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Equilibrium's Finance and Investment News Roundup

This week's roundup includes news of a blow to the government's planned welfare reforms, further spending cuts announced by BP, refunds for customers of The Money Shop and other payday lenders, and house price hikes caused by a lack of housing supply. 

Peers block government welfare reforms

Planned government welfare reforms have been blocked by the House of Lords, with peers voting to reject the plans set out by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne as part of his drive to eradicate the deficit over the next five years.

The controversial changes, which involve cuts to tax credits, were drawn up to reduce the yearly welfare bill by around £4.4 billion. However, they have drawn criticism from those concerned that the measures will negatively impact working families.

Peers voted 307 to 277 in favour of one motion that requires the government to conduct an independent report on the effects of the cuts before the House of Lords considers the issue further. They also voted 289 to 272 in favour of another motion requiring a scheme of transitional protection, lasting three years at the minimum, to be introduced by the government to better safeguard those likely to feel the brunt of the cuts.

The government has previously said that other policies, such as a rise in the minimum wage, would counter the impact of the changes, although other studies have suggested the poorest families could still lose out. 

BP announces further spending cuts and asset sales

BP has announced it will offload more assets, adding to the almost $50 billion (£33 billion) it has already sold since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. The oil and gas giant revealed it will likely sell an extra $3-5 billion in assets next year, with the move prompted by ongoing low oil prices.

The company, which posted a profits decrease for the third quarter of the year, also revealed it will implement further spending cuts, with its capital spending for 2015 likely to stand around the $19 billion mark, with this figure decreasing to $17-19 billion over the next two years.

In a statement, Chief Executive Bob Dudley said: "We are now in action to rebalance our financial framework in this new price environment." 

Money Shop customers 'in line for a refund'

Customers of The Money Shop and other payday lenders could be in line for a refund after Dollar Financial UK agreed to pay compensation to customers following a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) review. Dollar Financial UK, which owns The Money Shop and other brands including Payday UK, Payday Express and Ladder Loans, will refund 147,000 customers to the tune of £15.4 million.

According to the FCA, issues with affordability checks and debt collection practices, as well as system errors, may have caused issues for customers and caused them to be out of pocket.

Stuart Howard, who became Chief Executive of Dollar Financial in November last year, said: "As the new CEO, I accept the findings of the review and apologise to anyone who may have suffered difficulties as a result." 

Lack of homes 'pushing up prices'

House prices in the UK are being pushed up due to the lack of available homes on the market. This is according to new findings from the Centre for Economics and Business Research, which showed that while mortgage activity has increased in 2015 - with mortgage approvals for house purchases climbing by 14% - costs are being edged up because of low supply.

The research also showed that people are finding it increasingly difficult to climb the property ladder because the difference in price between different types of property, such as a flat compared to a terraced home, continues to grow wider.