Credit card and overdraft changes proposed – Martin Lewis on ‘important change’

People who are struggling to repay loan repayments and cover overdraft charges look set to be granted temporary relief under new measures proposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) today. The city watchdog is asking banks to offer customers hit financially by coronavirus, who have an existing arranged overdraft, the ability to request that up to £500 on their main personal current account is provided at zero percent for up to three months.

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The FCA has also suggested people facing financial challenges due to coronavirus would be able to ask for a three-month payment freeze, or the option to pay a nominal payment on credit cards, store cards and catalogue credit.

Christopher Woolard, Interim Chief Executive of the FCA, said: “Coronavirus has caused an unprecedented financial shock with far-reaching consequences for consumers in every corner of the UK.

“If confirmed, this package of measures we are proposing today will help provide affected consumers with the temporary financial support they need to help them weather the storm during this challenging time.”

Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, Martin Lewis shared his comments on the proposals.

He said: “I think this is very important news.”

The Money Saving Expert founder added that considering new FCA rules on overdraft charges were due to come into effect this month, he felt it was an “important change”.

Mr Lewis added: “Some banks have already been offering forebearance.

“To have a banking lottery aboult how well each company will behave in these unprecedented times isn’t fair.”

Addressing the proposal of a three-month freeze on credit products such as credit cards, loans and store cards, Mr Lewis said he was “much more cautious about this”.

He explained that “it doens’t mean they can’t charge interest, and he added that “that interest will continue to add up”.

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Coronavirus UK: Furlough loophole leaves worker with no income ‘My dignity was stripped’

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequor Rishi Sunak last month, as an emergency measure following the financial impact of the UK coronavirus epidemic. However, while some employees will be able to get 80 percent of their wages up to £2,500 being paid through this scheme, other workers have found themselves unable to be granted furlough leave.

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A loophole in the government’s bailout has meant that new starters who began working for a new employer after February 28, 2020, are not eligible for the scheme.

Guidance on the government website states: “Any UK employer with a UK bank account will be able to claim, but you must have been on your employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020.

“You can be on any type of contract, including a zero-hour contract or a temporary contract.”

Tolu Adams, 22, graduated last year, and began working for a PR agency as soon as she had finished her university exams.

The account executive, from Bedfordshire, had been travelling into London each day, and with her commute sometimes taking up to two hours, the journey took its toll on her mental and physical health.

Tolu suffers with anemia, and explains that the condition means she doesn’t have strong energy levels which meant she struggled a lot with all the travelling.

She later found a job closer to home – a different PR agency which was only a 20 to 30 minute drive from her house.

Tolu handed in her notice for her former job at the end of January, and after working her one month notice period, her final day was in the final week of February 2020 – prior to the February 28 cut-off for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

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The PR executive’s official start date was on March 2, shortly before the UK began to feel the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Two or three weeks ago, the coronavirus epidemic got really difficult for us to handle,” she explains.

With clients in the hospitality industry having been forced to close, the impact was felt in the company.

Tolu had hoped that she would be eligible to be put on furlough, but last week, was told that due to the February 28 payroll rule, she wouldn’t be eligible via her new employer. Because she didn’t qualify, she had to be let go.

“I was devastated because I’d started my job and lost my job in the space of a month,” she says.

Tolu has since contacted her old employer, asking on two occasions that they reinstate her for the purposes of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“The guidance that’s out there is that you should go back to your old employers which I have twice, but they can’t reinstate me.”

Finding out she couldn’t be put on furlough leave by her previous employer was tough. “[It was] really distressing and upsetting,” she says.

“I struggled to click on it [the notification] for a really long time because I knew what it was going to say.”

She adds: “For me to have to go back and beg, was just horrible. I feel like my dignity was stripped.”

Earlier this week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News’ Kay Burley @ Breakfast show: “The chancellor has launched unprecedented size of schemes to help the employed, to help the self-employed, to help businesses themselves.

“There will be circumstances under which not every single last business or individual is helped.

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“This is unfortunately the nature of the scale of this thing.”

Tolu saw the comments make by Mr Shapps. She says of his remarks: “To me, it broke my heart because me and thousands of people are basically collateral damage – that’s what I took from that.

“It’s just not right. I have been working in PR since I was 19. I put so much time and effort into my career, my degree, my experience. And so many other people have. And for us to lose our jobs and then to lose our income in the space of a month is just so upsetting.”

