The secret to combining real estate and broking businesses

I have observed many financial service arms start up within real estate organisations through my many years in the real estate industry. Some have succeeded, others have failed.

I’ve watched our own Australian Property Finance (APF) – and its New Zealand equivalent (NZPF) – grow and prosper. APF has grown to a team of 28 finance brokers in a little over 12 months, but the key to business success and a successful working relationship between the two sides of the finance-real estate relationship is in the careful selection and placement of those finance brokers.

The challenge in creating a successful real estate sales-finance team is in getting the right mix in the ambitions of the finance broker and the agent, the opportunities available through the real estate office, the personalities involved and a shared customer focus and commitment.

You will only see a successful merge of these two industries – a mutually beneficial merge – when the finance business model is 100 per cent based around the benefit to the consumer.

Any merging of the two industries must be based on creating an environment for real estate buyers and sellers that is more comfortable and less stressful than it would be otherwise – and that includes foreign investors, because the merge offering should include services covering migration, insurance, conveyancing, legals and wealth creation, as well as lending.

Finance divisions linked with real estate business either fail or succeed; there are no shades of grey in this relationship.

Failure occurs because:

  • The business is based on a one-product relationship rather than a broker model
  • The cultures don’t come together. Real estate versus finance versus insurance versus wealth creation etc – traditionally these operate with very different cultures
  • The philosophy and business operation is not consumer-based. Failure will surely follow when any finance arm is based on income streams, benefits, commission and so on to real estate agents and loan writers

Success comes when:

  • Finance brokers can access the best product for each individual client and for each differing situation
  • Cultures are aligned. People, the finance specialist and the real estate sales agents create business culture – how they work together, what they do, their standards of performance, interpersonal skills and camaraderie and how this all aligns with the purpose, vision and mission of the overall business. Culture is your business foundation, so the culture must be strong for business success. The culture must be client-driven not agent- or finance specialist-focused
  • Doing business aligns with customers. Along with business-to-business commitment must be business-to-client commitment. There is plenty of research suggesting that customer loyalty is declining. Brands in existence for decades are now obsolete and others are in a continuous state of innovation in an attempt to stay in the game. Businesses must know and understand their present and future customers, because things are changing that quickly. Any successful multifaceted real estate-finance business must be aligned with customer needs and its customer service.

I’ve heard it said that finance brokers and real estate agents may be at different ends of the property transaction, but both parties have plenty to benefit from joining forces. Certainly the latter is true, but are they really at different ends? I may as well ask whether the chicken or egg came first! Don’t we recommend a buyer comes to the market with knowledge of their current finances and possible financial needs, for instance?

Both parties have plenty to benefit from joining forces and both are more than just a referral source. There are joint marketing and profiling benefits, value-added servicing, greater knowledge and better understanding of the process, which reduces stress and provides greater satisfaction.

Partnering with a finance broker or a real estate agent – depending on which side of the business you sit on – will be mutually beneficial when both parties understand the opportunity they have to give a value-added service to property owners, buyers and sellers.

UCI Holdings Limited Announces Credit Agreement Amendment Process and …

 

We believe that our estimated net sales were flat to slightly down for the three months ended March 31, 2015 compared to the three months ended March 31, 2014. This is due to a decline in net sales in our vehicle electronics product line, primarily related to lower net sales in the retail and traditional channels related to both lower volumes due to timing of new product rollouts and the loss of a customer. We estimate that this decline was partially offset by an increase in net sales in our filtration product line, primarily due to higher volumes as a result of new customer business wins.

We believe that our estimated Adjusted EBITDA declined for the three months ended March 31, 2015 compared to the three months ended March 31, 2014 primarily due to higher costs and operating inefficiencies related to restructuring efforts and new business wins in our filtration product line. We estimate that these higher costs in our filtration product line were due to higher variable manufacturing and distribution costs, including higher labor costs, scrap and plant line inefficiencies, mainly resulting from winning significant new business during the final stage of restructuring efforts completed last year. We also believe that our Adjusted EBITDA declined due to lower volumes and unfavorable mix in our vehicle electronics product line, as well as unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates experienced during the three months ended March 31, 2015. We estimate that lower volume and higher operating costs were offset slightly by lower selling, general and administrative expenses.

We believe that as of March 31, 2015 our cash balance was approximately $33 million and that we had $30 million outstanding under our senior secured revolving credit facility. We believe that our Covenant Adjusted EBITDA for the twelve months ended March 31, 2015 was between approximately $130 million and $134 million.

About UCI International, Inc.

UCI International, Inc. is among North America’s largest and most diversified companies servicing the vehicle replacement parts market. We supply a broad range of products to the automotive, trucking, marine, mining, construction, agricultural and industrial vehicle markets. Our customer base includes leading aftermarket companies as well as a diverse group of original equipment manufacturers.

Forward Looking Statements

This press release may contain forward-looking statements. The words “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “estimate” and other expressions that are predictions of or indicate future events and trends and that do not relate to historical matters identify forward-looking statements. The reader should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Although forward-looking statements reflect management’s good faith beliefs, reliance should not be placed on forward-looking statements because they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from anticipated future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date the statements are made. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, changed circumstances or otherwise. These forward-looking statements are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including, but not limited to: volatility in and disruption to the global economic environment may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations; the economic environment and adverse credit market conditions may significantly affect our ability to meet liquidity needs and may materially and adversely affect the financial soundness of our customers and suppliers; we face competition and increasing pricing pressure in our markets and, therefore, lower-cost production and successful cost savings actions may be required to be able to compete effectively; the shift in demand from premium to value brands may require us to produce value products at the expense of premium products, resulting in lower prices, thereby decreasing our net sales and reducing our margins; the introduction of new and improved products and services and the shift from domestic to foreign made vehicles poses a potential threat to the aftermarket for light vehicle parts; increased crude oil and energy prices and overall economic conditions could reduce global demand for and use of automobiles, which could have an adverse effect on our profitability; entering new markets and developing new products poses commercial risks; our relationship with AutoZone creates risks associated with a concentrated net sales source; our contracts with our customers are generally short-term and do not require the purchase of a minimum amount; the consolidation of our customers can have adverse effects on our business; we could be materially adversely affected by changes or imbalances in currency exchange and other rates; increases in our raw materials and component costs or the loss of a number of our suppliers could adversely affect our profitability; we may be subject to work stoppages at our facilities, or our customers may be subjected to work stoppages, either of which could negatively impact the profitability of our business; if we are unable to meet future capital requirements, our business may be adversely affected; it may be difficult for us to recruit and retain the types of highly skilled employees we need to remain competitive; environmental, health and safety laws and governmental regulations may impose significant compliance costs and liabilities on us; our intellectual property may be misappropriated or subject to claims of infringement; time, effort and costs associated with the strategic review currently ongoing could have an adverse effect upon our business; our substantial indebtedness could adversely affect our ability to fulfill our obligations under our 8.625% Senior Notes due 2019 (the “Senior Notes”); restrictive covenants in the Senior Notes and our other indebtedness could adversely affect our business by limiting our operating and strategic flexibility; the outcome of legal proceedings; the risks and uncertainties described under “Part I, Item 3. Key Information — Risk Factors” and “Part I, Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” in our 2014 Annual Report on Form 20-F, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on March 4, 2015; and risks related to other factors discussed in our periodic reports filed with the SEC. We derive many of our forward-looking statements from our operating budgets and forecasts, which are based upon many detailed assumptions. While we believe that our assumptions are reasonable, we caution that it is very difficult to predict the impact of known factors, and it is impossible for us to anticipate all factors that could affect our actual results. All written and oral forward-looking statements attributable to us, or persons acting on our behalf, are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements as well as other cautionary statements that are made from time to time in our public communications. You should evaluate all forward-looking statements made in this press release in the context of these risks and uncertainties.

