Together provides quarter of a million donation to Centrepoint

Cheadle-based specialist lender Together, has donated £250,000 to support hundreds of young people into safe and secure housing.

The donation will be directed to Centrepoint’s Independent Living Programme, which provides high quality, affordable housing for young people in order to create a home of their own.

According to the Centrepoint’s latest research, across 2021 and 2022 around 129,000 16 to 24 year olds were homeless or at risk of homelessness in the UK. Worryingly, just 68% of the young people who reached out for support were assessed by their local authority in England.

Together’s donation will fund the complete build of two properties within the programme, which is aiming to deliver 300 modular homes for young people aged 18-25 across Manchester and London. The modular homes are provided to young people who are in work or on an apprenticeship, and are provided with essentials such as a bed and kettle, ready for the resident to make it their own.

In line with Together’s Sustainability Strategy, each property will be in use for around 60 years, providing not only a sustainable solution, but one which aims to have a long term impact on the social mobility of the young people that use the service.

Through this partnership Together will also launch its Thrive Together campaign which will take a deeper dive into the ambitions and aspirations of the young people who are helped through Centrepoint’s work.

Gerald Grimes, CEO designate at Together said: “As a business our culture has always been to support young people starting out in their careers through graduate or apprenticeship schemes – some of the most senior people in our team started out their careers here as apprentices.

“That ethos of giving young people a great start in life is continued with our partnership with Centrepoint. The Independent Living programme is a great way of enabling young people to make their own way in life with a little bit of help and we’re really optimistic about the impact our £250,000 donation will make both in the short and long term.”

Julie Milnes, Director of Fundraising at Centrepoint said: “Our Independent Living programme is Centrepoint’s most ambitious project to date. Providing innovative, high quality and affordable housing alongside Centrepoint’s support provision means that young people can concentrate on what’s most important: their futures. This work comes down to one singular mission – to help young people move on to independence.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Together and their incredible donation will help us to fund part of our new Independent Living project in Manchester. We cannot deliver Independent Living without the support of amazing partners like Together and we look forward to working closely with them to reach our goal of giving all homeless young people a future and ultimately ending youth homelessness by 2037.”

Lion’s share of landlords do not feel media portrayal is fair or accurate

An overwhelming 81% of landlords do not feel the portrayal of the buy-to-let market by the mainstream media is fair and accurate, the Landbay quarterly landlord survey can reveal.

While demand for rental properties remains incredibly high, landlords say they feel “demonised” as the important role they play in the UK’s wider housing mix is “not recognised” by the mainstream media.

Instead, they argue that the media blames “greedy” landlords for the lack of stock and increasing rents, rather than the lack of properties built by the government over many years.

When asked if they agreed with the statement that the media portrayal is fair and accurate, one third of landlords (33%) strongly disagreed, while almost half (48%) disagreed.

One landlord said: “The PRS provides much needed homes that are not being built by councils. I am a good landlord but I am fed up with being portrayed as someone who has plenty of money and is profiteering off tenants. What would happen if most landlords sold their properties?”

Another said: “It would be good if the media was more balanced and also portrayed the issues for landlords with problem tenants.”

The findings form part of Landbay’s latest quarterly survey which questions existing landlords on various topics to determine their attitude and intentions. The survey uncovered the key factors facing landlords and their thoughts on the future of the buy-to-let market.

Paul Brett, managing director, intermediaries at Landbay, said: “There’s no question landlords have needed to be thick-skinned with successive anti-landlord governments and plenty of anti-landlord rhetoric in the national news. It’s unfortunate that bad news leads when there are so many positive examples of good landlords working in partnership with tenants to provide quality housing.

“With such a reliance on rented accommodation as part of the wider housing mix in the UK, we need quality landlords more than ever. We also need new entrants too as demand continues to outstrip supply.

“To make this all happen though, the government must champion those good quality landlords and work with the sector, rather than against it. This will hopefully bring a more balanced approach to the national news agenda and relieve some of the pressure felt by honest and hard working landlords across the country.”