She points out that she signed her contract for her new job at the end of January, and adds: “It is proof that I’m not somebody that’s trying to take advantage of the system. I just want to be included.”

Like so many, Tolu has living costs to pay for. “Car repayments, credit card payments, overdrafts – I don’t know how I’m going to pay for any of that,” she says.

As well as covering her rent, she also planned to pay off credit cards with her new job.

“This new job wasn’t just helping with my mental health and physical health, it was allowing me to start my life financially,” she says.

“There’s loads of things that I’d started to do, that knowing I was in a better place financially and mentally, I could now pay rent, look after myself and things like that.

“All these things that I’d started to do, I’d started to do knowing that I would have income coming in and now I don’t have any income.”

She’s spoken to other people in the same position as her who have had to apply for Universal Credit in order to cope.

Tolu says of her own situation: “As far as I’m concerned, applying for Universal Credit is my last option because I don’t want to put further strain on a system – I think it’s quite funny that the government’s alternative is to make me claim for benefits.”

“It’s a massive slap in the face because I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve done nothing wrong and I feel like I’m being punished,” she adds.

Tolu hopes that the government could amend the guidelines to include employees who started work in March.

“There are people, like me and thousands of others, that weren’t put on the payroll until the end of March, but we have proof that we were hired way before any of this had happened,” she points out. “It would be lovely for them to include us.”

Mary Walker, partner at law firm Gordons and an expert in employment law, commented: “Some argue that old employers can rehire an individual to furlough them.

“Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert, for example, says he has it confirmed from the Treasury that this is allowed, but until I see something concrete from HMRC to confirm, I think it could be a potential abuse of the scheme.

“The guidance says that any UK employer with a UK bank account will be able to claim, but the employee must have been on the employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020.

“The problem is that the guidance is so very limited. HMRC will undoubtedly audit the scheme in the future and employers do need to be cautious of not inadvertently claiming back for employees that were not eligible.”

Express.co.uk has contacted HM Treasury asking for further information.

Have you been affected financially by the coronavirus crisis? If you’re interested in sharing your story, please get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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‘Difficult decisions’: Super funds liquidity on watch as redemption fears mount

Top financial regulators have instructed super funds to ensure unlisted assets are properly valued as the sector braces for a rush of withdrawals under an emergency government scheme allowing early access to retirement savings.

In a joint letter to the trustees of the $3 trillion superannuation industry, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) called on executives and administrators to show “strong leadership” in making “difficult decisions” during the "unusual and challenging circumstances" of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The ongoing stability and proper functioning of the superannuation sector, which safeguards trillions of dollars on behalf of its members, is critical to the overall stability of the financial system and the economic prosperity of all Australians,” the letter signed by ASIC commissioner Danielle Press and APRA deputy chair Helen Rowell said.

APRA Deputy Chair Helen Rowell and ASIC Commissioner Danielle Press has put responsibility squarely on super fund trustees to monitor liquidity. Credit:Wayne Taylor

The regulators' main concern in recent weeks has been ensuring that funds are able to fulfil payment obligations as the super sector prepares to pay-out funds to potentially millions of Australians. Under an emergency federal government scheme adopted in response to the coronavirus pandemic, anyone who has lost their job or 20 per cent of their income will be able to withdraw up to $20,000 from their super over two years.

Liquidity concerns have mounted as funds deal with extreme market volatility and suppressed inflows while unemployment climbs amid the total shut-down of some industries.

Unlisted assets, which are harder to liquidate, are also a concern. Two leading industry funds, Unisuper and AustralianSuper, slashed the value of these investments last week by between 6 and 10 per cent. The $54 billion hospitality fund, Hostplus, also has billions invested in unlisted property and infrastructure with major stakes in airports, retail and commercial property.

The regulators put responsibility squarely on trustees to undertake "regular and detailed" liquidity stress testing of assets, and encouraged funds to consider whether unlisted and illiquid assets needed to be revalued.

"This must necessarily also be a top priority for trustees, who bear ultimate responsibility for maintaining sufficient levels of liquidity to sustain the operation of their funds," the letter said.

The letter came as top-tier law firm Allens raised the possibility that unlisted property trusts which some super funds have put money in could freeze redemptions, causing further liquidity challenges.

The law firm said these funds might declare they are "non-liquid" and therefore would not be able to be sold, a scenario that last played out during the global financial crisis.

