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Have we just sat through our final Ted talk?

Voice Of EU



Season six of Line of Duty has concluded amid levels of hype that felt like the Twitter equivalent of a convoy of police sirens screaming past your house. And it has given fans what they craved by unmasking nefarious nasty “H”. But if AC-12 finally have their man, what next for Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) and DIs Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Steve Arnott (Martin Compston)?

“H”, the fourth in a quartet of Big League bent coppers, was revealed to be none other than Detective Inspector Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle). This, to put it mildly, came out of left field.

I’m the blundering fool? I’m the one who’s made total mugs of you lot

Buckells had played AC-12 for idiots by pretending to be an incompetent sloth. All this time, though, he’d been pulling the strings and working hand-in-hand with organised crime: the “OCG” in Line of Duty lingo.

“I’m the blundering fool?” he crowed as the truth came out. “I’m only the one who’s made total mugs of you lot.”

He was also ultimately responsible for the killing of Gail Vella. She was the journalist who knew too much and was on the brink of exposing Buckells and Chief Constable Philip Osborne as co-conspirators in the cover-up of a racist murder 15 years previously.

But if Buckells has been caught bang to rights, what of the future of the Belfast-filmed Line of Duty itself? Have we just sat through our final Ted talk?

The show has never been more popular. Season six achieved the highest ratings for a UK drama for 13 years. Nearly 11 million people in the UK tuned into the penultimate episode – which, when you factor out children and people who hate television, means that almost a quarter of the British population has been glued to the adventures of Ted and Co. And obviously Ireland has become obsessed too. LoD isn’t a blockbuster – it’s a phenomenon.

So at one level it would be madness to quit now. And yet, there was a ring of quasi-finality to the latest instalment. The “H” conspiracy has seemingly been blown wide open. Buckells, who finally implicated himself with his wonky spelling of “definitely”, went so far as to helpfully lay it all out for Ted, Kate and Steve.

The organised crime threat was, he said, more dispersed and nebulous than AC-12 had suspected. The death of criminal overlord Tommy Hunter in series two had led to a splintering of criminal activity. Rather than one big cabal, there were lots of small ones. And far from being the megalomaniacal Machiavelli, Buckells, as H, was merely a glorified facilitator.

It has been a strange season for Line of Duty. One of the highlights was a big set piece shoot-out in episode four as Arnott whisked corrupt solicitor Jimmy Lakewell in for interrogation. The OCG caught wind and staged an ambush. Cue a spectacular gunfight in downtown Belfast – but one which only temporarily delayed the OCG from getting its claws into Lakewell, who was strangled back at the prison.

But there have been letdowns. Kelly Macdonald’s DCI Jo Davidson never convinced. We were supposed to believe she had infiltrated the police over a period of years – yet she kept breaking down into sobs whenever the pressure of spying on the cops for the OCG became too much. How had someone so brittle made it so far? And it was obviously a mistake to kill off Ryan Pilkington, the grinning villain who was Line of Duty’s answer to Prince Joffrey in Game of Thrones.

Fans may be able to do without further Line of Duty, but you can sense they are already mourning the looming lack of Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) in their lives. Photograph: Steffan Hill/BBC/PA
Fans may be able to do without further Line of Duty, but you can sense they are already mourning the looming lack of Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) in their lives. Photograph: Steffan Hill/BBC/PA

In Ireland, there has been an added layer of weirdness as Adrian Dunbar has become a superstar largely due to his penchant for sprinkling his dialogue with folksy aphorisms. “Hold your whisht” and “Now we’re sucking diesel” are textbook “auld lad” banter. And yet in the UK they can’t get enough of it.

The question is whether Ted will have another opportunity to declare he didn’t “float down the Lagan in a bubble”. The indications are that he will not and that this is indeed the final curtain.

“Working with Vicky McClure, Martin Compston [and] Adrian Dunbar has been the highlight of my career,” tweeted Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio, which certainly sounds like “goodbye”. In March, he told the Radio Times: “We’re in a situation where it’s not entirely clear that there will be a seventh series.”

Compston likewise seemed to be saying farewell to AC-12 when he wrote on social media that it had been “a wild few weeks and a mental 10 years”.

Line of Duty devotees will be disappointed. But there is good news. Mercurio has stated he’s “reasonably confident” there will be a second season of his equally-ludicrous 2018 hit, Bodyguard. All he need do now is find a way of bringing Ted Hastings into the expanded Mercurio-verse. Fans may very well be able to do without further Line of Duty. But you can sense they are already mourning the looming lack of Ted Hastings in their lives.

