iPhone x 5GB, Unlimited, Unlimited £57.99 per month 24 months
Three iPhone SE 4GB, Unlimited, Unlimited £20 per month 24 months
Direct mobiles  Galaxy S8 2GB, Unlimited, Unlimited £22.99 per month 24 months
Source: Broadband choices, correct as of November 24     

Beat the Winter blues: Book you summer holiday now and get a discount on flights with a handful of airlines

Beat the Winter blues: Book you summer holiday now and get a discount on flights with a handful of airlines

Holidays

There are a handful of airlines and holiday companies who have joined the Black Friday rush. 

Booking your next holiday now, could therefore both help you through the winter blues and save you a heap of cash.

British Airways has a bundle of discount deals on today. It’s advertising the following for example. 

  • Flights to Venice and two nights hotel accomadation from £92 per person
  • Flights to Nice and and a two- night hotel stay from £99 per person
  • flights to Barcelona and a two-night hotel stay from £99 per person 

Easy Jet is discounting prices by up to 30 per cent on 500,000 seats, Ryanair has 20 per cent off 5 million seats and check in bags and 50 per cent off car hire.

Virgin Atlantic also has a promotion running. Some of the top deals we spotted included return flights to New York for £369 or St Lucia for £389.

Norwegian air is slashing prices by 30 per cent today. Expedia has up to 75 per cent off select hotels, Club Med is offering Black Friday deals on holiday packages for the next five days. 

Another handy extra, currency exchange specialist Travelex also currently has a Black Friday sale on across all currencies. It’s currently offering for example a rate of 1.106 when buying Euros or 1.3101 when buying US Dollars. 

Nest Thermostat: Buy now and save money on your bills all year round

Nest Thermostat: Buy now and save money on your bills all year round

Cut your bills and get a discount

There are some utilities and insurance providers using Black Friday gimmicks to try to lure in more customers.

Remember: You should always check the best deals using a price comparison site and make sure the insurance cover or broadband contract suits your needs first. But it may knock some of the cost off your annual bill if you buy at the right time.

MoneySupermarket has a Black Friday deals page which includes offers such as £125 prepaid card when you sign up to an EE broadband deal or a free nights stay at a hotel if switch energy supplier to EDF.

Other deals on bills include, £25 in Nectar points when you take out home insurance with Sainsbury’s Bank,  £20 off car insurance policies with Geoffrey insurance and up to  24 per cent off travel insurance packages with Columbus Direct.

So if you have a company in mind it could be worth running a quick search online over the weekend to see if it is offering any deals to entice in new customers. 

It could be worth considering a smart thermostat to help you save money on your energy bill all year round. 

These clever thermostats sync with a mobile app to let you control the temperature of your home and set heating schedules at the touch of a button.

We have spied a few deals in the Black Friday madness including £60 off a Nest learning Thermostat,  25 per cent off Hive products and up to 20 per cent off Bosch smart home controllers via Amazon.

TOP OFFERS ON KIT YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY NEED

Clean up your act: Buying anew vacuum doesn’t exactly scream excitement but they come with a hefty price tag so it’s worth making the most of discounts. 

There are some good offers around this weekend. For example, you can currently pick up a new Dyson V6 cordless vacuum cleaner for £229 (previously £469) on AO.com. 

Get comfy: There are a whole host of offers out there on furniture from discounts on a new mattress to upgrading your dining room table. 

A few we have seen include:

  •  Up to 75 per cent off at Wayfair,
  • Up to 50 per cent at Dwell 
  • Up to £700 off at  to at Habitat
  • Up to £350 off at DFS 
  • Up to 60 per cent off at Dreams.

Apple iPad: Apple currently has a Black Friday deal which gets you a free gift card worth up to £120 when you buy some products. But you may be better off buying elsewhere. 

Argos for example has a £40 discount on a 9.7 inch Wi-Fi 32GB iPad.  Curry’s has the same iPad with a £25 discount plus an extra £50 if you trade in an old tablet.

Binge watching: TVs are one of the most popular Black Friday sale items meaning most stores are offering decent discounts on them. 

One offer to catch This is Money’s eye was the SAMSUNG UE49MU6120 49 inch Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR LED TV from Currys. It costs £449.00, saving £300.00.

Dirty laundry? AO, which typically has some of the most competitive deals on white goods, is offering £40 all kitchen appliances today over £399, plus individual discounts on products.

For example, it’s currently offering a BEKO 7Kg / 5Kg Washer Dryer for £319 with a £60 saving. Again you should also check out John Lewis, Argos and Currys.

Don’t forget, Boots Appliances is run by AO so it’s worth checking the site first to see if you could earn Advantage points on your spends. 

The same BEKO washer dryer costs £304 via Boots and would earn you 1,216 Advantage points – worth £12.16.

Laptops: Again laptops are one of the products you will find countless deals on this Black Friday. Try Amazon, Currys, AO, Argos and John Lewis in particular. 

This is money found a Microsoft Surface 128GB pro with a saving of £250 ( costing £849 at Currys. If you use the discount code BFSUR50 at checkout you get another £50 knocked off. 

Keep fit: Rather than waiting for the new-year health kick, investing in a fitness watch now could save you some dough.  Amazon currently has a £53 discount on the Fitbit Blaze. It costs  £106.99.

Gym bunny: Along a similar vein, you could save some cash by signing up for a gym membership now if you were considering getting into shape.

Virgin Active has a deal which offers you free membership until January if you join now while Fitness First waives joining fees for Black Friday joiners. 

Representative example: If you spend £200 at a purchase interest rate of 18.9% p.a. (variable) your representative rate will be 18.9% APR (variable). Credit limits and terms may vary based on your individual circumstances. Balance transfer offers and introductory fees limited to transfer made with 60/90 days of account opening. See product specific T&Cs. * must spend £1k within 3 months







Courtesy: Daily Mail Online