Strictly between you and me – part 1 can be read here.


‘Shaun’, who works in the private sector, was telling me the other day that his employer is basically sending emails to him 24/7 which, he says, is now getting more than tiresome.

On top of that, ‘Vicky’, who has only been on 80% furlough pay as she works for a charity, is now hearing rumblings that there will be some job cuts and her role as PA to the Senior Assistant to the Deputy CEO may well go in the coming reorganisation. So things are not looking so good.  It’s all really worrying and to top all that, our annual holiday in Spain has now been cancelled.

In the more well-to-do areas of the Wold, the ‘What ifs’ of the real world are starting to raise their heads in the rarefied atmosphere of ‘we’ve had a good war’ so far, something that ordinary people doing ordinary jobs have had to dwell on since March as they wonder if their savings will cover the shortfall in income, or if they will be able to restart their business, or how they will manage the mortgage or HP payments.  Many self-employed have received absolutely no assistance from the various government furlough schemes and have had either to take out loans or rely on family to ‘help out’.  So much for the ‘we’re all in this together’ and ‘we are all behind you’ rhetoric of the chancellor.

There are other worries too for these residents of middle England, for many house sales failed to materialise in the late autumn and so remained on the market right up to the lockdown and presumably through it.  Some of these properties have now been on the market for almost 12 months.  Many of these ‘delightful country homes’ were bought at the height of the ‘flight’ from urban areas which was reflected in high prices.

We are now told by some in the industry that prices have increased by 3.7%, the highest rise since 2017, apparently with one national company reporting that enquiries in July were 75% higher than a year ago, with sellers managing to find buyers more quickly than during the same period in 2019.

Sounds a bit optimistic to me but then houses in St Mary on the Wold are mostly in the £350 to £650K range with a few well over that figure. Perhaps it’s these properties the ‘trade’ is looking at when some say the upward trend will continue as people re-evaluate their needs and lifestyles after ‘lockdown’.

On the other hand, one lender reports price falls, and that certainly is the experience of some sellers here, and in a setting where many properties are of a similar age and design it only takes a couple of sellers to reduce their price, which then devalues all the others.   Some experts are predicting a 15% decline in house prices as the reality of the economic effects of the virus start to show – probably quicker than many realise or more likely prefer to think that nothing will change, or maybe they think all the house for sale signs on homes less than three years old in the Wold is a good sign.

It’s noticeable that there is a dearth of new registration vehicles in the Wold this year – not unexpected you may say, given that we couldn’t buy cars for months, and working from home has meant usage has dropped substantially or maybe many do not want to take the risk of a new Personal Contract Purchase or Hire Purchase deal at a time when futures are uncertain.  Almost 87% of new vehicles are purchased or leased on finance and over 55% of used ones.  Interestingly the motor trade figures show a 3.7% price increase in used car prices together with a huge surge in demand for used cars with an average price of £13,949.

The biggest price increases were 6.7 % for cars over 10 years old with those aged five to 10 years rising seven per cent. So better buy that nine year old, five previous owners, 120,000 miles, ‘never raced or rallied’ Vauxhall Corsa fairly soon then.  Also stand by for an increased number of cars with ‘cherished personal’ number plates, older cars are purchased, and the year registration plate discarded so that the neighbours can be suitably impressed by your ‘new’ car.

My neighbour was remarking during an over-the-fence conversation the other day how prices in supermarkets were increasing.   He’d not noticed much during lockdown as, like many people, he’d taken advantage of the delivery service which has in the main been very good, but since firing up the ‘Jazz’ and venturing into his supermarket (incidentally wearing a mask when with his medical condition he really shouldn’t) he’s noticed how the prices are going up. All the ‘buy one get one free’ offers have disappeared, apparently food prices have been going up since January by over 8% with and fruit and vegetables by nearly 15% and meat and fish by almost 23%, which to be honest, I hadn’t noticed, mainly because we’ve not visited the supermarket and have ordered on line.

Our local farm shop prices don’t seem to have changed much, yet!  Add to this to the weekly delivery bill of around £6.00 and fuel prices rising as I write (£1. 14 a litre for petrol and about £1.30 for diesel here) and it’s easy to see why many people are getting nervous about inflation and outgoings as well they may.

Boris in his capacity of Prime Minister of Greater London and the English regions – sorry nearly wrote counties, but that description seems to have been relegated to history in this new uncertain normal we are living in – has already used up the goodwill of many new and old conservative voters.  His continued ‘bigging up’ as young people say of the public services and the NHS, is starting to grate on the many millions of self-employed and private sector workers, many of whom, Boris may wish to  reflect on, worked to keep this country moving during the hysteria of the pandemic.  Odd how the utilities, without which we cannot function, from refuse collection (usually subcontracted out by local authorities), water and sewage, electricity, gas, haulage, transport, communications and retail food and  fuel distribution are all in the private sector and have not, in the main enjoyed, the fulsome praise of the Prime Minister.  Perhaps he or the cabinet are just not interested, having said that they are to increase (or is that create) more world-class public sector jobs, I seem to remember that a certain Labour government did that too.  It’s an ill wind that blows no good of course, at least the public appointments section of the Guardian will again be full.

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