Married Couples Failing to Claim Tax Perk, says HMRC

Married Couples Failing to Claim Tax Perk, says HMRC
Less than a quarter of couples eligible for marriage tax allowance are bothering to claim it, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The allowance – introduced in April 2015 to incentivise marriage – is worth £220 in 2016/17.


However those eligible can also back-date a claim for last year, meaning £432 can be claimed in total.

Out of 4.2m couples who could claim that amount, only 1m have done so, despite an HMRC advertising campaign.

Marriage tax allowance lets one half of a married couple transfer part of their tax-free allowance to their partner. However one of the partners must not be earning more than £11,000 – the personal allowance – while the other must be paying income tax at the basic rate.

A spokesman for HMRC said it takes less than five minutes to apply online.

“We don’t know the reason why so few couples have taken up this allowance, but the fact is, it’s a fairly quick and simple process and could save couples up to £430 – which can go a long way especially around this time of year,” said Sam McFaul, a personal finance writer at

Anyone wanting to claim can go to this page.


Searching for New Double Glazed Windows and Doors

Searching for New Double Glazed Windows and Doors
If you are looking for top quality double glazed windows and doors in North Yorkshire to help make you home more attractive, improve security or help keep it warm you definitely want to take a look at the excellent range available at Synergy Design and Build.  With a wide variety of designs available to suit any type of building, reasonable pricing and great customer service at all times you can be certain that you will be able to find everything you require no matter what type of double glazed windows and doors you are looking for.


Synergy Design and Build
With such a wide range of double glazing products available you can be certain that Synergy Design and Build will have everything that you require to complete your project, whether you are creating a new building, planning to totally replace existing windows and doors, or are looking to create an extension or conservatory. Even if you have a period property or a design that is unique you will be able to find designs that will complement the rest of the property perfectly as there is an excellent choice of designs on offer that have been created with specific styles of buildings in mind, helping you to create a truly sympathetic restoration if required or an extension that blends in perfectly.

If you require double glazed windows and doors that offer you more than the average double glazing can for any reason you may be interested in the more specialised ranges available, with options including designs to minimise noise from outside, help keep your home warmer and help make you home more energy efficient if you are looking for double glazing that offers you something extra you can be sure to find the perfect solution.

There is also an impressive range of double glazed doors available so you can create space and light in the smallest of rooms with clever designs on offer such as bi-folding doors and French doors you can find plenty of ideas to help improve any home and with everything you need to create a conservatory or even an orangery you never know where your inspiration may lead you!

At Synergy Design and Build they also offer a fantastic fitting service so you can be sure that no matter the size of your project it will be completed with the minimum of fuss. With an excellent team of friendly and professional fitters on hand with all the skills required to make sure that the job is completed to the best possible standards you can be certain that any work carried out will be done within a reasonable timeframe, be to the highest quality and be carried out with the minimum of disturbance and disruption to you and the rest of your household.

With a customer satisfaction guarantee and the opportunity to get a quote to consider before any work is carried out at Synergy Design and Build they always aim to leave each customer completely happy, why not take a look at some past customer reviews.

No matter how large or small your project, speak to Synergy Windows about getting the best possible finish. Operating throughout Darlington, North Yorkshire and the North East, contact them on 01325 527538 (Darlington Office) or 01423 709041 (Harrogate Office) or visit the Synergy Windows Website.

Synergy Windows Double Glazing. High quality windows, doors and conservatories supplied & fitted in the North East and North Yorkshire. Double Glazing never looked so good.

Skilled Workers May be Exempt from UK Immigration Controls

Skilled Workers May be Exempt from UK Immigration Controls
The chancellor has indicated that highly skilled workers may be exempt from the government’s planned immigration controls. Philip Hammond said he could not see why firms should be restricted from recruiting “high level” workers. The public was not concerned about controls on “computer programmers, brain surgeons, bankers”, he said.