In a paper published on its website, Allens partners referred to the United Kingdom where a coronavirus-driven sell-off in the property market had seen at least seven property funds ban investors from pulling money out in recent weeks.

"Such steps may need to be taken as the pandemic progresses, particularly if it becomes too difficult to value underlying assets reliably, or if there is a run on redemptions by investors in need of cash, including superannuation funds seeking liquidity in response to the new early release of superannuation rules," the Allens partners wrote.

Digital investment advisor, Chris Brycki, who sits on two ASIC advisory boards, said he was surprised to see super funds classify unlisted property investments in malls, airports and land as "defensive".

"A defensive asset is one that you can liquidate easily in a stressed environment," Mr Brycki said. "It has always struck me as very wrong that funds can classify direct infrastructure and property as defensive. In a stressed situation, the gates go up and it's impossible to sell these assets anywhere near the levels they've been valued at."

The regulators also called on trustees to review share lending arrangements, following Unisuper’s suspension of its short-selling program last month.

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ISA deadline: What are the differences between lifetime and help to buy ISAs?

Lifetime and help to buy ISAs both offer bonuses for first home purchases. These bonuses will be added to savings paid into the account but the accounts themselves have limits on deposits.

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Lifetime ISAs allow up to £4,000 to be saved in one year and help to buy ISAs have a limit of £2,400.

The government will add 25 percent to savings in a help to buy account when a house purchase is completed, while a 25 percent bonus will be added to lifetime ISAs as money is deposited on a monthly basis.

One of the main differences between the two is the limits placed on bonuses. Lifetime ISAs can pay a maximum bonus of £32,000, for help to buy accounts it’s £3,000.

Lifetime ISAs award bonuses to house purchases valued up to £450,000.

Help to buy ISAs offer bonuses up to that value within London but outside the city, there is a maximum value of £250,000 allowed.

While both of these accounts are primarily used for house purchases the lifetime ISA bonus can also be used for funding retirement.

On top of this, lifetime ISAs can have investment options whereas help to buy ISAs can only hold cash.

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Money can be withdrawn from both type of accounts but there may be drawbacks if it is not done for home purchases.

There is no penalty in place for withdrawals from help to buy ISAs but potential bonuses will be lost.

Penalties will be imposed on withdrawals from lifetime ISAs if they’re done before the holder turns 60.

Both accounts follow the usual ISA tax year rules where up to £20,000 can be invested into ISA accounts between April 6 and April 5.

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ISA allowances reset every year and new accounts can be set up is desired.

However, it should be noted that it is no longer possible to open help to buy accounts as lifetime ISAs were introduced to replace them.

Despite this, it is still possible to contribute funds to help to buy ISAs that have already been opened.

Money can be added into help to buy accounts until 30 November 2029.

The corresponding bonus must be used/claimed by 1 December 2030.

It is possible to transfer help to buy ISAs to lifetime ISAs but certain considerations should be considered. The transferred amount will count towards the £20,000 limit.

On top of this, regular account issues should be evaluated such as differences between interest rates and costs.

The government detail that providers of ISAs should be contacted directly for specific information. If transfers are being actioned the timing will need to be kept an eye on. Cash ISA transfers can take up to 15 days to complete.

The state advise that if it takes longer than that, the ISA providers should be contacted.

If a holder is unhappy with a response, or feels that they have been unfairly treated they can contact the financial ombudsman service.

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Switching gears: Inside GM’s four-week sprint to build emergency ventilators

The partnership looked promising.

On March 18, General Motors chief executive officer Mary Barra told President Donald Trump's economic adviser Larry Kudlow that the automaker might be able to help make much-needed ventilators, the scarce breathing machines used to keep coronavirus patients alive.

GM chief Mary Barra has long been at loggerheads with President Trump.Credit:Simon Dawson

The deal would help the company, which has had tense relations with Trump. It would help the administration, which faced charges that the pandemic caught it napping. Most importantly, it would help the sickest patients, those facing death without machines to breathe for them.

But not 10 days later, Trump accused GM of foot-dragging and price-gouging in its effort to replenish the supply of medical equipment. "Always a mess with Mary B," Trump tweeted, hours before invoking the Defence Production Act, which allowed him to order GM to move.

Newly revealed details show that GM has been continuously engaged in the effort – order or no order – and company officials say the sprint from first phone call to production will take about a month. A parallel effort by Ford isn't expected to bear fruit until June, though the company has said it's speeding up its work. Trump did an about-face on Sunday (US time), saying GM is doing a "fantastic job."