Explanatory Note on Non-GAAP Financial Measures

In this press release, we utilize certain non-GAAP financial measures, including Adjusted EBITDA and Covenant Adjusted EBITDA, that in each case are not recognized under US GAAP or IFRS. These measures are presented as we believe that they and similar measures are widely used in the markets in which we operate as a means of evaluating a company’s operating performance and financing structure. They may not be comparable to other similarly titled measures of other companies and are not measurements under US GAAP, IFRS or other generally accepted accounting principles.

Adjusted EBITDA is calculated as net income (loss) for the period plus income tax expense (benefit), net interest expense, depreciation expense of property, plant and equipment and amortization expense of identifiable intangible assets further adjusted for particular items relevant to explaining operating performance. These adjustments include significant items of an unusual nature that cannot be attributed to ordinary business operations, including items such as integration, restructuring, defense against class action litigation and business optimization costs. Covenant Adjusted EBITDA is defined as Adjusted EBITDA as adjusted to provide the full period effect for businesses acquired after the beginning of a period and the full-period effect to implemented cost saving programs. Adjusted EBITDA is not a presentation made in accordance with US GAAP, is not a measure of financial condition, liquidity or profitability and should not be considered as an alternative to profit (loss) for the period determined in accordance with US GAAP or operating cash flows determined in accordance with US GAAP. The determination of Adjusted EBITDA and Covenant Adjusted EBITDA contains a number of estimates and assumptions that may prove to be incorrect and differ materially from actual results.

In addition, Adjusted EBITDA and Covenant Adjusted EBITDA are not intended to be measures of free cash flow for management’s discretionary use, as they do not take into account certain items such as interest and principal payments on our indebtedness, depreciation and amortization expense, working capital needs, tax payments and capital expenditures. We believe that the inclusion of Adjusted EBITDA and Covenant Adjusted EBITDA in this press release is appropriate to provide additional information to investors about our operating performance to provide measures of operating results unaffected by differences in capital structures, capital investment cycles and ages of related assets among otherwise comparable companies. Because not all companies calculate Adjusted EBITDA and Covenant Adjusted EBITDA identically, the presentation of these non-GAAP financial measures may not be comparable to other similarly titled measures in other companies.

UCI International, Inc.
Ricardo Alvergue, Chief Financial Officer, 847-482-4165

Black River Park first Green Star SA rated office precinct in SA

The eight buildings at Black River Park office precinct in Observatory, offering a combined 75,000m² of office space, have earned unparalleled green building credentials. Besides being the first full office park to have all buildings Green Star SA rated, it is also home to the first Green Star SA Existing Building Performance (EBP) certified building and the first buildings to receive a 6 Star Green Star SA Existing Building Performance rating.

Brian Wilkinson, CEO of GBCSA, comments, “This is a major achievement, both for Black River Park and for GBCSA. Certifying all eight of Black River Park’s existing buildings is quite a feat, especially for a precinct of this size. It is an exciting example of outstanding sustainable innovation, and confirms the vision of its management team and their outstanding commitment to sustainability.”

He adds, “We would like to see more business parks following this leading example. All the buildings at Black River Park were certified using the EBP rating tool. The EBP tool means that South Africa’s many existing buildings in established office parks can now be retrofitted with green innovations and certified. This has huge potential for positive impacts to our environment, our businesses and our economy.” Nedbank Corporate Property Finance sponsored the EBP tool.

Black River Park is home to more than 110 companies, including the GBCSA’s head office and South African Property Owners Association’s Western Cape offices. It is now owned by JSE-listed Redefine Properties. Redefine acquired the landmark green office precinct as part of its Leaf Capital deal earlier this year.

Redefine CEO, Andrew Konig, comments, “The Black River Park complex has set itself apart with pioneering green initiatives and sustainable building management. We are exceptionally pleased to acquire this property, which perfectly supports our commitment to sustainability.”

The Black River Park buildings received maximum points on all credits targeted in their Green Star SA submissions. Three buildings received a 6-Star Green Star SA rating, three received 5-Star certifications and two earned 4-Star ratings.

Sally Misplon of Misplon Green Building Consulting, the Green Star Accredited Professional and principal participant in the green project team, guided Black River Park right from the very start in its certification project.