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Darlington is cheapest for homes, London’s Kensington most expensive

Voice Of EU



We all know about the North-South divide. We all know about the Prime Minister’s attempt at ‘levelling up’. We all know about the crumbling Red Wall.

But when it comes to property, the facts of the matter tell their own story. According to Churchill Home Insurance, Darlington in County Durham is the cheapest place to buy a property in the country, at just £58 per square foot.

Which is staggering when you compare it to the most expensive — Kensington in central London, where the average price per square foot stands at £1,721. 

Imposing: The Clock Tower in Darlington, County Durham - the cheapest place to buy a property in the country, at just £58 per square foot

Imposing: The Clock Tower in Darlington, County Durham – the cheapest place to buy a property in the country, at just £58 per square foot

Music giants Robbie Williams and Eric Clapton have homes in this exclusive royal borough home, as do entrepreneurs Sir Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson.

But here’s the twist: anyone looking to take advantage of Darlington’s prices might have to move fast because there are plans to turn this market town into the hottest property in the north.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is opening up a smart new division of the Treasury there over the next five years, moving about a quarter of the department. 

That’s about 400 people, many of whom will be local recruits. ‘We’re giving talented people in the North-East the opportunity to work in the heart of Government, making decisions on important issues for our country,’ explains Sunak.

So what are the draws of these polar-opposite locations?

Kensington is one of the crown jewels of London neighbourhoods featuring not just top museums but also a host of chic cafes, boutique shops, and even Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live with their children.

There are three Zone 1 underground stations and several independent schools, and you’re a stroll away from the West End. 

Upmarket: A terrace in Kensington, London, where the average price per square foot stands at £1,721

Upmarket: A terrace in Kensington, London, where the average price per square foot stands at £1,721

Top restaurants include Daphne’s and Launceston Place — both favourites of the late Princess Diana — and the iconic Bibendum with two Michelin stars.

There’s no surprises when it comes to property values in this area; they’re stellar. The cheapest property in Kensington for sale on Rightmove in the middle of October was priced at £40,000 and that was just a space in a car park. 

The most expensive listing, by contrast, was a seven- bedroom semi, with an eye-watering asking price of £30 million.

Of just over 510 property sales in the past year, the average price was a slightly more modest £2,169,235, according to Zoopla, but that’s after prices took a 4 per cent knock as fewer people bought in London during the pandemic.

It’s a different story in Darlington, which has a modest average property price of £172,724, according to Zoopla. 

But things are changing; there have been more than 1,600 property sales in the past 12 months and prices have gently risen 4.5 per cent. The most expensive home on sale is a four-bedroom detached house with grounds, for £700,000.

However that’s still an exception, with many more at the other end of the scale, where there are several two-bedroom terrace houses for sale at £45,000.

If you’re moving in, bone up on railway history — the world’s first steam train service began here almost 200 years ago. 

Otherwise, look out for a twice-weekly street market, the revamped Hippodrome theatre and the odd tribute to comic Vic Reeves and businessman Duncan Bannatyne, both brought up in the town.

Darlington is brimming with well-preserved Victorian buildings while you can stroll in the beautiful South Park. If you’re after the best of local food, the two-Michelin starred Raby Hunt Restaurant is the place to go.

The town has the buzz of a place on the move — there are modernisations under way at both the railway station (2 ½ hours to London, 30 minutes to Newcastle) and the indoor market.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak’s Treasury initiative is already putting Darlington on the map. ‘I know of several people from London who have moved here thanks to working remotely,’ says estate agent Henry Carver of Carver Residential. 

On the market: North-South divide 

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Facebook admits high-profile users are treated differently

Voice Of EU



Facebook’s oversight board said the social media company hadn’t been “fully forthcoming” about internal rules that allowed some high-profile users to be exempt from content restrictions and said it will make recommendations on how to change the system.

In the first of its quarterly transparency reports published Thursday, the board said that on some occasions, Facebook “failed to provide relevant information to the board,” and in other instances the information it did provide was incomplete.

For example, when Facebook referred the case involving former US president Donald Trump to the board, it didn’t mention its internal “cross-check system” that allowed for a different set of rules for high-profile users.

Facebook only mentioned cross-check, or XCheck, to the board when asked whether Trump’s page or account had been subject to ordinary content moderation processes.