Over three quarters of businesses have no initiatives in place to get ‘over-50s’ back into work, new research shows

Research from RSM UK’s latest ‘The Real Economy Report’ shows that well over three quarters (82%) of businesses have no initiatives in place to encourage older or retired workers back into the workplace.

This comes despite the government’s recent efforts in the Spring Budget to get over 50s back to work. With many businesses facing staffing and skills shortages, failing to target the older generation means they may be overlooking a key solution to help ease labour shortages.

RSM’s research also reveals that nearly a third of businesses (30%) do not currently offer flexible working patterns to encourage those with caring responsibilities back into the workplace. RSM says this not only puts some jobs roles out of reach for these individuals, but businesses risk losing out on skilled and experienced workers.

Working practices also appear to be shifting post-pandemic. In the latest U-turn on hybrid working, businesses are pushing for employees to return to the office, while the chancellor recently expressed his views that the office should be the “default” location for workers.

According to the report, over half (52%) of businesses who currently offer hybrid working options* have asked their employees to return to the office for a minimum number of days/hours per week in the last 12 months and around a third (32%) plan to do so in the next 12 months. In addition, nearly half (42%) have asked their employees to return to the workplace full time in the last 12 months, and 30% plan to in the coming 12 months.

While the emphasis on getting workers back into the workplace is being driven by the desire to improve productivity levels (33%) and promote collaboration/teamwork (15%), this could be a major disincentive to those who require flexibility, such as those with children or caring responsibilities. This sentiment is echoed in separate research which found almost four million employees have changed profession in the last year due to a lack of flexible working options**.

Deborah Payne, associate director at RSM UK, said: ‘Our research suggests that businesses struggling with recruitment and retention issues may not be making the most of the potential labour market. While some employers are keen to bring employees back into the workplace to increase productivity, the tight labour market means employees have the upper hand and are more able to demand a better employment proposition. If they’re not happy with what businesses are offering, they’ll simply look elsewhere. It’s therefore more important than ever that employers take a holistic approach when providing flexible and hybrid working options for their employees. A healthy work-life balance, along with a competitive salary and benefits package are also often top of the priority list.

‘Given the various economic challenges and pressures that businesses are currently facing, attracting older workers back into the workplace may not have been at the top of their agenda, but it’s important not to overlook what they’re able to bring to the team. Having a mix of generations and encouraging cross-collaboration, where everyone contributes will benefit the whole team.’

Thomas Pugh, economist at RSM UK, said: ‘Despite economic growth essentially becoming non-existent over the last year, the unemployment rate has remained below 4%. The big problem is that 450,000 people have dropped out of the workforce due to sickness since the pandemic. As a result, total employment in the UK is still around 100,000 lower than it was at the start of 2020. This drop in labour supply has kept the labour market extremely tight.

‘However, there are some emerging signs that labour shortages are starting to ease. RSM UK’s latest MMBI survey*** shows on the demand side, the proportion of middle market businesses saying they recruited more in Q2 dropped to 43% from 48% in Q1. What’s more, the number of vacancies has dropped by more than 200,000 since this time last year and redundancy notifications so far in 2023 are about 50% above the same period last year.

‘On the supply side, the workforce is starting to recover. The number of inactive people (those who are not working and are not looking for a job) has fallen by about 200,000 since its peak in Q2 last year. Immigration has also remained strong, despite Brexit making it more difficult to recruit low-skilled workers from overseas.

‘We expect the unemployment rate to creep up over the rest of the year, reaching about 4% by the end of 2023. But the economic recovery in the second half of the year will prevent firms from shedding staff in significant numbers. Indeed, we expect labour to remain a scarce and precious resource for the foreseeable future.’


*170 respondents

**The CIPD – Flexible and hybrid working practices in 2023

***Q2 survey – conducted from April 3 to April 24 2023

Is Fear Of Change Paralysing UK Finance Departments?

Fresh research looking into the barriers to changing accounting software has revealed that over a quarter of UK finance decision-makers (27%) would be unlikely to change their accounting software provider even if they could achieve ROI in less than 12 months.