The chancellor said voters wanted restrictions on those migrants competing for “entry level jobs”. “I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which we would be using those migration controls to prevent banks, companies moving highly qualified, highly skilled people between different parts of their businesses,” he said.

Giving evidence to MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, Mr Hammond did not dispel suggestions that he supported students being taken out of the target for reducing net migration. Mr Hammond’s comments will fuel growing speculation that the government wants to introduce a work visa scheme aimed at low-skilled migrants.

On Tuesday night Downing Street released details of the aims of the government’s immigration sub-committee, which included a commitment to introduce a “targeted visa scheme”.

Elsewhere, Mr Hammond – who supported the remain campaign – appeared critical of some of his pro-Brexit cabinet colleagues. He said those seeking “hard decisions” risked undermining the prime minister’s negotiations with the European Union. The chancellor also criticised some of the recent briefing against him: “It would be far more helpful if we could conduct negotiations privately without leaks to newspapers.”

MPs on the select committee also questioned the chancellor about the impact of Brexit on the economy.

Mr Hammond said they were right to identify that “uncertainty is the big challenge in the next phase of this process”, adding: “It’s a challenge to our economy – there will be a period inevitably of uncertainty until we know the outcome of the negotiations.” He also tried to calm fears that the financial services sector would be hit hard by Brexit by saying that retaining passporting was important and “would be the ideal outcome”.

Passporting refers to the sector maintaining the same access to the EU’s financial services market as it enjoys under the UK’s membership of the union.

“The reality is that financial services remains our single largest sector; it is responsible for a very large number of jobs straight across the United Kingdom, it’s not London-based industry,” Mr Hammond said. “The industry knows that we regard it as extremely important, the industry knows that we understand that it has a particular set of challenges as we go into this period of negotiation with the European Union. And I hope the industry knows – it certainly should know – that helping to address these challenges and taking account of these challenges will be a very high priority for the government.”

However, the Chancellor admitted that some banks and financial firms were being “realistic and are looking at other options beyond passporting to protect their interests”.

Mr Hammond also insisted that the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates, would remain responsible for monetary policy. That stance was called into question after Mrs May made a surprise attack on the Bank in her speech to the Tory Party conference this month, saying that “a change has got to come”.

The Bank’s actions – such as maintaining low interest rates since the financial crash – had meant those with assets such as property had got richer, while those without had suffered, Mrs May said.

Mr Hammond was asked what Mrs May’s promised “change” referred to if it was not monetary policy. He said: “There will be no change in monetary policy. Monetary policy is independently determined, that will continue to be the case.”

Philip Green Moves Towards BHS Pension Deal

Philip Green Moves Towards BHS Pension Deal
The BBC are reporting that former BHS owner Sir Philip Green will meet the pensions regulator by the end of the week to try to secure a deal over the collapsed retailer’s pension fund, the BBC has learned. The news comes as MPs prepare to debate stripping him of his knighthood.

One MP voiced scepticism to the BBC about the timing, arguing it made the issue “essentially cash for honours”.

BHS, sold by Sir Philip last year, subsequently collapsed with 11,000 jobs lost and a £571m pension deficit. Sir Philip has vowed several times to sort out the pension problem, telling MPs in June that his advisers were working on a “resolvable and sortable” solution.

On Monday, he told ITV that he was in a “very strong dialogue” with the pensions regulator to find a solution, but would not put a number on the level of financial support he would be willing to give.

A damning MPs’ report on the High Street chain’s failure, published in July, concluded Sir Philip had extracted large sums and left the business on “life support”. At the time Sir Philip described the report as “the pre-determined and inaccurate output of a biased and unfair process”.

A debate in the House of Commons on Thursday will discuss whether Sir Philip’s knighthood, awarded in 2006 for services to retail, should be removed. Should they vote on the issue, any such vote would not be binding. The issue would be for the Honours Forfeiture Committee – part of the Cabinet Office – to decide.

