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EQ Weekly Roundup

This week’s roundup includes news that the pension age for women has been raised, 2019 will see a new energy price cap being introduced and the divide between North and South house prices could be expected to narrow.

New pension laws introduced for women

New laws mean women now qualify for their state pensions at the same age as men. Women who are 65 on 6 November will therefore be the first to have to wait for as long as men.

Critics say that women are still a long way from pension equality, as the amount they typically receive is lower (in 2017 the average woman's state pension was worth £126 a week, compared with the average man's at £154).

From now on, men and women will see their state pension ages go up in tandem - increasing to 66 by October 2020, and 67 by 2028. The move to increase the state pension age is the result of increasing longevity.

Successive governments have accepted that unless the qualifying age went up, the state pension would become unaffordable. Such changes have therefore saved the Treasury at least £30bn.

Energy bills to be capped in New Year

The new energy price cap will come into force on 1 January, saving 11 million customers an average of £76 a year on their gas and electricity bills.

Regulator Ofgem has set the final level of the cap at £1,137 a year for a typical dual fuel customer paying their bill by direct debit.

It means suppliers will have to cut the price of their default tariffs to the level of the cap or below it. The cap level will be updated in April and October every year.

How households will save will depend on how much energy they use, which tariff they are on, if they have both gas and electricity and how they pay for their energy.

North-South house price divide ‘to narrow’

The North-South divide in house prices will narrow in the next five years as property values in northern England rise by a fifth, a report by Savills suggests.

The research predicted that British house prices will rise in line with average incomes from 2019 to 2024, ranging from 21.6% in the North West of England to 4.5% in London.

The forecasts by Savills suggest that, across Britain, house prices will increase by 14.8% over the five years from 2019. That would add about £32,000 to the average property value, taking it to £248,086.

The report added: "Brexit angst is a major factor for market sentiment right now, particularly in London. But it is the legacy of the global financial crisis - mortgage regulation in particular - combined with gradually rising interest rates that will really shape the market over the longer term.”

Five-year forecasts must be treated with caution, particularly in the housing market, owing to the variety of events that can affect the UK economy and the sector, down to a local level.

New £50 note will feature a scientist

The new £50 note will feature a prominent British scientist, the Bank of England has announced, with the public being asked for nominations.

In addition to the Queen, the note will include the portrait of an eminent late scientist from fields such as biology, astronomy and medical research.

The public can offer suggestions on the Bank's website over the next six weeks. Nominations can include anyone who worked in any field of science.

There are currently 330 million £50 notes in circulation, with a combined value of £16.5bn. A shortlist will be drawn up by a committee and a final decision will be made by Governor Mark Carney.