Some of the green initiatives undertaken by the office precinct to secure its ratings include:

  • The largest roof-mounted photovoltaic system in Southern Africa.
  • Feeding electricity back into the grid.
  • A high-performance green cleaning programme.
  • 68% of the tenants in the office park signed a Green Lease. These leases encourages collaboration and govern the relationship between the building owner and the tenant to manage and operate the building along environmentally sustainable principles, to the benefit of both.
  • For comfort and well-being, the building features performance glass and balcony overhangs, to reduce heat and shield harsh sunlight.
  • All lights in common areas were replaced with LEDs, with owners and tenants both benefiting from cost savings achieved as a result. A financing option was also offered to tenants to enable them to retrofit to LED in their own premises.
  • Indoor air quality testing and management.
  • All 6 Star rated buildings stood out for water and energy performance. They outperformed the Green Star benchmarks and achieved significant improvement on their baselines.
  • Sustainable management and operations that optimise the buildings’ environmental performance.
  • A green travel plan to encourage alternative modes of transport to and from work.
  • Sustainable procurement and purchasing practices. For every product or consumable purchased by Black River Park, the most sustainable one is selected.
  • All waste at the park is sorted into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. It also correctly disposes of fluorescent tubing, batteries and e-waste. Garden waste is recycled and reused as mulch.
  • Ecological gardens, including a vegetable garden and fruit orchard, are maintained with borehole water pumped on site.

Perhaps some of the most exciting green innovations at Black River Park are those involving the park’s tenants. These include holding a ‘cycle to work’ day, a clean-up of the Liesbeeck River that runs past the park and other activations with the precinct’s tenant community. Numerous other presentations and showcase tours are held for parties such as UCT, African Utility Week, Iziko museum and the like.

“It is wonderful to see an office park owner going above and beyond what’s required for certification,” says Wilkinson. “These initiatives encourage people to do more within green spaces and enjoy their many benefits. They bring sustainable environments to life and encourage the wider community to become an active part of the green building movement.”

Minerco Divests Energy Business Properties

Minerco Divests Energy Business Properties

Company Also Eliminates $300,000 in Dividend Liabilities May 11, 2015: 09:45 AM ET

HOUSTON, May 11, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Minerco Resources, Inc. (OTC:MINE), parent company of Level 5 Beverage Company, Inc., the makers of the enhanced sparkling beverage, VitaminFIZZ®, announced that it has divested its remaining holdings in clean energy properties for a guaranteed $715,000.00 over the next 12 months. Additionally, the company announced today it has eliminated approximately $300,000.00 of accrued liabilities through the reinvestment of preferred dividends into equity. Together, these two transactions will create an approximate $1,000,000.00 positive equity swing for Minerco shareholders.

“On top of the remarkable success of our flagship product, VitaminFIZZ, Minerco is completely out of the energy business. Since 2012, our sole focus and mission has been on developing progressive, healthful consumer brands and now our balance sheet reflects this focus,” said V. Scott Vanis, Minerco’s Chairman and CEO. “We are very pleased to continue to grow our shareholders’ equity by eliminating debt and adding assets in scope and divesting of assets that are not squarely in our scope. All our actions and transactions are designed to deliver added value to shareholders and move forward in our goal to uplist to a major listed exchange.”

About Minerco Resources, Inc.

Minerco Resources, Inc. (OTC:MINE) is an emerging growth company specializing in the food and beverage industry. Its portfolio of businesses include Level 5 Beverage Company, Inc. (Level 5), Avanzar Sales & Distribution, LLC and The Herbal Collection(TM). Level 5 is a specialty beverage company that develops, produces, markets and distributes a diversified collection of forward-thinking, healthful consumer brands. Level 5 brands include VitaminFIZZ®, Vitamin Creamer® and Island Style(TM). http://minercoresources.com

Public Disclosure

Details of the Company’s business, finances and agreements can be found as part of the Company’s continuous public disclosure as a fully reporting issuer under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) EDGAR database. For more information, please visit: http://www.minercoresources.com. The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Safe Harbor Statement

This release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Act of 1934 that are based upon current expectations or beliefs, as well as a number of assumptions about future events. Although we believe that the expectations and assumptions upon which they are based are reasonable, we can give no assurance that such expectations and assumptions will prove to have been correct. Some of these uncertainties include, without limitation, the company’s ability to perform under existing contracts or to procure future contracts. The reader is cautioned not to put undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, as these statements are subject to numerous factors and uncertainties, including without limitation, successful implementation of our business strategy and competition, any of which may cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the statements. We undertake no obligation and do not intend to update, revise or otherwise publicly release any revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of any unanticipated events. Although we believe that our expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, we can give no assurance that our expectations will materialize. Many factors could cause actual results to differ materially from our forward-looking statements.

CONTACT: Media Contact:
W. Jason Grimley
Spelling Communications
323-309-8714
jasongrimley@spellcom.com

 

Election 2015: David Cameron ‘tells Nick Clegg he can’t win election’ – as it …

Andrew Reid, the treasurer of the UK Independence Party, has blown the lid off his efforts to include Ukip leader Nigel Farage in a Question Time-type question and answer on BBC1 last week.

He has written this article for The Telegraph#x2019;s website. His most striking point was this: #x201c;The BBC evidently believed that Peter Kays Car Share was more important than questions from the public to the leader of major political party.#x201d;

18.00

Ben Riley-Smith checks in:

Cheers go up from the Lib Dem battlebus team as news filters through their boss is safe according to a new poll.

Nick Clegg is seven points ahead of his Labour rival in a new constituency poll (which named candidates) by ICM for the Guardian. It puts Clegg on 42 per cent, Oliver Coppard on 35 per cent.

The only poll that matters is on Thursday. Nick has always maintained that he was confident but not complacent about the contest, a Lib Dem spokesman said.

But this poll underlines what we have long said: that when faced with the actual choice on the ballot paper, between Nick Clegg and Ed Milibands Labour candidate, the people of Sheffield Hallam back Nick Cleggs record of delivering for south-west Sheffield, an area neglected for decades by Labour.

But that doesnt mean we will slacken off on the doorstep over the next 72 hours. Elections should be contests not coronations and Nick Clegg and the Sheffield Hallam Lib Dems will be out come rain or shine fighting for every vote.

17.40

Nick Clegg could be saved in his Sheffield Hallam seat by massive tactical voting by the Conservatives, a new Guardian / ICM poll suggests.

Constituency polling puts the Lib Dem leader on 42 per cent ahead of Labour on 35 per cent.

17.16

More from Christopher Hope:

Labour leader Ed Miliband thanks all those who gave testimony and agrees to most of the demands from Citizens UK #x2013; such as paying a living wage to all civil servants and agency staff (including the Whitehall cleaners in the front row in front of him), as well as ending 15 minute social care visits and ensure it is only done by a named carer. Labour will also end the indefinite holding detention of migrants and look at taxing pay day loan companies to set up a community finance fund. Then he says he wants to meet Citizens UK a lot more than once a year. Rumours is that attending this event in 2010 gave Gordon Brown an extra 10 seats. Ed Miliband will be hoping the same in just three days time

17.14

Eddie Izzard insists he was stirred by unshaken by his roughing up by the SNP today:

17.04

More from Matthew Holehouse:

David Cameron has acknowledged that Nick Clegg could be the kingmaker in this election #x2013; but warned that he is #x201c;Just as likely#x201d; to back Ed Miliband as the Tories.