Promoting Metro Car Hire Newcastle

Promoting Metro Car Hire Newcastle
Metro Car hire Newcastle If you are looking for a great car hire deal in Newcastle, then check out Metro Car, Van & Minibus hire, providing vehicles for Newcastle, Gateshead & the wider North-East. Offering new cars, minibuses and a wide range of vans all available for short and long term rental, all hire cars, minibuses and vans come with insurance for at least two people, with breakdown cover and unlimited mileage options.

Located in Gateshead, close to the Metro Centre, Newcastle Airport, Newcastle City Centre and providing excellent access to all of the North East, Metro car and van hire offer a friendly and efficient service from private hire to all types of business hire and leasing.

So if you are looking for a reliable and flexible car hire in Newcastle and want to be sure that you get a car that perfect for your needs, safe and reliable but also suited to you budget as well why not take a look at all the options that are available at Metro Rental?

As specialists within car hire Newcastle and Northumberland they have a proven track record of providing a first class service to their customers and have the experience and knowledge required to make sure that they only hire cars of the best possible standard every time. You won’t find a better car hire company anywhere in the North East.

So the next time you visit the region give Metro Rental a call and they can help you ‘access all areas’, whatever type of vehicle you may be after, they can provide it.  For further information simply visit the Metro Rental website or call 0191 4603344 and the friendly staff will be happy to help.

Guidance for Sound Testing in London

Guidance for Sound Testing in London
New homes are usually built to high standards; however controlling noise requires careful consideration during both the design and construction phases of the project. To help our clients better understand the importance of pre-completion sound testing, we have produced this article: ‘Guidance for Sound Testing in London’. Which should provide an overview of the regulations, challenges and typical for pre-completion sound testing in London. 

How long will the sound testing take?

The time taken for undertaking the sound insulation testing can vary greatly with site conditions. Generally a set of tests on houses (airborne tests between walls) takes about one to two hours and a set of tests on flats airborne tests between wall and floors) between two to three hours. During the test APT Sound Testing will require free uninterrupted access to the rooms in all test areas, to the side above and below the property under test. 

Will sound testing be disruptive to site?

During the sound test, high levels of noise are generated but in order to record accurate test measurements, relatively quiet conditions are needed. Anyone working in the testing area will have to leave temporarily and any noisy works in the vicinity of the test areas including external site activity will need to be halted. Noisy works can include, drilling, hammering, sawing, jackhammering and the use of disc cutters.


We need access to all the rooms being tested. We will identify suitable couplings of test rooms and will try to schedule testing with you at a time when noise can be controlled to achieve the best possible testing results. 

Can I Watch the sound testing?

We can happily give you a brief overview of the sound test and demonstrate what we do, however, during the actual testing there are stringent rules restricting the number of personnel within the test areas so you will need to leave the areas under test until the tests are completed. Also the noise generated can be as high as 110dB so health and safety issues come into play.

Should I let me neighbours know of the impending sound testing.

The noise levels we generate can be up to 110dB, so if the building is attached in any way to occupied properties then it would be advisable to inform the residents as they are likely to hear the test. In some builds access to the neighbours property may be required which may result in access problems if the neighbour is not informed prior to the test. We recommend you request access to the neighbouring properties at least 2 weeks prior to the test.

Will I know if the sound testing passed on the day of the test.

Where possible, APT Sound Testing will provide preliminary test results before we leave the site. This will be followed up a fully Approved Document E complaint report. The report will be emailed to you within 5 – 7 working days of your test; however this can be turned around in 24 hours under some circumstances. The acoustic report can then be submitted to your Building Control Officer.

What will help me pass my sound testing

Sound insulation performance can vary wildly for many reasons. If we assume a good acoustic design has been proposed, the most common factor resulting in poor acoustic performance is usually down to poor workmanship. Acoustic detailing is critical to maximising on site sound insulation performance, especially in floor wall isolation. To help our clients achieve Part E Compliance, we offer the following ‘3 step package’:

  1. Sample Sound Insulation Testing of the existing building. This offers an accurate overview of the acoustic performance of the existing partitions which enables us to offer a targeted acoustic design using the sound insulation performance of the existing construction.
  2. Acoustic Design Review of the proposed developments party walls and floors to ensure acoustic details with be sufficient to pass Building Regulations Part E
  3. Site Survey Visits to check that the onsite construction is being undertaken in-line with manufacturer’s guidelines.