Even as Trump was excoriating GM on Friday, the automaker and its Seattle-area partner, Ventec Life Systems, were closing in on a production date to build a machine called a VOCSN: ventilator, oxygen, cough, suction and nebuliser. When they start in mid-April, it will culminate a lightning-fast effort to convert an auto-parts plant into a medical-equipment complex.

"The speed has been challenging," Gerald Johnson, GM's global vice president of manufacturing, said in a Sunday evening interview. "But we know it will save thousands of lives. Making cars is cool, but it doesn't compare to what we're doing."

Trump's criticism of GM boiled down to the company asking the federal government to "show me the the money" before it would put the venture into high gear, according to White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. In initial discussions with the administration, GM and its partner were seeking about $US250 million ($407 million) for Ventec and its components suppliers to get production moving. The government wanted to contribute a fraction of that, people familiar with the deliberations said.

"You can't get to the finish line unless you first go to the starting gate," Navarro, who was appointed last week to coordinate actions under the Defence Production Act, said in an email to Bloomberg News.

Stop the spread

The sprint started with exploratory phone calls on March 17 from an ad hoc group of business leaders called Stop the Spread. It was seeking ways to make up for what some members saw as a slow federal response to COVID-19. The group is led by retired American Express chairman Ken Chenault and Rachel Carlson, founder of online education firm Guild Education.

GM’s experience with mass production is coming in handy as it ramps up ventilator production plans.Credit:Bloomberg

They asked Barra's team what they needed to make ventilators. GM needed a ventilator-making partner with an established product and a medical sales force.

For his part, Ventec CEO Chris Kiple said that he needed a partner with mass-manufacturing expertise, factories and a workforce to produce on a huge scale to help cities like New York as patients overwhelm hospitals.

Exponential growth

Managers from both companies got on the phone that evening and started exploring how GM could help Ventec go from building a maximum of 250 ventilators a month to 10,000 and eventually get on pace to make 200,000 this year. The whole industry generally makes fewer than 100,000 a year. It was growth meant to match the exponential spread of a disease that has sickened at least 125,000 Americans and killed more than 2100 in the epidemic's early weeks.

"They produce millions of cars a year in the US," Ventec Chief Strategy Officer Chris Brooks said of GM. "We produce hundreds of ventilators a month. They have a global supply base that understands making parts at large scale."

The next day, Barra told Kudlow that GM could pitch in. Kudlow, one of the administration's primary pitchmen, floated the idea on television. He cited GM as an example of a company that was stepping up "on a voluntary basis for civic and patriotic reasons."

But GM was still studying how to make it happen. On March 19, Phil Kinley, vice president of manufacturing and labor and the plant-floor leader of the project, flew with engineers to Ventec's site in Washington, Johnson said. Ventec sent technical specifications and drawings for the ventilator's 700 parts to GM's Tech Center in Warren, north of Detroit.

Donald Trump heavily criticised GM last week before changing tack.Credit:AP

Money matters

GM and Ventec now need to decide how the units will be distributed and paid for. Negotiations continue with the government, which would likely buy and channel them through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to people familiar with the matter.

That assumes a deal gets done. To the surprise of GM and Ventec, Trump accused the automaker of trying to gouge the government during his Friday press briefing. He tweeted that GM officials "want top dollar."

GM said it's building the units at cost and is only the contract manufacturer for Ventec, which is the major player in negotiations with the government. The machines normally cost about $US18,000 apiece, while some ventilators can run as high as $US50,000.

Another benefit of Ventec's VOCSN is it replaces four other pieces of hardware typically needed for acute respiratory care. Using it could lower costs for hospitals because they won't need to buy oxygenators, nebulisers and devices to clear the lungs.

When Trump complained last week about pricing, people in the GM-Ventec venture thought that the device's five-in-one therapy capabilities may not have been completely understood. People familiar with negotiations said there never was a firm proposal on volume or a timeline, and they were caught off guard when the president complained.

As negotiations go on, GM and Ventec say they are progressing fast. "The responsible thing for us to do is move forward and meet that need," Brooks said.

There's already been a change in sentiment from Trump. At his press briefing on Sunday, he said, "I don't think we have to worry about General Motors now."

Bloomberg

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ISA warning: Savers have just days to go before allowance resets – experts provide advice

ISAs allow people to save and invest money in a tax efficient manner. There are four types of ISA: Cash, stocks and shares, innovative finance and Lifetime ISAs.