He warned Liberal Democrat voters that Clegg could back Miliband.

#x201c;We#x2019;ve got to be really clear with people. If you prefer me as your Prime Minister to Ed Miliband, then you#x2019;ve got to vote Conservative.

#x201c;If you vote Liberal Democrat, you could end up with Ed Miliband. Nick Clegg has told us this weekend he#x2019;s just as likely to support a Labour government, backed by the SNP, as to back the Conservatives.

#x201c;If I#x2019;m you#x2019;re preferred prime minister don#x2019;t vote Liberal Democrat, you could get Ed Miliband. Don#x2019;t vote Ukip, you could get Ed Miliband. Don#x2019;t vote Labour, you will definitely get Ed Miliband.#x201d;

16.52

And now Ed Miliband has begun speaking at the Citizens UK event:

Ed Miliband speaks. It is a #x201c;privilege#x201d; to be here. #x201c;Thank you for the work that you do,#x201d; he says. #x201c; I applaud your work.#x201d; Now he talks about his parents who taught him #x201c;if you see an injustice you should do something about it. It is a faith that tells me we don#x2019;t only look to the top of society to find solutions but we can find wisdom in people around us.#x201d; This is soaring oratory. Miliband keeps going through the cheers because he only has four minutes. He is fighting #x201c;for all those people on zero hours contracts#x201d;. He will cut tuition fees. #x201c;Your cause is my cause,#x201d; he says. Huge cheers. This is the Mili stump speech, honed to a tee. He will fight to rescue the NHS from the grave danger it faces. Impressive.

16.40

Matthew Holehouse reports from David Camerons speech:

David Cameron has put bankers such as Fred Goodwin who were given knightshoods under Labour into the centre of the election campaign.

At a rally in Bath, he shouted himself hoarse as he said that bankers #x201c;got away#x201d; with the knighthoods Labour #x201c;gave#x201d; them.

As he seeks to inject more passion into the campaign, he turned red in the face as he denounced Labours economic record.

Goodwin, the former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, was given a knighthood for services to banking in 2004. He was stripped of the honour in 2012 after being heavily criticised for his banks role in the financial crisis.

#x201c;Do you know what drives me so mad in this election campaign? When they say our party is for the few, not the many. Ed Miliband, I remember who got hurt in the crash! It wasn#x2019;t the bankers! They got away with the bonuses and the pensions and the knighthoods you gave them! I#x2019;ll tell you who got hurt! It was the low paid, the people who lost their jobs, the families that couldn#x2019;t make it through #x2013; don#x2019;t you ever dare lecture us about having helped the many not the few!

I am not saying we have solved every problem in our country. Of course we havent. But over these last five years we have worked with the British people through a long term plan that has made a big difference. We had no growth, weve now got the fastest growth of any major economy in the western world. We had mass unemployment, weve got two million people back to work. We had the biggest budget deficit almost anywhere in the world. We cut it in half. Thats our record.

Now let us remember their [Labours] record. Do you remember what happened in the great crash? Do you remember what they did? They spent all the money, they put up the taxes, they whacked up the borrowing, they wrecked our economy – all the time saying theyd abolish boom and bust. That is what they said.

16.26

Christopher Hope again:

Here at Citizens UK Nick Clegg gets a round of applause for bringing to an end pay day loans companies and locking up children in detention. The 2,000 strong audience also applauded Ed Davey for bringing in the Living Wage at DECC. And – guess what? #x2013; Mr Clegg has also met Citizens UK loads of times and even asked them to his conference. #x201c;I am so used to being told what I have not been able to deliver that I am quite overwhelmed,#x201d; the Deputy Prime Minister says to cheers. He says the ending of child detention was all down to Sarah Teather.

In contrast to the flat, under-stated style of Sajid Javid, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is on fire. Asking if the Citizens UK audience #x201c;is done#x201d; with Ed Miliband who is up next. He tells the crowd: #x201c;We will not scare monger, we are open to the outside world, being generously minded.#x201d; This non-politically aligned crowd is comprised of his kind of people. He cites Nigel Farage #x201c;for blaming#x201d; problems on immigrants. Some in the crowd stand to cheer. #x201c;We must say a whole united United Kingdom,#x201d; he says.

16.15

And more from Christopher Hope at Citizens UK:

Sajid Javid has left Citizens UKs conference now. I enjoyed the bells ringing repeatedly at three minutes and then four minutes after he had started speaking to tell him to shut up. They should use them in the House of Commons Chamber.

Here comes Nick Clegg. Standing ovation. This – of them all – MUST be his kind of audience. He is being grilled now.

16.13

More from Matthew Holehouse with David Cameron in Bath:

In the small protest outside, no one can recall who threw the egg at Cameron – but they agree hes run away. I think it was that man, says a woman with a Green rosette, pointing at a young Conservative.

It was the liveliest Cameron rally in a while – they seem to have noticed criticism of how small their gigs appeared and packed the hall in.

Cameron appears to acknowledge he might not win a majority as he appeals to Lib Dem voters: Clegg had made clear he would do a deal with Miliband he says – and therefore only voting Tory will stop Miliband getting in.

16.11

Christopher Hope is at the Citizens UK event and watching Sajid Javid:

I love the democracy of Citizens UK. Culture secretary Sajid Javid arrives, and has to stand while he is held to account for pledges accepted by David Cameron on this same Monday before the 2010 election (I was here for that too).

It turns out the Tories have not done that bad. The Government is praised for #x201c;checking the rise of usury#x201d; by cutting down on pay day loan companies (even though it was Stella Creasy#x2019;s idea) and the end of locking up migrant children in detention centres.

But Mr Javid is chastised for his Government (but not his department) doing more to adopt the living wage for staff, while Mr Cameron as Prime Minister failed to meet a commitment to meet with Citizens UK once a year.

Mr Javid makes a good speech about his inspirational upbringing (his father was not allowed to get a job driving buses because he was not white), and ends with urging everyone to promise to vote on Thursday.