The sizable survey, commissioned by award-winning accounting software provider iplicit, sought the opinion of 1,000 UK-based finance decision-makers working in organisations that employ between 50 and 500 employees.

It investigated how finance decision makers plan, manage, and deliver the finance function in their business, specifically looking at the perceived barriers to changing accounting software, their experience of changing accounting systems, current processes and future priorities.

The report has highlighted that legacy accounting software that many businesses are tied into, even when migrated to the cloud, fails to provide the flexibility required by today’s businesses.

Even more galling for mid-sized companies is that many smaller businesses, that can get away with using an entry-level solution, can enjoy the benefits of true cloud software, albeit without the full set of features they need as they grow.

Paul Sparkes, Commercial Director at iplicit says, “Running a modern finance function involves much more than ensuring smooth month-end processes. Finance decision-makers need to carefully weigh up the pros of changing to a true cloud accounting software, vs the cons of sticking with an incumbent – which may lead to a realisation that there is actually nothing to fear about changing providers.”

From the ability to upload expenses to drilling down through reports to gain access to specific information, extending the accounting solution outside finance is a fundamental step to improve insight, control and timely decision-making, all the while reducing the burden on the core finance team.

Encouragingly, however, two-thirds of UK finance decision-makers (66%) would be willing to switch accounting software providers in 2023 if they can achieve a return on investment in under 12 months.

Sparkes continues, “Whilst in part these results offer reassurance that there is an appetite from UK finance decision-makers to take proactive steps and secure the best accounting software, it also highlights a fear about what changing accounting software providers actually involves.

This makes me question just how many organisations have been tied into lengthy contracts that will take years to see any return on investment!”

Earlier results released from the research revealed the top three reasons why UK finance decision-makers are hesitant to change accounting systems are losing historical data (14%), the cost of having to pay for a Right To Use (RTU) licence in order to access historical data (12%) and being too expensive (11%).

“The onus is very much with accounting software providers to illustrate exactly how their technology will improve operations, generate savings and support staff and customers alike – while positively impacting the bottom line,” concludes Sparkes.

Comment – PSR compulsory reimbursement developments

‘Evidence shows that scams cause long lasting impacts on victims, including deteriorating mental health, along with losing trust in others.

‘We have long said that the focus across industries must be on stopping scams; this is the only way to truly protect customers, and reinforces the need to maintain an industry code.

‘The LSB will now take this forward with support from key industry stakeholders and signatory financial services firms who want to offer their customers the best protections.’

Emma Lovell, LSB Chief Executive

EY UK Future Consumer Index: UK consumers are feeling the rising cost-of-living more than their European counterparts

Cost-of-living pressures have affected UK consumers more than their European counterparts, according to the latest EY UK Future Consumer Index.

The twelfth edition of EY’s survey of 1,000 UK consumers found that 62% of UK consumers say they are ‘extremely concerned’ by the cost-of-living squeeze, compared with 50% in the rest of Europe.

The survey found that affordability continues to be felt most keenly by low-income households, with 54% of this group prioritising affordability – up from 42% in June 2022 – compared to a rise from 24% to 39% for middle-income consumers. The proportion of households in the high-income bracket putting affordability first increased from 11% to 17% over the same period.

Sixty per cent of consumers have noticed price rises, with as many as 87% seeing price rises in fresh and packaged food, compared to 59% in June 2022. UK consumers continue to be more open to private label with 80% willing to buy private label packaged food compared to only 50% of their European counterparts.

Silvia Rindone, EY UK&I Retail Lead, said: “Our latest survey shows the strain the ongoing cost-of-living squeeze is having on UK consumers who are making more considered decisions about how and where they spend their money. This challenging, highly-price sensitive environment means brands and retailers need to work harder than ever to understand the factors influencing the UK consumer and re-evaluate ranges and pricing to better meet their needs.”

Obstacles for the green consumer

Rising costs are creating new obstacles for the environmentally conscious consumer as well, hampering their ability to embrace sustainable products. More than half (56%) of consumers surveyed by EY said sustainable products cost too much, while 71% said that price put them off purchasing.

