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Stamp duty reforms 'helped boost housing market'

Radical reforms in stamp duty have helped boost the housing market, experts have said.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said the changes - which see stamp duty increased gradually alongside the cost of the house, rather than increasing in large 'steps' - are responsible for a predicted rise in house prices, coupled with a lack of homes to choose from.

Under a revised system unveiled and launched earlier this month, the vast majority of buyers will pay less stamp duty - though it means people buying homes at the top end of the market will pay significantly more.

Read: Stamp duty reforms: How the new rules will affect you

Read: Buyers beware? The hidden costs of stamp duty reform

House prices outside London 'to see biggest rises' in 2015

House prices in the north west, south east, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside are set to shoot up by five per cent in the coming year - while property in the capital will remain level, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has said.

It comes as further research from property analyst Hometrack found that house prices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Southampton, Bristol and Birmingham had grown at a faster rate than London over the three months to November.

The predictions come from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Credit: PA

The RICS predictions state that Northern Ireland and Scotland will see overall increases of four per cent, while the east of England, the East Midlands and the north east are set to see rises of three per cent.

House prices in Wales and the south west are expected to rise by two per cent.

London is the only region due to see no overall rise at all, though property experts have warned of massive fluctuations between different areas of the capital.

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PM to face questions on plans to ban British jihadis

The Prime Minister will be grilled on controversial plans to block suspected jihadis from returning to the UK at a committee meeting today.

David Cameron will face the Liaison Committee to answer questions on the government's efforts to tackle the threat posed by Islamist extremists.

Nansen Primary School in Birmingham was among those named in the 'Trojan Horse' allegations Credit: PA

It is expected that he will also be quizzed on the 'Trojan Horse' allegations of extremism in Birmingham schools, and on the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (Tpims) regime, which is being beefed up with revived powers to relocate suspects across the country.

Climate change and energy policy are among the other items on the agenda.

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Security alert after 'threats to kidnap and kill police officer'

Threats to kidnap and kill a serving police officer in Birmingham were behind a major security alert in the West Midlands overnight, according to reports.

Additional security measures have now been implemented at the force, including issuing advice to officers about travelling to and from work in partial uniform, and security at police stations in the region.

Magical Journey Christmas attraction to reopen today

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen with elves at The Magical Journey. Credit: BPM Media

A Christmas attraction backed by celebrity interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is due to reopen today after being swamped with complaints.

The Magical Journey at the Belfry Hotel in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, shut down after just one day following gripes it was unfinished, had "rubbish presents" and "chav elves".

Ticket prices of £22.50 for a 90-minute visit were also criticised with many branding the "winter spectacle" a "rip-off".

After three days of improvements Llewelyn-Bowen, who stressed he had nothing to do with the production or management of the event, said he hoped the experience was now "much closer to his original ravishing vision".

But despite reopening to the public, organisers have barred the press from attending.

A spokesman said: "We feel that introducing camera crews, reporters and journalists is only going to take away from the experience and possibly even create anxiety for our visitors."

They added they "just want to concentrate on making Christmas as magical as we can for the people who have chosen to join us for The Magical Journey".

Parents say Llewelyn-Bowen grotto 'ruined Christmas'

Children were left in tears at 'The Magical Journey' near Sutton Coldfield, which parents claimed 'ruined the magic of Christmas'.

The Christmas grotto, which was backed by the designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, was forced to close after just a single day following hundreds of complaints.

ITV News Corespondent Ben Chapman reports:

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