Then he is given four more challenges in Government for between now and 2020: to improve social care an end 15 minute visits beyond basic care, a time limit on adult migrant detention, the full living wage in the public sector and using banking fines to fund community projects.

Mr Javid lists what the Government has done on social care (but no mention of 15 minute visits), commits to a #x201c;sense of fairness#x201d; in the immigration system, but he adds that a time limit would be #x201c;arbitrary#x201d;. A man stands up to heckle him.

Then at the end Mr Javid will not commit to David Cameron meeting them once a year. There is a lot of grumbling in the 2,000-strong audience.

15.52

Matthew Holehouse is in Bath with the PM. He says:

Cameron gives another fighting performance in a packed school hall.

He says it makes him mad when Labour says hes out for the rich – they gave knight hoods to bankers. How dare they!

A woman faints in the hot hall, and is carried out.

Coming on the stereo: Dont step believing, Mr Brightside.

Outside a small protest crowd with signs reading Fight austerity, fight racism and Tory manifesto – let the sick die.

Get a job you bum! Youre a waster says one Tory member.

Ive got one. Its a bank holiday.

Get a shower mate, says another.

Reminds me of university.

Protesters outside Cameron event in Bath

15.50

Sajid Javid is standing in for David Cameron at the Citizens UK event (to the irritation of the events organisers the PM is a no-show). Hes told the audience to vote Conservative on Thursday, but above all to vote. Christopher Hope is watching:

15.22

The speakers at the Cameron rally are playing Dont Stop Believing from Glee – Gordon Browns themesong for the 2010 election. That went well for him. The PM will make a major call to voters tempted to go for Ukip or the Lib Dems that only he can keep Ed Miliband out of Number 10. Heres what hell say:

You don#x2019;t have to imagine the chaos there#x2019;d be if Ed Miliband became Prime Minister. Just watch the news. Nicola Sturgeon is on the television all day, everyday, telling us she plans to put Ed Miliband into No10 #x2013; so that she could hold him to ransom every time there#x2019;s a vote in the House of Commons. She wants to load the rest of the UK with higher taxes to pay for more welfare.

It doesn#x2019;t bear thinking of: Our defences weakened. Our ability to pay our way questioned. Our United Kingdom threatened. All of your work and sacrifice that has put this country back on its feet again completely wasted. And the consequences for you? Higher taxes to pay for the extra borrowing. Higher mortgage rates caused by the instability. Jobs lost because of the insecurity.

But you have it in your power to stop that. We need just twenty three more seats and 11,000 votes to win a majority. By voting for me and the Conservatives you can ensure strong Government, stability #x2013; and a brighter future.

So I say to voters in Lib Dem seats, the only way to avoid Miliband / SNP and economic chaos is to vote Conservative this time. And I say to UKIP voters, the only way to avoid Milliband and the SNP is to vote Conservative this time. Nigel Farage is the back door to a Labour Government. And I say to previous Conservative voters, who may be thinking twice about turning out, turn out because if the nation is to avoid Miliband / SNP and economic chaos you must vote.

15.18

David Cameron has moved on to Bath. Green and Lib Dem protesters have gathered outside the venue. And there is an egg.

15.10

Ed Miliband is the first of the leaders to welcome Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana by name.

15.00

More from David Cameron in Wells:

14.44

Delia Smith is now campaigning for Labour (and against Nigel Farage) in Kent. Shes in Sandwich – do provide your own food joke:

14.40

The spat between Nick Clegg and David Cameron has got decliously teenaged. If you recall, Nicks mate Paul (Lord Scriven) said Dave said to Nick that he aint gonna get a majority. The PM, campaigning in the south west of England, has said now said this of his Deputy Prime Minister:

I could tell you all the things he has said to me in private. That would certainly surprise you.

14.20

Anything for the party. Five months after being called a clicky-wristed c*** by Russell Brand, Ed Balls has told Sky he thinks its a marvellous thing that Ed Miliband has managed to win the comedian over to Labour.

14.18

Boris Johnson has moved on to Golders Green.

14.09

This is big. David Cameron has just come close to endorsing a candidate from another party. OK, its the Cream Tea Party, but still.

David and Samantha Cameron with Braddock Hunt, leader of The Cream Tea Party, in Wells

14.05

The BBCs Laura Kuenssberg is reporting that Ed Balls has said the biggest party normally gets to go into government. Given most of the polls now show the Tories ahead on seat projection, but short of the number the need for a majority, that effectively suggests Labour would stand back and let David Cameron have first dibs on trying to form a government.

13.58

Nigel Farage isnt impressed by the Labours celebrity endorsements. Saying Ukip got its fingers burned by celebs during the Robert Kilroy Sik era (remember him?) he adds of Russell Brand coming out for Labour:

Im glad he hasnt endorsed me.

13.49

Another caller asks why Ukip has so few female candidates compared to the other parties. Mr Farage suggests there are 60, before being told its only 12.5 per cent. He says the only reason he can think of for the low number of applications to become candidates is because it costs a fair amount to stand for Parliament, and, unlike men who are selfish enough to spend their familys money on politics, women choose to save their pennies. Huh?

13.47

Nigel Farage is taking part in a phone-in with Radio 4s World at One. Hes challenged over the fact he went to the fee-paying Dulwich College. He insists that half of his schoolmates were there thanks to the assisted places scheme, and says as a result he is more in touch with ordinary people than the other leaders. He goes on:

I was at a school where I mixed with all different social classes, and unlike the establishment, I actually had a job. I am not part of the Establishment, I am anti-the Establishment, I am taking on the Establishment.

And heres an amazing fact for you: Mr Farage once had a golf handicap of just three. He was either very good, or played a lot of golf. Or, most likely, both.

13.41

Emily Gosden finds the Lib Dems in confident mood:

13.39

Heres Nicola Sturgeon far from the Glasgow melee, meeting a junior supporter in Edinburgh:

Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh

13.35

Jim Murphy has put out a statement condemning the rough treatment he and Eddie Izzard received from the SNP earlier:

I am all in favour of listening to the arguments of my political opponents but these people are not prepared to engage in debate.

This sort of aggressive sentiment has come to the fore over the past two years. Surely we don#x2019;t want to go back to the old divisions of #x2018;Yes#x2019; and #x2018;No#x2019; from last year.