Environmental ideals have not disappeared completely though: the research found that frugal consumer behaviours are now translating into green behaviours – with affordability at the heart. Half (50%) of the consumers surveyed said they take environmental action when it will save them money, with trends such as ‘repair rather than replace’ continuing to see growth, up from less than half (49%) in February 2022 to more than two-thirds (68%) in April 2023.

The smarter shopping experience

After accelerated growth during the Covid pandemic, online shopping has become the new normal, and opportunities are arising for retailers as consumers become more familiar with different types of technology. Nearly half (45%) of consumers surveyed said they are comfortable when AI is used to improve their shopping experience and a similar amount (43%) are comfortable using a chatbot for customer queries.

Where consumer trust is lacking, however, is their willingness to share data – even when they could benefit. The number of consumers not willing to share data to get cheaper product recommendations has risen from 32% in February 2022 to 41% in April.

Silvia Rindone added: “As online penetration peaks and consumers become more accustomed to purchasing across a variety of channels, retailers need to capitalise on the opportunities that data and AI can offer in order to win new business and improve consumer confidence. Being smart with the data will enable businesses to enhance their value proposition, delivering the right product at the right, affordable price.”

Agents look to tech to stay on track with CMP rules

Letting agents are increasingly looking to tech solutions to ease their concerns about compliance with strict rules of handling client money, according to a new survey by automated rental payment and client accounting specialists, PayProp.

Compulsory client money protection (CMP) rules were brought in for English agencies by the government in April 2019 and valid CMP insurance is a legal requirement in Scotland and Wales as well. They apply to any agent that handles client money.

The prospect of hefty fines for any breach of the complex rules in place has clearly had an impact on letting agents, as the survey shows.

In their latest Rental Confidence Index, PayProp asked agents to provide insights and opinions on technology and automation.

More than 80% listed the safety of client funds as one of the most important consideration when selecting a tech solution. This was followed by system security and functionality, which is par for the course for letting agents who are worried about client accounting.

And when given the opportunity to air their views on the benefits of technology, the majority of respondents said they believe that increasing automation is both more productive (64.6% agree or strongly agree) and cheaper (65.1% agree or strongly agree) than increasing the workforce.

The survey also revealed that agents view property technology as a worthwhile investment with 80.7% of respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing.


In addition, 68.4% of respondents were positive or very positive about the ongoing impact of automation on their job over the next five years.

Managing director of PayProp UK, Neil Cobbold, said: “With more rule changes and legislation coming down the track this year for the PRS, the benefits of being able to automate labour-intensive tasks such as banking and compliance have clearly been noted by property professionals who are trying to maximise efficiency while reducing costs.”

Costs rising

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey saw a significant rise in the number of property professionals who implemented higher-than-usual rental increases in 2022 (72%). This was up from 56.6% in 2021.

The reasons for this probably include higher landlord costs due to inflation and strong competition for available stock increasing market rates.

Despite these rises, there was no corresponding increase in arrears reported. In fact, 4.5% fewer respondents saw higher-than-usual arrears in 2022 than in 2021.

And the number of vacant properties were down too, with over 70% reporting lower-than-usual vacancies. Indicative of the high demand for rental homes, almost 40% of reported vacancies were snapped up by new tenants in less than a week of being on the market.

But despite strong tenant demand and high rents, the survey revealed that more landlords want to sell their properties (49%) than the ones adding to their portfolios (13.2%).

For their part, property professionals identified ‘signing more landlords’ as their main priority (40.6%), followed by ‘finding more ways to generate income (21.3%) and ‘improving the customer experience’ (12.9%).


Linked to this, ‘finding new rental properties’ was the most challenging aspect of lettings for 42% of respondents – again, the highest score.

Cobbold said: “This suggests that competition for rental properties is high and that agents need to be creative and proactive in their search for new properties at a time when a high proportion of landlords are reportedly selling up.

“Two standouts that rank low on the list of worries in 2023 were finding tenants and competition, suggesting that the majority of those surveyed are confident they can attract landlords away from self-management and the competition.”

