Week commencing 17 August 2015

In today's bulletin

• Skills shortage threatens affordable homes plan
• Osborne releases 10 point plan to rejuvenate villages

• Government to create 30,000 road and rail apprenticeships
• Commuters will receive automatic compensation for rail delays and cancellations

Property, Planning and Regeneration

House prices only going one way

On 18 August the Office of National Statistics published a House Price Index bulletin showing that average UK house prices had increased by 5.7 per cent in the year to June 2015.
This is a 0.1 per cent rise from the year to May 2015, with prices up in all regions apart from Scotland, where they fell by 0.6 per cent.

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Skills shortage threatens affordable homes plan

The government’s plans to build 275,000 affordable homes by 2020 are at risk from the ongoing skills shortage in the construction industry, according to councils. Research released by the Local Government Association on Monday 17 August shows that levels of
construction qualifications are currently lagging behind 2013 levels by around 10,000 qualifications, while completed apprenticeships were down 58 per cent last year compared with 2009.

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Skills shortage putting work out of reach of small firms

In further evidence of the growing skills shortage in the construction industry, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) published news on Wednesday 19 August that two-thirds of small
construction businesses have had to reject work due to lack of resources.  The FMB blamed the shortage on the difficulty of finding new apprentices for the trade.

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Home completions jump in the last year

The Government published a set of statistics on Thursday 20 August showing a significant rise in the number of new homes built in England in the year up to June. The figures showed
that although housing starts were down by one per cent compared with the previous year, a total of 131,060 homes were completed, which represented a 15 per cent increase.

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Osborne releases 10 point plan to rejuvenate villages

The Chancellor, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, published a 10 point plan on Thursday 20 August  outlining planning law reforms to make it easier for villages to build new homes.
Mr Osborne said rural areas were an increasingly important part of the economy, with 60,000 people moving from the city to the countryside each year.

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Highest mortgage lending since 2008

July saw the highest levels of mortgage lending across the UK for seven years, according to figures released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) on Thursday 20 August. Home-owners borrowed £22bn in July,
the highest amount since July 2008. The CML said  total mortgage lending was likely to hit £209bn, a three per cent increase on 2014.

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Government to create 30,000 road and rail apprenticeships

On Friday 21 August, the Government pledged to create more than 30,000 apprenticeships for the rail and road industry during this Parliament. The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP,
Secretary of State for Transport, also announced that £70 billion will be provided to improve transport infrastructure, including “the most ambitious investment in rail since the Victoria era”.

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Commuters will receive automatic compensation for rail delays and cancellations

Under a new scheme proposed by Railways Minister Claire Perry MP on Monday 17 August, commuters will receive automatic compensation for delayed and cancelled train journeys,
removing the need to complete a post-delay repay form.  As a result of the often protracted process of applying for compensation, up to £100 million goes unclaimed each year.

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“Everyday transport” at risk, warn transport groups

Transport groups have suggested that the Chancellor’s spending review may result in a 25 – 40 per cent cut to the Department for Transport’s budget.  In a letter to the Transport Secretary, the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP,
signed by a number of transport groups and published on Thursday 20 August, it is claimed that cuts will fall disproportionately on local “everyday” transport.

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Energy and Environment

One in three thinks schools should do more to educate children on recycling

According to research carried out by waste management company Direct365, 30 per cent of people in the UK think more needs to be done in schools to teach children about recycling. 
The survey results, published on Wednesday 19 August, found that almost 30 per cent of people thought children should learn more about preventing food waste, while 25 per cent felt that energy saving should form part of the National Curriculum.

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Crown Estate unveils list of UK carbon storage sites

The Crown Estate has opened up its database on prospective carbon capture storage (CCS) sites to the public.  As the holder of carbon storage rights for the UK, its database contains information on 600 potential locations.
The information was made freely available on Thursday 20 August in a bid to encourage more companies to invest in CCS, a technology that the Green Alliance has suggested is “the only choice” to decarbonise Britain.

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