We recommend that you appoint us at the start of your project to review the acoustic design – and where required sample sound testing) and thereafter we can carry out site inspections during the construction phase check specifically for any potential workmanship issues that could cause problems when it comes to pre-completion sound testing.

What acoustic design considerations should I heed?

There are many simple design consideration that you should take into account, a few of these are:

  • Ensure all penetrations are fully sealed where they terminate through floors and they are adequately boxed with acoustic quilt and two layers of plasterboard.
  • Avoid the use of lightweight blocks in the inner envelope construction as sound will travel both vertically and horizontally from dwelling to dwelling.
  • The use of resilient suspended ceilings will help improve the performance of the floor partition.
  • Ensure all support steels/timbers are carefully boxed out where they travel from flat to flat vertically and horizontally.
  • Use a high quality resilient acoustic membrane on top of the floor to improve the impact performance of a floor.

In our experience if the acoustic design is taken into consideration from the offset of the project, then it usually results in compliance with Building Regulations Part E. In many cases sound test failure is down to poor acoustic design and poor workmanship, that is why we offer the 3 step process to achieve successful sound testing on your London project.

If you have a project that requires acoustic design advice or sound insulation testing, then please contact us at: or phone us directly on 07775623464.

Sofa Boss Disappointed at Home Secretary’s Comments

Sofa Boss Disappointed at Home Secretary’s Comments
The boss of a sofa-making company said it is “very disappointing” that Home Secretary Amber Rudd accused his firm of recruiting “exclusively” from Romania and Poland. Matt O’Flynn, who runs Hastings-based Collins and Hayes, said that 75% of his staff are actually from the UK.


Ms Rudd visited the company, which is in her constituency, in August 2015. She said the firm did not consider training up locals, despite the availability of a local college.

“I went and visited a factory quite recently where they recruit almost exclusively from Romania and Poland, where there are people that have had experience in factories building these sofas, they didn’t even consider training locally. “There was a local college they could have worked with, but they choose to recruit outside the UK,” the Home Secretary told the BBC’s Today programme on Wednesday.
Mr O’Flynn found those comments “very disappointing” and said his company was “committed to working with the local community” and had spoken to Ms Rudd about his need for more sewing machinists. It is “commonplace” in the industry to hire staff from abroad when there is a surge in demand, according to Mr O’Flynn.

Collins and Hayes uses an agency to bring in staff from Poland and Romania, which it then trains up and hires on permanent contracts, he said. Collins and Hayes, which supplies John Lewis and Furniture Village, has been making furniture for 140 years.

On Wednesday, the home secretary defended plans to make firms do more to employ British people, saying “don’t call me a racist” for talking about immigration.

Under her proposals, firms could be forced to disclose what percentage of their workforce is non-British as a way to encourage them to hire more locals. The home secretary believes firms are “getting away” with not training enough British workers and the existing resident labour test – which requires firms to advertise vacancies in the UK for 28 days before looking outside the EU – should be toughened up

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May said she would trigger Article 50, the clause needed to start the exit process, by the end of March 2017.

A fall in the pound is often seen as beneficial to the FTSE 100 as many of the companies in the index generate most of their revenues abroad. A weaker pound means overseas revenues are worth more when they are converted back into sterling. Mining companies were among the biggest gainers in the FTSE 100 on Friday. Anglo American rose 3.3% while BHP Billiton added 2.8%. Easyjet shares fell a further 3.6%, as investors continued to react to Thursday’s profit warning from the airline.

In the FTSE 250, shares in William Hill and Ladbrokes were both lower after a report in the Times said gambling companies could be banned from advertising on TV during the day.