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For the current year up to £20,000 can be saved into ISA accounts.

However, this amount can only be saved between two certain dates.

This tax year begins on April 6 and ends on April 5 the following year.

That means that people only have a few days remaining to take advantage of any allowances they have remaining.

Once the new tax year starts, allowances will reset and new ISAs can be opened.

ISAs are easy to organise and set up, which means that sometimes they may be sorted as an afterthought.

Many people may simply set one up with their existing bank but this could mean that better deals are missed.

Marc Beattie, the Chief Operating Officer for Arlo Wealth warned that picking ISAs should be given extra care: “Picking an ISA isn’t always as straightforward as contacting your bank.

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“There are many options and choices that you need to consider to get the most out of your savings.

“If you are choosing a Cash ISA, you should make sure you shop around for the best deal. “Even if you’re a loyal customer, going to your existing bank doesn’t always mean you’ll get the best rate.

“Instead, you should do your research and search online to find a good deal.”

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Looking around is generally wise but at the same time consumers should remain wary of flashy offers that don’t provide long term benefits.

Adrian Lowcock, the Head of Personal Investing at Willis Owen provided warning on this: “Be wary of bonus rates, whilst enticing, once they drop off you are left with a much lower rate so unless you are someone who constantly chases rates they do not end up as good value.”

The rules for opening an ISA are easy to grasp.

To open an ISA, the person must be:

  • 16 or over for a cash ISA
  • 18 or over for a stocks and shares or innovative finance ISA
  • 18 or over but under 40 for a Lifetime ISA
  • resident in the UK
  • a Crown servant (for example diplomatic or overseas civil service) or their spouse or civil partner if they do not live in the UK

Currently, there are many different providers of ISA accounts which means that consumers have plenty of scope for shopping around.

As it stands, people can open ISA accounts with:

  • banks
  • building societies
  • credit unions
  • friendly societies
  • stock brokers
  • peer-to-peer lending services
  • crowdfunding companies
  • other financial institutions

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Pension & ISA deadline looms but expert urges government to make change due to coronavirus

The tax year ends in a matter of days, with the final day of the 2019 to 2020 tax year falling on Sunday, April 5. After this date, ISA and pension allowances reset for the new tax year – something which a national advice firm has pointed out amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The firm LEBC has called upon the Treasury to relax the deadline for savers to make ISA savings plans and pension contributions by two weeks.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced stringent measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 earlier this week.

Currently, the UK is in an effective lockdown – with members of the public only able to leave their homes for a number of specified reasons.

As of 9am on March 27, 2020, a total of 113,777 people have been tested, of which 99,234 were confirmed negative and 14,543 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on March 26, 2020, 759 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

With shops, gyms and restaurants among those ordered to shut, life is currently very different for Britons.

And, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is being felt on many, financially.

Additionally, some people may not yet have made financial arrangements for the upcoming tax year end.

“Given the unprecedented disruption to normal daily life, many savers will not yet have made arrangements to use their ISA allowance or make pension contributions for the current tax year,” says Kay Ingram, Director of Public Policy at financial advisers LEBC Group.

“In responding to the crisis, those in essential services in the health service, civil servants, food producers and distributors – as well as businesses throughout the country – could lose out.

“It would be unfair if in responding to the emergency, people missed the opportunity to plan for their longer-term future.

“In these special circumstances, we would like to see the tax year deadline of April 5 extended to April 19, as a special one-off measure.”

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As with many businesses, LEBC has closed its offices and switched its staff to a working from home set-up.

And, while it says it is able to assist those who wish to top up their savings before April 6, the company has explained it is conscious that amid the crisis, many individuals’ focus will currently be elsewhere.

Due to the crisis, some people’s attention will be dedicated to the short-term emergency, and are likely to need extra time to plan for their future this year and to make arrangements, they said.

In the current tax year, it is possible to save upto £20,000 in an ISA, of which there are four main types: cash ISA, Lifetime ISA, stocks and shares ISA, and innovative finance ISA.

It’s only possible to pay into one of each type in the same tax year.

There’s also a further limit on the Lifetime ISA – and this is currently £4,000.

This allowance is included in the £20,000 allowance.

It means that the maximum a person can get as a 25 percent government bonus via this kind of account is £1,000 per tax year.

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Savings: New account launches with high fixed interest rate – what is it?