Scotland#x2019;s streets and Scotland#x2019;s flag belong to no one political party. We#x2019;ve just spent the past two years debating the referendum and we had a democratic vote and a democratic result.

Today#x2019;s protest was clearly organised and clearly an attempt to make sure the Labour case was not heard on the streets of Glasgow. But we will not be deterred and will take our case to all corners of Scotland as the only way to get a better fairer Scotland is to vote Labour on Thursday.

13.32

Heres the full Russell Brand endorsement:

13.26

Nick Clegg has moved on to his third campaign visit of the day, this time in Sutton. Emily Gosden reports:

Meeting activists in Sutton, Nick Clegg was asked by a young Lib Dem supporter, Harvey Cuffe, 14, if he could arrest Katie Hopkins, the controversial columnist.

The Lib Dem leader said it was the best question hed been asked all campaign and suggested Harvey could teach assembled journalists a thing or two.

So whats the answer? No I dont think I can, said Clegg.

Clearly not a fan of Katie Hopkins, Harvey then asked if Clegg could, er, get her killed?

No no no, the Lib Dem leader responded, before suggesting he should maybe just ignore her.

13.20

Phew! Heres David Cameron in one instead:

13.18

George Osborne continues his all action election tour. Sadly no high vis jacket today:

George Osborne holds a virtual camera at Ealing Studios, London

13.15

Christopher Hope brings us this report of Natalie Bennetts immigration speech:

13.14

More Lib Dem dirty tricks from Ben Riley-Smith:

The East Dumbartonshire Star; the Plymouth and Southsea Express; The Herald; The Oxford Observer.

To voters, these sound like plausible local newspapers. So when they read headlines like Jo Swinson set to win and Gerald Vernon-Jackson set to win! it has an impact.

But, of course, these are not independent newspapers. They are Liberal Democrat leaflets dressed up as papers to make them more convincing.

The strategy appears clear – to convince voters that backing a Lib Dem candidate is not a wasted vote, thereby boosting the partys chances in crucial marginals.

But should it be allowed? Should voters be given partisan information about polls from what first glance appears to be an independent newspaper?

Last week, the Tories warned their candidates of Lib Dem dirty tricks in the final week. According to one Tory source, this is the kind of thing they meant.

13.03

Its the big one. Russell Brand is endorsing Labour. Except in Brighton, where he wants Caroline Lucas. Hes also changed his mind about not voting, saying of the election: You can#x2019;t just #x201c;bah, humbug#x201d; you way through that. Steven Swinford brings us more:

Russell Brand, the self-styled revolutionary and comedian, has given his support to Labour for the General Election and claimed that the Tories will tear apart the very fabric of society.

Brand broadcast a second part of his interview with Mr Miliband on his Youtube channel, during which the Labour leader said he wants politics that is rooted in communities.

After the interview Brand, who has previously urged his 1million Twitter followers not to bother voting, gave his full support to the Labour leader.

He said: We have to confront big business. We have to confront the people tearing apart London. What I heard Ed Miliband say is if we speak he will listen.

On that basis we have got no choice but to take decisive action to end the danger of the Conservative Party.

Anywhere else you have got to vote Labour, you have got to get the Conservative Party out of government in this country. We have a voice and we can build a society.

During the interview, Mr Miliband said that his father wouldnt agree with his views on the need for a banking system. Mr Brand said: Ralph Miliband was bang into socialism. Mir Miliband responded: Thats one way of putting it.

12.38

Everyone loves a wedding. Heres David Cameron with the worlds newly-weds-to-be (if there is such a thing), George Kirby and Doreen Luckie. Mr Kirby will turn 103 when he marries his 91-year-old sweetheart in East Sussex next month.

David Cameron with Geroge Kirby and Doreen Luckie

12.34

Simon Johnson reports on the scuffle between SNP activists and Labour activists in Glasgow:

Nicola Sturgeon was today forced to deny that one of her spin doctors helped a group of separatists to target Eddie Izzard and Jim Murphy with abuse and intimidation at Labour campaign event in Glasgow.

A shaken Mr Izzard appealed to Ms Sturgeon to disown the dark side of Scottish nationalism after Labour handlers managed to extract him from a scrum of Labour and nationalist activists that threatened to become violent.

Speaking to the Telegraph, the comedian asked why the SNP was afraid of hearing the opposite point of view and expressed his horror at the #x201c;really extreme, extreme behaviour#x201d;, which he said denigrated democracy and what Britain fought for in two world wars.

Allegations later emerged on Twitter that one of Ms Sturgeon#x2019;s spin doctors had given some of the protestors, part of a group called Scottish Resistance, details of the location and timing of the event. However, a spokesman for the SNP leader insisted this was not true.

Blair McDougall, who works for Mr Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, said he could not believe the First Minister#x2019;s office would direct the group but #x201c;the #x2018;nothing to do with us#x2019; defence doesn#x2019;t hold water.#x201d; The Telegraph has is awaiting a response from the spin doctor concerned.

Mr Izzard spoke to this newspaper following appalling scenes at Glasgow#x2019;s St Enoch Square, which degenerated into scuffles and nationalists screaming at Mr Izzard and Mr Murphy that they were #x201c;traitors to the working man.#x201d;

Some small children brought along by Scottish Labour activists were left in tears as the group of separatists tried to force their way into the crowd of party activists surrounding a plinth that had been erected for Mr Murphy and Mr Izzard.

In scenes reminiscent of some of the confrontations during last year#x2019;s independence referendum, the nationalists then chased the pair as they attempted to leave to conduct a series of television interviews.

Jim Murphy is abused by an SNP supporter

12.18

One feature of this election has been the decline in the traditional support by ethnic minority groups for the Labour Party. The National Council Hundu has today all but come out for the Conservatives.

12.09

Sounds like its getting nasty in Glasgow. Were hearing children were knocked over and general chaos ensued as the SNP supporters heckled the Jim Murphy / Eddie Izzard event. More soon.

12.08

Selfie alert:

12.05

Matthew Holehouse brings us this unedifying news of Liberal Democrat dirty tricks in Breacon.

The Liberal Democrats have been accused of mounting a dirty tricks campaign to split the Tory vote by highlighting David Cameron#x2019;s support for foreign aid and same sex marriage.

Lib Dems have targeted Conservative voters, #x201c;warning#x201d; them that Ukip want to leave the European Union and cut foreign aid.

