Christmas is now well and truly over and whilst the partying and over-eating may have come to an end, for many people a nightmare could be about to begin - the nightmare of debt. Faced with bills for hundreds or even thousands of pounds, some find the new year too much to cope with.
It's not just about Christmas of course - for some, debt is a problem that can come from drinking, gambling, drugs or other addictions. Our reporter David Johns has been to meet a former City high-flier who lost his job, house, wife and all his money because of uncontrollable gambling - and hear how he turned his life around.
He speaks to former gambling addict Justyn Larcombe; David Trice from West Kent Debt Advice; and military collector Neil Thomas.
Ten of the most terrible excuses for missing the 31 January tax return deadline have been revealed today by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Many of the excuses claim it was someone else’s fault – pets, girlfriends, work colleagues and even the President of the United States are named and blamed for taxpayers’ tardiness. The excuses were all used in unsuccessful appeals against HMRC penalties for late filing and payment. Here’s the full list:
- My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.
- I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a postbox or get an internet signal.
- I fell in with the wrong crowd.
- I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.
- Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.
- I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.
- A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn’t give it back.
- I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.
- My girlfriend’s pregnant.
- I was in Australia.
People can have a genuine excuse for missing a tax deadline, but owning a pet with a taste for HMRC envelopes isn’t one of them. You need to file your2013/14 tax return online, and pay what you owe, by 31 January. But it’s best to do it now, to allow plenty of time to sort out any issues with your return.That way, you’ll avoid the busy period for our phone lines as the deadline approaches.
All outstanding 2013/14 tax returns must now be submitted online, as the 31 October paper-filing deadline has passed. To send an online tax return, you must be registered for HMRC Online Services. This involves HMRC sending you an Activation Code in the post, and you need to allow 10 days for it to arrive.
A couple from Chichester are thanking their lucky stars after a life-changing Thunderball win on Wednesday 10 December - making them £500,000 better off.
The lucky couple, David, 56, and Karen Ainger, 57, are still reeling from their good fortune and have hailed it the perfect way to round off the year.
Karen discovered she had won when she checked her ticket just before she went off to bed.
With David, who was on an early shift the next day, already in the land of nod, it took her a while to realise what she was seeing.
David took it all in his stride and went to work the next morning, whereas Karen spent a sleepless night planning how she would make the claim the next day.
We are a quiet couple who enjoy the quiet life. We will be using the winnings to pay off a small car loan and credit cards, and then the rest is going into investments for our retirement.
I’m a Friend of Chichester Festival Theatre and I love going, I try to attend at least one or two shows each season. Now that we can pay off all our debts, I will have more disposable income for tickets."
House prices in the south-east are expected to rise by 5% in 2015, fuelled by the recent change in Stamp Duty tax rulesRead the full story ›
Food worth millions of pounds ends up in landfill every year, when it could be used by those most in need. Now, an organisation is collecting surplus, edible food from supermarkets and distributing it to various charities. FareShare has warehouses in Ashford, Brighton, Didcot and Southampton and provides meals to thousands of people. Tom Savvides talks to Li Brookman and Alan Bayford from FareShare, former rough sleeper Zeph Smith and James Duff from the Catching Lives homeless shelter.
Food worth millions of pounds ends up in landfill every year, when it could be used by those most in need. Now the organisation "Fare Share", which has warehouses in Ashford, Southampton, Brighton and Didcot is collecting surplus, edible food from supermarkets and distributing it to various charities. Li Brookman is Operations manager and has been speaking to ITV Meridian.
Britain's water companies have been told by the industry regulator to cut household bills in real terms by 5% over the next five yearsRead the full story ›
The so-called bedroom tax has been one of the coalition's most controversial measures. The Government insists the under-occupancy surcharge is freeing up council accommodation for those who most need it.
But critics say it is forcing vulnerable families into debt. One South East council is encouraging those affected to swap their properties, as Malcolm Shaw reports:
Responding to the announcement of an average 2.2% increase in rail fares January, Rail Minister Claire Perry said that the Government was "taking the tough decisions needed" to improve railways.
This Government has embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail investment for a generation as part of our long term economic plan, investing £38 billion over the next five years.
Passengers are rightly concerned about the cost and complexity of fares. That is why last year we announced a real-terms freeze on regulated fares for the first time in a decade and this continues into 2015.
Significantly we have also removed the fares flex for 2015. As a further measure we have asked operators to improve the information passengers receive when buying a ticket.
South West Trains has confirmed that fares on its services will rise by an average of 2.3% from next month.
The cost of a single journey will rise by an average of 9.5pence, the lowest increase for five years.
Separately, the Government confirmed in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement that season tickets and other fares it regulates will rise by 2.5%.
Rail passengers can check ticket prices for 2015 at stations, online at southwesttrains.co.uk or through National Rail Enquiries.
Money from fares goes towards running and maintaining the railway which benefits every household in the country, by improving journeys, creating employment and helping to boost the economy.
Over the next five years, Network Rail is spending on average £27m a day building and maintaining a better railway that benefits passengers, communities and businesses across Britain alongside commitments made by train companies to improve services.