Cobbold concludes that agents can expect more of the same troubles from 2022 to persist in 2023.

“Low stock availability continues to be an issue and inflation remains stubbornly high. But there are reasons to be positive.

“Data shows that the sales market is enjoying a revival. Rent controls in Scotland are easing and there are signs that Westminster is considering a variety of perspectives to ensure a more balanced reform of the English private rented sector. With inflation predicted to be half of what it is today by the end of 2023, plus better prospects for rental and commission growth, letting agents can look forward to a more positive second half of the year.”

Uptick in construction activity masks weakening demand in the housing market

According to the latest PMI data by S&P and CIPS, the headline construction PMI rose slightly to 51.6, up from 51.1 in April. The increase comes despite housing activity falling for the third consecutive month to 42.7, reflecting the weakening demand in the housing market.

The data shows an increase in civil engineering, commercial activity and new orders to 53.9, 54.2 and 55.4, as main infrastructure projects continue to be awarded, strengthening the pipeline of work in the sector. In addition, new orders saw the strongest rise since April 2022, and civil rose to an 11-month high in May.

Commenting on the data, Kelly Boorman, partner and national head of construction at RSM UK, said: ‘The continued fall in housebuilding for May does not come as a surprise, and although only slight, highlights the weakening demand for housing as people are still cautious given interest rates and the cost-of-living crisis. The UK’s housing market is showing signs of distress as net mortgage lending contracted by £1.4bn in April, the lowest level on record excluding the pandemic. But, with mortgage rates set to jump even higher, coupled with house prices falling at the fastest rate since July 2009, there are further headwinds for the housing market, with housebuilders pulling back on projects to protect their margins.

‘However, there is some positive news for the construction industry. Major infrastructure projects are being awarded which is contributing to the growth in civil engineering activity, future activity and new orders, and also explains the overall uptick in sector activity. These projects are ensuring stability in the sector, meaning businesses can continue to plan and procure carefully, while also securing employment for skilled workers from the UK and beyond. As input price costs and suppliers’ delivery times maintain steady levels of improvement, and inflation and interest rates predicted to fall towards the end of year, we expect businesses to approach 2024 with cautious optimism as they look to build back margins and enhance productivity.’

Thomas Pugh, economist at RSM UK, said: ‘Further falls in house prices seem likely given mortgage rates are rising again and mortgage approvals, which are a leading indicator of demand in the housing market, fell again in April. But we’re not expecting a large slump in prices for three key reasons.

‘First, to some degree higher interest rates will be partially offset by an easing in the cost-of-living crisis as inflation falls back rapidly over the rest of this year. That will allow households’ real incomes to start growing again.

‘Second, the labour market is likely to stay tight and, even though the unemployment rate will probably rise over the rest of this year, it won’t surge. This means that there won’t be a wave of forced selling, which is normally required to generate a large fall in prices.

‘Third, as evidenced by the drop in the housebuilding component of the construction PMI, the supply of new housing is constrained. Given the chronic shortage of homes in the UK this structural imbalance is unlikely to allow large falls in prices.

‘So, we see some further falls in prices, driven by a lack of demand rather than forced selling. Falls of around 5-10% from their peaks seem reasonable. This is unlikely to have any significant repercussions for the wider economy given the surge in prices in the previous few years.’

Castle Trust Bank renews contract and transitions to the latest Phoebus core banking servicing platform

Castle Trust Bank has renewed its contract with Phoebus for another five years and will be transitioning to the software provider’s latest core banking servicing platform.

The two firms have worked together since 2016 when Castle Trust migrated its entire mortgage book of loans onto a bespoke Phoebus system.

Upgrading to the Phoebus core servicing solution will allow Castle Trust to utilise the full range of additional functionality available. This includes the Phoebus award-winning originations and migrations API and the option to implement any number of the other 60-plus suite of “standard” Phoebus APIs.

In total, almost 50 new capabilities and enhancements will become enabled for Castle Trust to deploy, including the option to access the Phoebus AI-powered and predictive, next generation user interface.