Bank account rates are notoriously low at the moment. The country, and much of the world, is currently in a low interest rate environment, meaning that average customers will be lucky to get returns of more than one percent on their cash.

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This situation will likely be made worse by the fact that the Bank of England have lowered their base rate.

Recently, the central bank lowered the base rate from an already small figure of 0.25 percent to 0.1 percent.

As a result of this, regular high street banks are now expected to lower their own rates as they tend to follow what the BOE does.

This will be an unfortunate circumstance for consumers who need as much income as they can get right now.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis regularly advises people on savings accounts and he generally has a simple rule to follow.

He usually details that customers should embrace shopping around for the best deals, highlighting that customers should never settle for anything less than the highest rate possible.

A savings account from Marcus by Goldman Sachs has regularly been highlighted by Martin as a good option and the company has just launched a new offer.

Today, the company has launched a one year Fixed Rate Saver account offering an interest rate of 1.45 percent AER.

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Customers will get this rate under a 12 month term but it is available to both new and existing customers.

This account has been launched to be the company’s second savings product, an existing easy access Online Savings Account is available at a rate of 1.30 percent AER variable.

Des McDaid, the Managing Director of Marcus by Goldman Sachs, appears to recognise the need for these types of accounts in the current climate.

As he commented: “We are committed to offering customers different products to suit different needs and savings goals, particularly during this time of uncertainty.

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“The launch of our 1 Year Fixed Rate Saver provides our customers with more options to manage their finances by allowing them to lock in their rate for a 12-month term.”

The new account has certain rules attached to opening it.

It is a fixed account, meaning the interest rate is locked in for a one year term.

There is a minimum savings amount of £1 and a maximum of £250,000.

Customers who wish to open this account can do so with little worry. The account can be opened online and there is no requirement to physically open the account.

This will be a relief for the people of the UK who currently have limited options for movement. 

There is also telephone assistance available from a dedicated specialist customer care team.

Some people may not be concerned with getting more money from their accounts but they may be worried about them remaining secure.

Thankfully, the government protects up to £85,000 of savings under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

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Universal Credit coronavirus: ‘Large inefficiency’ highlighted amid help for self-employed

Universal Credit is available for people who have fallen on hard times. Over the last few weeks, coronavirus has impacted the economy putting many people out of work. This has put huge strain on the benefit system as demand has shot up.

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The Universal Credit claim process has been altered, physical meetings are now no longer needed.

An application can now be handled exclusively online or over the phone but this has brought its own problems.

There have been reports that the waiting times for calls are very long and the government website may crash.

On top of this, there is also a five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment to come through.

Yesterday, Rishi Sunak announced a self-employed income support scheme but this too will also face massive delays.

Some people have detailed that these waits are unacceptable considering the current circumstances.

Thomas Lawson, the Chief Executive of the national poverty charity Turn2us warned that urgent action is needed to rectify this: “While the Self-employed Income Support Scheme, announced by the Chancellor, is a positive step to protect self-employed people, for the millions of self-employed people who have had no income since February due to the coronavirus pandemic waiting till June for Government payments is too long and waiting five weeks for Universal Credit is too long.

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“And for the gig economy workers who have already lost hours, the people who have already lost work and the self-employed with less than a year under there belt, there is simply not enough help.”

Thomas went on to highlight the specific gaps in support that the government needs to fix.

Speed is of the essence

The aformentioned issue of delays is a huge problem at the moment as many bills and cost’s can’t wait. With calling the Universal Credit service taking hours, followed by weeks of nothing until the payment comes through, Thomas highlights that cash flow needs to be prioritised. 

“Firstly, the speed at which people will be able to access this support is too slow.

“We have had thousands of self-employed people come to us for help over the last few days, and immediate cash flow is the critical problem.

“They simply cannot wait until June. It is vital that the government provides immediate and easily accessible support for the self-employed.”

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Many people are still slipping through the cracks

As many people are aware, self-employment is much more complicated than regular work. Small businesses may not have all the necessary paperwork and documentation needed to make a claim. While the new support system put in place is helpful, there are fears that some will miss out. 

“A further significant issue with the scheme is that people whose businesses are less than a year old and thus don’t have a 2018/19 tax return will not be eligible for support.

“This cuts off a large number of people who may still have been self-employed for some time.

“These people must be offered a helping hand beyond Universal Credit which will leave them on average £781 worse off than employees who can access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.”