By contrast, the leaflets highlight that David Cameron supported gay marriage and is proud to have increased foreign aid spending.

The leaflets were distributed in Brecon and Radnorshire, Wales, where the Lib Dems have a majority of 3,747 over the Tories.

11.52

In Brighton, Ed Miliband has introduced Delia Smith as One great British institution fighting to save another great British institution. She describes her speech as her coming out day. Until now her agent banned her from all political involvement. What happened to having the courage of your convictions, Delia!?

Delia Smith at Labour election rally in at Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College in Brighton

She tells the crowd the country is in grave danger of losing NHS and that is unthinkable.

Ed Balls and Delia Smith arrive at the Labour NHS rally in Brighton

11.50

Natalie Bennett, who is from Australia but has since become a British citizen, had this to say in her immigration speech:

Im standing here today as a migrant, as someone who came to this country and chose to make my life here. And today Im here to take a stand against those who seek to demonise me and those like me for making that choice.

At this election the open and caring Britain I am so proud to be a citizen of is at stake. Our tolerance, our welfare state and our beloved NHS are under threat from a Tory Party hell-bent on rebuilding Britain to work only for the privileged – and a Labour Party unable and unwilling to effectively challenge them.

So, in the next three days I know that our candidates up and down this country will be focussed on providing the real opposition we so desperately need. Well be fighting for a truly public NHS, well be saying loud and clear that in the sixth richest country on earth no one should need food handouts to survive, and well be boldly and unapologetically standing up for migrants.

11.39

Ed Miliband has now arrived in Brighton, and is speaking to a large election rally. He says:

In our first 100 days we#x2019;ll put before Parliament a bill to repeal the Tories#x2019; terrible Health and Social Care Act, stopping the drive towards privatisation. And where private companies are involved in delivering NHS-funded clinical services, we will cap the profits they can take out of the public purse.

This is part of Labour#x2019;s better plan for a better NHS, a plan that prepares our National Health Service for the challenges of the future, a fully-funded plan that#x2019;s built on solid foundations, a plan that can give our health service the time to care and give Britain the NHS we want: an NHS with people at its heart, an NHS that inspires the country; an NHS that will once again lead the world.

Ed Miliband is greeted by a supporter in Brighton

11.34

Natalie Bennett has begun speaking at the Greens immigration launch in Haringey, north London. She says:

We will never blame migrants for the failure of government policy. We will never attack the most vulnerable in society.

11.32

Jim Murphy is campaigning with the comedian Eddie Izzard in Glasgow. Theyre getting a wee bit of hassle from SNP supporters in the crowd.

11.25

Fresh from describing the #milistone as a weird Commie slab of rock, Boris Johnson is campaigning today in Hendon.

11.15

More from Emily Gosden, as Nick Clegg moves on to Kingston and Surbiton, his second stop on his tour of saaaf London:

Nick Clegg may deny getting Paul Scriven to tweet about his conversation with David Cameron, but little wonder people are suspicious: its given a well-timed publicity boost to the message that the Lib Dem leader has been shouting about over the Bank Holiday weekend – that no party will win a majority. Indeed, just as Nick Clegg was busy denying a role in the tweet (Im the leader of a political party not a sect, he protests), the Lib Dems were issuing a press release to reinforce the no majority message.

In it, Mr Clegg says: David Cameron doesn#x2019;t need 23 seats to win a majority, he needs 323 seats and he knows he can#x2019;t do it. Everybody knows that no one is going to win this election outright #x2013; even if David Cameron and Ed Miliband won#x2019;t admit it publicly.

Lib Dem sources are privately very pleased the message that were on for a hung Parliament is becoming accepted wisdom – they think it can only help them in the polls.

11.07

Hugh Grant appears to be a little confused. Last week he tweeted his support for the Lib Dem Danny Alexander, now he says he wants Labours Tom Watson to be PM.

10.56

Ed Miliband is off to Brighton to campaign with celebrity chef Delia Smith. Hes campaigning on the NHS today, and is expected to say:

In the final days few days of this General Election, the future of the NHS is at risk in the way it hasn#x2019;t been for a generation.

We know that if David Cameron wins a second term there will be a drive for more privatisation, more broken promises and more people waiting longer for treatment.

In this election , you have the chance to put the NHS first by voting Labour on Thursday. There is no bigger choice at this election than the future direction of our National Health Service, the bedrock of security for so many working people in our country.

But our NHS is in huge danger. It#x2019;s fighting for its life because of choices this Government has made. We#x2019;ve got people queuing out the doors of GPs#x2019; surgeries, unable to see a doctor, one million people last year waiting over 4 hours in Aamp;E, seriously ill people lying on trolleys in corridors for hours on end, we#x2019;ve even seen a treatment tent put up in a hospital car park.

David Cameron calls his record a success. It#x2019;s not a success. It#x2019;s a disgrace.

Ed Miliband arrives at Brighton and Hove Sixth Form college

Michael Gove, the Tory Chief Whip, has rejected the charge. Hes told ITV that David Cameron would protect the NHS because it had been there for him in his life, accusing Labour of a desperate, low and negative tactic that will rebound on them. He added:

David Cameron has been completely clear that the National Health Service is safe in his hands.

Ed Miliband and adviser Rachel Kinnock at Victoria Station

10.55

Emily Gosden brings us this report from Nick Clegg.

Nick Clegg has in effect confirmed Paul Scrivens tweet claiming David Cameron told the Lib Dem leader he wouldnt win a majority.

He says: Its not for me to comment on private conversations or tweets from Paul Scriven, but how can I put it? Ive never met a senior Conservative ever who will tell you privately that they think they are going to win this election.

I wish I could reveal some of these private conservations because the difference between what the Conservatives say privately and what they are claiming publicly is now quite a gulf. They are not going to win with a majority, with 23 seats, they know that, nobody thinks theyre going to win a majority, they need 323 seats and theres absolutely no way they are going to get that.

He says the Tories are telling a big fat fib that they can win 23 more seats. The Conservatives know they are not going to win a majority. I have never met a senior Conservative who has ever claimed in private that they are going to win a majority, he repeats.

Mr Clegg denies that he authorised the tweet. Paul is old friend of mine from Sheffield but I really dont control even my closest friends tweets, he says.

Nick Clegg campaigns in Twickenham

10.52

Lord Scriven isnt backing down. Hes told the BBCs Radio 5Live: I stick by my tweet, and reveals he was motivated to send it after reading The Telegraphs front page.