Aviation Industry Agrees Deal to Cut CO2 Emissions

Aviation Industry Agrees Deal to Cut CO2 Emissions
The first deal limiting greenhouse gases from international aviation has been sealed after years of wrangling. From 2020, any increase in airline CO2 emissions will be offset by activities like tree planting, which soak up CO2.


The deal comes in a momentous week for climate policy when the Paris agreement to stabilise climate change passed a key threshold for becoming law.

Scientists applauded both commitments, but warned that plans to cut emissions are far too weak. The aviation deal was agreed in Montreal by national representatives at the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO.

Attempts have been made for nearly two decades to include aviation and shipping in the UN’s climate agreements, but both sectors have managed to avoid firm targets. The amount of emissions from aviation worldwide are roughly the same as those produced by the whole of Germany – and they are growing fast. They are projected to consume approximately a quarter of the world’s remaining carbon budget by 2050.

ICAO previously promised carbon neutral aviation growth in the 2020s, and planned to align the ambitions of airlines with the Paris agreement limiting warming to two degrees Celsius, or preferably 1.5 degrees.

At the last minute in Montreal, those plans were either watered down or dropped. Instead a compromise was agreed. CO2 will be allowed to grow to 2020 but after that, emissions will need to be offset. The deal will be voluntary to 2026 but most major nations are expected to take part.

Britain’s Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad said: “This is an unprecedented deal, the first of its kind for any sector. International aviation is responsible for putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year than the whole of the UK, and yet until now, there has been no global consensus on how to address aviation emissions. “For years, the UK has pushed to tackle emissions globally. Now, 191 countries have sent a clear message that aviation will play its part in combating climate change.”

Tim Alderslade from the British Air Transport Association also welcomed the deal. He told BBC News: “It should not be forgotten that we are the only industry that has voluntarily agreed to such a commitment.  “As a sector we have really decoupled growth in aviation from growth in emissions.”

Environmentalists were unimpressed. Bill Hemmings from the green group T&E said: “Airline claims that flying will now be green are a myth. Taking a plane is the fastest and cheapest way to fry the planet and this deal won’t reduce demand for jet fuel one drop.”

The offsetting proposal is especially controversial. Airlines are striving to make planes more efficient, but the industry can’t innovate fast enough to contain its dynamic growth. That led to the proposal for offsetting – but sometimes offsetting by planting woodlands simply duplicates efforts already being made, and the offsetting industry is said to be prone to double-counting. What’s more, the ICAO deal has no clear rules for offsetting.

Tim Johnson from Aviation Environment Federation warned that to meet its own ambitions, the UK needed to go much further than the ICAO agreement. He told BBC News: “With a decision on a new runway expected later this month, the UK’s ambition for aviation emissions must match the ambition of the (UK’s) Climate Change Act, and not simply the ICAO “global lowest common denominator” of “carbon neutral growth from 2020.

UK Lags Behind London 4G Coverage

UK Lags Behind London 4G Coverage
The BBC is reporting that the  rest of the UK is lagging behind London when it comes to accessing 4G data services, according to a report from mobile coverage company OpenSignal and consumer watchdog Which?

While mobile users in London can access 4G nearly 70% of the time, in Wales users can connect only 35% of the time, the findings suggest. Regulator Ofcom receives a large volume of complaints about mobile coverage. All the mobile companies said they were investing in mobile networks.

The State of the Mobile Network report found that EE had the greatest availability of 4G networks, on 64%, with Vodafone on 60%. 02 was slightly behind on 59.9%. And 3 offered the least availability, with 43.7%.