“Many others are still being are still being left cast adrift.

“What about zero-hours contract workers who have had their hours reduced but still need to feed their family?

“What about people whose employers have already laid them off.”

Is Universal Credit a flawed solution?

With all the previously mentioned problems, Thomas questioned if the Universal Credit system at large is unsatisfactory:

“Many self-employed people will need to apply for Universal Credit to tied them over until June, but after they’ve navigated the widely publicised wait times to get their application processed they will still have to wait five weeks for their first payment or take out an advance they will need to pay back.

“After receiving their taxable grant from the scheme self-employed people will then need to pay back not only the loan but all of the support they have received from Universal Credit.

This creates a large inefficiency for the already overburdened DWP as well as a likely high amount of stress and confusion for the claimant.”

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Mortgage lenders to offer mortgage extension for home movers hit by coronavirus pandemic

Mortgage lenders are to give three-month mortgage offer extensions to home movers, enabling them to move at a later date. The emergency measure comes amid the UK battling with the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) – with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing stringent measures to slow the spread of the virus this week – putting the UK into a lockdown.

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It means that currently, members of the public have been told they cannot leave their homes unless it’s for one of a number of specified reasons – such as to purchase food or to provide care for the vulnerable or elderly.

The measure came following government advice for certain people to self-isolate, and the rest of the UK being told to practice social distancing.

Following the mortgage offer extension announcement, Stephen Jones, Chief Executive of UK Finance, said: “Lenders recognise that many people looking to move into their new home are facing significant stress and uncertainty due to the impacts of coronavirus.

“Current social distancing measures mean many house moves will need to be delayed.

“It is clearly not appropriate for people shielding or self-isolating to move home.

“Therefore where chains contain people in these groups, lenders, conveyancers and other professionals are working together to enable these customers’ moves to be delayed.

“Where people have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion this is likely to be particularly stressful.

“To support these customers at this time, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.

“If a customer’s circumstances change during this three month period or the terms of the house purchase change significantly and continuing with the mortgage would cause house buyers to face financial hardship, lenders will work with customers to help them manage their finances as a matter of urgency.”

Robin Fieth, Chief Executive of the Building Societies Association (BSA) said: “Lenders and borrowers face an unprecedented set of circumstances. People who would have been preparing and expecting to move house in the coming weeks now face a wait until Covid-19 restrictions can be lifted.

“Our hearts go out to them and our heads are clear that it would be unfair for these people to have to start their mortgage application all over again once life returns to a more normal state.

“A three-month extension of existing mortgage offers seems a fair and reasonable step to take.

“It is possible that some borrowers financial circumstances may change during the three months.

“If this happens, or the terms of the purchase change we will work closely with the borrower to achieve a sensible outcome.”

Ahead of the announcement, Nick Morrey, Product Technical Manager at mortgage broker John Charcol, spoke to Express.co.uk about different options home movers may have.

“If someone has exchanged contracts awaiting completion then they can look to defer completion with the agreement of all parties involved (as there may be a chain). That would allow the lockdown to finish and for people (especially in this case removal companies) to be in a position to physically move personal belongings,” he said.

“Or, again, with the approval of all parties involved, the monetary completion could take place but the physical exiting of properties not take place until a later date.

“The second option is not preferred by solicitors or lenders as it means that the wrong people are living in the wrong properties and that might invalidate buildings insurance policies. So the first option is the most likely.

“In either event, all parties should immediately check for any completion deadline on their mortgage offers. Most lenders give at least three months to complete, some up to six. Some current Halifax products have completion deadlines that have now been extended to September 30 – the full six months.

“But if the mortgage offer expires then it will have to be renewed and that means technically it has to be re-credit scored and possibly re-underwritten, but almost certainly a revised mortgage valuation.

“This could be a problem if someone’s credit score has fallen, or if they have missed payments on any financial commitments such as credit cards, or if the property has fallen in value thanks to a collapse in demand, causing the loan to value to change too much (rise).

“If the LTV goes into a different bracket then you will have to select a new product which is likely to be at a higher rate of interest.

“Home movers in these situations should talk to their broker or lender and ask what options they have before making a decision.

“In addition to this they should be careful not to volunteer any payment holidays they may or may not be thinking about taking unless asked since if a lender hears that an applicant could be in financial trouble they may withdraw the mortgage offer entirely, which could leave home movers in a very awkward and costly position.”

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