The cross-check system was disclosed in recent reporting by the Wall Street Journal, based in part on documents from a whistle-blower.

The journal described how the cross-check system, originally intended to be a quality-control measure for a select few high-profile users and designed to avoid public relations backlash over famous people who mistakenly have their posts taken down, had ballooned to include millions of accounts.

The oversight board said it will undertake a review of the cross-check system and make suggestions on how to improve it.

As part of the process, Facebook has agreed to share with the board relevant documents about the cross-check system as reported in the Wall Street Journal. – Bloomberg

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Green mortgages may leave owners of older homes unable to sell

Voice Of EU



Estate agents warn owners of older homes, rural houses and listed properties could struggle to sell under green mortgage plans

  • Boris Johnson has unveiled his plans for turning Britain green by 2050 
  • The plans include proposals on how to make the housing stock greener 
  • The plans would see lenders disclose the energy performance of properties

Homeowners living in older, rural and even listed properties risk being unable to sell if strict green finance targets are introduced, estate agents have warned.

The warning comes after Boris Johnson unveiled his plan for turning Britain green by 2050 this week, with mortgage lenders having targets for the energy performance of properties in their portfolio.

A body that represents estate agents across Britain claimed that the property market could be distorted as a result of the measures and called for Britain’s historic housing stock to be taken into account.

Boris Johnson revealed proposals on how to make the housing stock greener this week

Boris Johnson revealed proposals on how to make the housing stock greener this week

Timothy Douglas, of Propertymark, said: ‘Incentivising green improvements to properties via lending creates risks of trapping homeowners with older properties, those who live in rural areas, listed buildings or conservation areas, making their homes difficult to sell and therefore reducing the value.’

Propertymark said that those living in older properties could be left with homes that they could not sell if buyers were unable to secure finance on them due to their lower energy efficiencies.

The effect would be likely to be felt more by less wealthy owners, as deep-pocketed buyers would be more able to overlook mortgage restrictions and high-end older homes would continue to be desirable.

Mr Douglas said: ‘The use of targets could distort the market and sway lenders towards preferential, newer homes in order to improve the rating of their portfolio.

‘Stopping a large portion of housing stock from being able to enter the market could cause havoc for home buying and selling as well as the wider economy.’ 

He added that improving the energy efficiency of homes should be reliant on consumer choice and not something enforced by mortgage lenders, with all the knock-on effects this could entail.

He said: ‘We would be concerned if lenders raise rates and limit products because fundamentally, improving the energy performance of a property is reliant on consumer choice and it is not the core business of mortgage lenders.’

Mark Harris, of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: ‘The green agenda is not new but there is increasing impetus behind it. There are more green mortgage products aimed at those purchasing more energy-efficient properties – A-C rated, and not just from specialist lenders but the high street banks too.

‘However, there is a real danger that green initiatives could create the next round of mortgage prisoners if homeowners are trapped in older homes that can’t be improved, so they can’t move because they can’t sell them on.

‘Without changes or improvements, lenders may restrict lending to lower loan-to-values, higher pricing, or not lend at all. This could penalise those who are unable to adapt to or adopt new efficient technologies economically.’

A UK Finance spokesperson said: ‘Greening our housing stock is vital if we are to meet our climate change obligations and banks and finance providers are committed to helping achieve this goal and making sure consumers are not left behind.’

Ways to boost energy efficiency  

Propertymark recommends three measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes without negatively impacting the housing market.

1. Improvements linked to an EPC

These include linking a plan for energy efficiency improvements to the recommendations on a property’s Energy Performance Certificate.

It could demonstrate the ‘most suitable route’ to a warmer home, regulatory compliance and zero carbon, according to Propertymark.

2. Tax breaks

It also recommends using tax breaks to incentivise homeowners to finance energy efficiency improvements.

For example, these could include making energy improvements exempt from VAT or offering lower rates of council tax for homes that have been made more energy efficient.

3. Adjustable tax rates

An adjustable rate of property tax that is tied to energy performance is also being recommended by Propertymark.

This could be done in two ways, it suggested. First, by applying the adjustment as a reduction on more energy-efficient properties. And second by offering rebates to buyers if energy efficiency improvements are made to less efficient properties within a certain time period after purchase.

Propertymark said that by linking energy performance with property taxes, this could help introduce increased saleability for more energy-efficient properties. In addition, it suggested that improvements would become standard for homeowners seeking costs and improve the desirability of their homes.


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