November was a month for stories of low pay, austerity and companies offering discounts to cash-strapped shoppers.
On the first day alone we were told an Ipswich Poundland store had cut its prices to 93p to win sales from a nearby 99p Store. The new 99p Store upstart slashed its prices to 94p in response.
Cash-strappedIt was hardly surprising given the bad news out that day. We learned that more than one million people planned to take out a payday loan to cover the cost of Christmas. That came from research by a Government-backed body The Money Advice Service (MAS).
It said one in 40 (2.44%) people surveyed, equating to around 1.2 million across the UK, was thinking about turning to a payday lender to fund their seasonal spending. One third (32%) of consumers also said they will ramp up their credit card debts to pay for the festivities, while one in every 11 (9%) people said they are still paying off what they owe from last Christmas.
McJobs to blameThree times more young women are employed in low paid, low skilled jobs than 20 years ago, The TUC told us. It said the proportion of 16 to 24-year-old women in jobs such as office and hotel cleaning has increased from 7% to 21%, while the figure for young men has increased from 14% to 25%.
That chimed with a survey by the Centre for Labour and Social Studies that found that most people did not believe they were benefiting from economic recovery and had no faith in the private sector running public services such as the Royal Mail.
To top that, the Prudential informed us that millions of Britons faced poverty in retirement if their partners die first. More than half of couples over the age of 40 were at risk of leaving one partner penniless because both of them relied on one single retirement income.
In fact, some 53% of couples in this age bracket had made no arrangements to ensure that when one partner dies, their pension will continue to pay an income to the surviving partner. Women were the most at risk; one in five will depend entirely on their other half for a retirement income, compared with just 5% of men over 40.
Bank of mum and dadBy the second day of November we had found out who was being fleeced the most - parents. We were told that the bank of mum and dad was funding seven out of ten young adults who had left home, with help for houses, cars and weddings topping the items that add up to £44bn a year.
And the research – from Lloyds Bank and the Future Foundation – warned that a further 4.25 million UK adults aged 18+ were still living with their parents. It said that 70% of young adults were draining their parents' savings after they had left home - up from 53% during the 1970s.
By the middle of the month tax was the concern. Research by the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) warned that almost a third of town halls were planning to increase council tax next year. suggests that 75% of county councils will bring in the increase, despite financial incentives from the Government to freeze increases.
Then the right-of-centre Policy Exchange said British people pay the highest levels of property taxes in the developed world and more than twice the average for the 34 rich countries in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.
It demanded that politicians reject new levies on property - such as the "mansion tax" on residences worth more than £2m favoured by Liberal Democrats and Labour - and instead pledge to bring down housing costs by building 1.5 million new homes by the end of the decade.
But you couldn't trust the government to get anything right, it turned out. The cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) savaged government attempt sot bring in Universal Credit to streamline benefits, claiming "shocking" failures had already wasted at least £140m.
The Universal Credit scheme has been blighted by "alarmingly weak" management, with secretaries allowed to authorise purchase orders worth more than £20 million. In some cases it is unclear what suppliers have been paid for. The PAC also voiced doubts about whether the project can still be fully delivered by 2017 - branding a pilot "inadequate" and open to fraud.
Season of good cheer?
In the run up to Christmas we found out that Mars and Cadbury had been quietly taking chocolates out of their Christmas tubs. Mars Celebrations had shrunk by 105g to 750g, and Cadbury's Heroes reduced 20g to 780g. The price, meanwhile, had stayed the same for 11 fewer chocolates in each Celebrations tub and 2 or 3 fewer in each tub of Heroes.