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Government considers help for first-time buyers

It is understood the Treasury is looking at making the scheme, which helps people take out a mortgage with a 5% deposit, available for another year. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will announce the Autumn Statement on 22 November, weeks after the Tories lost two by-elections to Labour. The Treasury declined to comment. The scheme, first introduced in March 2021 by the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak, was designed to encourage lenders to give mortgages to borrowers with a smaller deposit.  Since December that year, the interest rate has risen from a historic low to the current 5.25% as the Bank of England has sought to curb high inflation. It has meant that mortgages have become more expensive for borrowers while many grapple with the higher cost of living. Recent figures from financial information service Moneyfacts show that the typical rate for a five-year fixed mortgage have dipped to 5.99%. But a two-year fixed mortgage has a rate of 6.5%. The mortgage guarantee scheme was extended for 12 months last year and is due to end in December.  However, it is understood the Treasury is considering keeping it in place for another year.

It is one of a package of measures, first reported by the Sunday Times, that the Treasury is examining ahead of the Autumn Statement to help people get on the property ladder. The department is also reportedly considering a new Individual Savings Accounts, or ISA, to encourage potential buyers to save for their first home. Other ISAs, such has Help to Buy, which rolled-out in 2015 under former chancellor George Osborne and ended on 31 March, were criticised as house prices rose higher than the scheme's limit. Under its rules, buyers were awarded a 25% bonus from the government on homes worth up to £250,000 in England and £450,000 in London. Mr Hunt is also considering increasing the £450,00 upper limit on house purchases funded by a Lifetime ISA, where government adds 25% to savings aimed at building a deposit. The latest data from Halifax showed that the average UK property price in September was £278,601 and, for London, was £525,678. The BBC understands that no decisions have been taken, and depend on official forecasts of the health of the public finances. Last week, the government lost two safe seats, in Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth, to Labour. There have been calls from some Tories to cut taxes to boost support for the government. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick told BBC One's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme that the government would consider cutting taxes if it meets its target of halving inflation by the end of year. He said that he understood Conservatives and the public "all want to cut taxes". "But the first task has got to be bearing down on inflation," he said. Last week, new figures revealed that inflation - which measure the rate at which prices are rising - remained at 6.7% in September which was the same as August. However, Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, has said he expects a "noticeable drop" in inflation for October when figures are published next month. Meanwhile, the Bank of England is set to announce its latest interest rate decision on 2 November after it voted to keep rates at 5.25%. Mr Jenrick said that if inflation is brought under control then "of course we will consider what more we should do" on taxes. A Labour spokesperson said: "After 13 years of failed Conservative government, the dream of home ownership has evaporated for many working people, while millions of mortgage holders are paying the price of last year's kamikaze Budget. "With a transformational package of reforms to the planning system to build 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament, and new measures to help first-time buyers get on the housing ladder, it's Labour that is the party of home ownership."

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