REGION Average 4G availability Average 4G speed
London 69.7% 18.8Mbps
Yorkshire and Humberside 61.3% 22.8Mbps
North East 60.3% 20.1Mbps
Northern Ireland 58.5% 23.3Mbps
North West 54.8% 20.6Mbps
South East 54.3% 21.9Mbps
West Midlands 52.3% 21.6Mbps
Scotland 50.4% 21.1Mbps
East Midlands 49.9% 22.8Mbps
East of England 48.9% 22.3Mbps
South West 45.7% 20.9Mbps
Wales 35.4% 21.7Mbps

When it came to average download speeds, EE was again in first place with, 27.9Mbps on average, followed by 3, on 24.4Mbps, Vodafone, on 17.9Mbps and O2, on 16.1Mbps. Although London has the most availability, the speeds there were not as high as in other regions, due to the number of users attempting to use the network.

“It’s clear mobile providers must do much more to improve their networks if they are to provide greater access to their customers,” said Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home and legal.

An earlier report from OpenSignal and Which? found that users in the UK were able to access 4G about half of the time on average. “Finding a 4G signal outside of London can still be a bit tricky,” said Brendan Gill, co-founder of OpenSignal, but he added that mobile data speeds were “consistently fast”.

Regulator Ofcom is currently compiling a crowd-sourced coverage map and calling on the UK’s 20 million Android users to help build it by downloading an app that automatically measures signal strength and data speeds.

In response to the report, Vodafone said: “Thanks to our £2bn investment in our network and services since 2014, with another £2bn expected over the next three years, our customers across the country are experiencing a significantly improving and stronger network every day.”

UK Troops to be ‘Protected from Vexatious Claims’

UK Troops to be ‘Protected from Vexatious Claims’
The government is to unveil a legal measure it says will protect UK troops from “vexatious” legal claims. The change in policy, to be announced at the Conservative conference, would mean parts of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) could be suspended during future conflicts.


Much of the litigation faced by the Ministry of Defence comes from claims under the ECHR, the government says. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the legal system had been “abused”. “It has caused significant distress to people who risked their lives to protect us, it has cost the taxpayer millions and there is a real risk it will stop our armed forces doing their job,” he said.

Mr Fallon said the change being announced at the Tory conference in Birmingham would be “an important step towards putting that right”.

It would mean than in future conflicts, subject to a vote of both Houses of Parliament, the UK would “derogate” from Article two (right to life) and Article five (right to liberty) of the ECHR.

Ministers said troops would still be subject to other articles of the convention, including a prohibition on torture, as well as UK criminal law and the Geneva Conventions.

Prime Minister Theresa May told BBC Breakfast: “What we’ve seen is a whole industry of lawyers chasing after our troops and trying to bring claims against them, many of which are vexatious claims, and we want to put an end to that.”

The former Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve welcomed the proposal but said it was not a “magic formula” which is suddenly going to ensure British military will not face claims in future.

Conservative MP and former Army officer Tom Tugendhat told Radio 4’s Today programme the government is “restoring the appropriate law. To do otherwise would be to equate the beaches of Normandy to downtown Brighton and that would be absurd,” he said.

But human rights lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn disagreed, telling Today: “The government is saying they’re trying to protect soldiers from allegations of abuse, but I’m not quite sure this action will achieve that”. She said its ability to opt out was “not a new or novel thing” and added certain elements of the convention would still apply.

The Ministry of Defence said it had spent over £100m on Iraq-related investigations, inquiries and compensation since 2004. But there has been criticism of the scale of claims lodged using legal aid with the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which was set up to examine serious allegations following the 2003 invasion. The team, headed up by former senior civilian police officer Mark Warwick, has considered at least 1,514 possible victims – of whom 280 are alleged to have been unlawfully killed.

The claims range from ill-treatment during detention to assault and death by shooting. It was also recently revealed that an independent policing unit set up to investigate alleged war crimes by British troops in Afghanistan had received around 600 complaints. The cases being probed are said to include that of a Taliban bombmaker who claims his arrest and detention was illegal.

Tory MP Johnny Mercer, a former Army captain who served in Helmand province and has campaigned on the issue, said: “I think this is the first step in closing the gap that exists in this country today between politicians and those who serve. To continue to try and apply human rights laws in combat represented a fundamental misunderstanding by ministers about what we are asking our people to do to keep us safe.”