Adam Oldfield, chief revenue officer at Phoebus, said: “We have always had a great relationship with Castle Trust and understand the workings of their specialist areas of lending. It now makes complete sense for Castle Trust to transition from the bespoke system we built for them seven years ago to our market leading, core servicing platform with all its additional functionally and contemporary, digital capability.

“The team at Phoebus looks forward to completing this transition within a four-month timeframe. We will then continue to work closely with the bank in support of its on-going lending servicing requirements, delivering significant operating cost savings whilst helping enhance its growth ambitions.

Barry Searle, managing director, property at Castle Trust Bank, commented: “The Phoebus bespoke mortgage servicing system has served us well to date, but the scale and scope of digital innovation created within the Phoebus core banking servicing platform is where we want and need to go to next.

“As a specialist lender we are always looking to create new products to fit an ever-complex lending market and the latest Phoebus software solution can help us to realise our future growth and business objectives.”

Boodil Launches a New Rewards and Loyalty App

Boodil, the open banking payment solution has announced the launch of its new rewards and loyalty app. From today, users will be able to checkout via the Boodil ‘Pay by Bank” solution at any of the retailers that have enabled Boodil as a payment method, earn points when they spend and use them on a variety of prize draws including shopping vouchers, AirPods, spa days, holiday vouchers and even cash. Following a trial with a select number of users, Boodil has now rolled out even more exciting prize draws along with a host of rewards and discounts from a variety of well known retailers such as Travis Perkins, Dominos and Dunelm.

Anyone can sign up to the app effortlessly, for free which allows users to connect their bank account for an extra 250 points per month and provides them with more personalised rewards and offers based on actual spending behaviour. Users as well as this are offered the ability to transfer any prizes they have won for a cash equivalent as an alternative.

Boodil describes themselves as the other side of the coin to American Express. CEO and Co-Founder, Harry Luscombe says “American Express is a great solution which provides customers with points when they utilise their American Express card however they charge the merchants significantly higher fees along with customers having to pay an annual fee for certain cards. The rewards available tend to favour and benefit those consumers with higher disposal income levels, with customers often having to spend tens of thousands each year to obtain meaningful value and benefit. Given the current economic climate we are in, we wanted to create a value lead proposition that enabled more engaging and rewarding experiences for customers.”

Boodil have made the spending process simple with customers not needing to download the Boodil app in order to checkout at any of their retail partners including Gorgeous Shop, Electric Tobacconist and UK Toolbox. Mobile or online banking is all consumers need to benefit from the rapid “Pay by Bank” solution. Once a user does pay via Boodil they can simply download the app and sign up using the email address they have previously used to checkout with Boodil, in order to automatically pull through the points they have previously accumulated. Users can also gain points for referring friends to the app via their unique referral code and for connecting their bank account. Boodil points can then be used on various prize draws including shopping vouchers, AirPods, spa days, vouchers for a holiday and even cash.

Sam Owens COO and Co-Founder comments “with inflation rates soaring to record highs, not seen in decades. Consumer spending habits are shifting. At Boodil we want to make the everyday spending experience fun, engaging and most importantly, rewarding. We’re really putting the consumer at the forefront of everything. The consumer discounts available on our app not only make everyday and discretionary spending more cost effective but offering the ability to win vouchers, experiences, products or even cash is a unique way of rewarding customers for utilising our solution and being loyal to the brands we work with. It will also help our retail brands attract new high intent customers, increase loyalty and engage with new audiences. Not only do brands get exposure in our mobile app but they also benefit from reduced payment processing fees via Boodil’s “Pay by Bank” solution, instant settlement of funds and the elimination of chargeback fraud.

Boodil’s open banking-enabled rewards app, upon receiving first-party open banking consent, utilises consumer spending trends to personalise the rewards, discounts and offers for each user within the app.

The new features are all live in the Boodil app today, which can be downloaded from the Apple and Google Play stores. If you use code: 226NR9Acow when you download the app you will also get an additional 250 points when you sign up.