I dont take back anything I said in the tweet. People are not stupid. The opinion polls show whats happening, the private opinion polls show what is happening.

When I read whats on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, that David Cameron is not telling the truth to try to scare people to vote, then I think that his private feelings do need to be made clear.

10.50

The Spectator has this grim story of a Labour election rally in Birmingham in which men and women were apparently segregated by gender. Speakers included Tom Watson, Liam Byrne, Sion Simon, the former MP who is now an MEP. For shame.

Segregated Labour election rally in Birmingham.

10.47

And now David Cameron on Sky has been asked about Lord Scrivens remarks. He says it shows that Mr Clegg is desperate – but pointedly does not deny telling the Lib Dem leader he would not win a majority.

David Cameron campaigns in Bexhill

10.40

Nick Clegg has failed to deny Lord Scrivens claim, or rebuke the peer for spilling coalition secrets. Indeed he doubles up, saying he has never met a senior Conservative who has ever claimed in private that they are going to win a majority.

They#x2019;re now trying to tell people they can win a majority… it#x2019;s a big fat fib.

10.30

Confused with all this talk of coalitions, deals, majorities, arrangements and stick-ups? Heres our handy guide to what could happen after May 8. Clear as mud.

10.15

Emily Gosden is out with Nick Clegg today. She reports:

Nick Clegg has begun his whistle-stop tour of South London seats with a visit to Vince Cables constituency office in Twickenham, where they are greeted with a chorus of for hes a jolly good fellow from activists and a cake that says winning here.

Nick Clegg attacks the Tories big fat fib that they need 23 seats to win – they need 323 and they wont get them, he says.

Vince Cable says theyre being told the Tories have to win Twickenham to win a majority, which shows theyre even more desperate than thought. Hes confident he will win.

10.00

Heres the Prime Minister campaigning in Bexhill this morning.

09.57

The Conservatives are flatly denying Lord Scrivens claim (see entry for 09.37) that David Cameron told Nick Clegg he did not expect to win a majority. The Liberal Democrats are certainly expecting that to be the case. Theyve been making major overtures in recent days to place themselves in a position where it would be possible to enter into a second coalition with the Tories.

09.54

Theres trouble at tmill for Respects George Galloway, who is standing in Bradford West. A former aide, Aisha Ali-Khan, has filed a formal complaint with Ipsa claiming she spent most of her time on non-parliamentary duties, including running errands such as buying underpants and helping organise his wedding arrangements.

09.48

The Independent has an interesting story about Tory spin chief Lynton Crosby, and his firm, CTF Partners, which has apparently drawn up a strategy paper which proposed lobbying key government figures, including David Cameron to enhance the #x201c;size, acceptability and profitability of the private healthcare market#x201d; within the NHS.

09.39

We were briefed that Nick Clegg would be going on a tour of London seats this morning – turns out theyre all in the far south west reaches of the capital, where the Lib Dems are desperately seeking to shore up their existing seats. Anyway, he has this message this morning:

09.37

JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author and Labour supporter, is engaged in a good old ding dong with the SNP this morning. Here she is on the abuse shes received:

09.34

Interesting tweet from Lib Dem peer Lord Scriven:

09.32

Mr Farage also had this message for David Cameron – he would support a Tory budget if the Conservatives promised a referendum by the end of the year. Theres no point waiting until 2017 (Mr Camerons preferred date), he said.

09.28

Mr Farage is asked about his vote in Brussels last week to keep MEP expenses secret. He says it was a mistake – there were 80 pages of votes, taking place every couple of seconds for two hours, and he might have got one wrong. He pledges to change the votes, insisting his party would be the turkeys voting for Christmas by agreeing to publication. Hmmm.

09.27

Nigel Farage on the #milistone:

If he loses it will become a millstone. Goodness knows who advises these people.

09.20

Also on Today, Mr Miliband continued to insist that the last Labour government had not spent too much – the very claim that got the Question Time audience so riled with him last week. He said:

It was a failure of bank regulation. It was a banking crisis, pure and simple.

Mr Miliband also, once again, insisted he would not take part in any negotiations with the SNP in the event (as the polls universally now suggest) that Labour failed to win a majority. He described David Cameron as desperate for suggesting he would do a deal.

09.19

Milibands rock is trending! #Milistone:

09.14

Nigel Farage is now on LBC, and having a good old laugh at a caller who suggests that he write Ukips pledges up on a pub menu board. He then went on to take part in a taste challenge by identifying British over European beer. Its too early for that, Nigel!

09.11

Asked about the mocking his stone has received, the Labour Leader didnt seem bovvered, insisting: Well, it got people talking. Heres what else Mr Miliband had to say about his pet rock:

Our pledges are carved in stone, literally. Trust is a huge issue in this election. The difference with our pledges is they are not going to expire on May 8.

I will leave the landscape gardening to others. We are setting out promises, they dont expire on May 8. One of the things people are turned off this election for is because they think politicians break their promises.

A stone is perfectly adequate. Its to remind working people in this country that I am absolutely serious about changing the way people live their lives.

09.09

Mr Milibands pledge to plonk a lump of limestone on which Labours manifesto pledges are carved in the Downing Street garden has been greeted with much mirth. On the Today Programme this morning he defended the idea, saying it would be there to remind the working people of Labours promises – never mind that, bar a few secretaries and janitors, few working people get to hang out in the rose garden of Number 10. It got people talking though, Ed adds. Christopher Hope agrees:

09.00

Good morning and welcome to The Telegraphs election liveblog for Monday May 4. It might be a bank holiday but with just three days to go until polling day, the politicians arent taking a break from the campaign trail and neither will we.

Nationalists Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon have both been in the TV studios this morning, vowing to bring down a Labour austerity budget.

But it was Ed Miliband who has kicked off the day on the Today Programme with a bang, insisting that his much mocked stone of Labour pledges, which he is putting in the Downing Street garden, would be there on behalf of the working people of Britain.

Hes due to campaign in Brighton later this morning with Andy Burnham and celebrity backer Delia Smith.

Nigel Farage is about to take part in a question-and-answer session on LBC.

Nick Clegg is campaigning across the south London suburbs this morning.

Natalie Bennett, the Green Leader, gives a speech onimmigration speech in Haringey at 11.

David Cameron is campaigning in the South West, where hes holding a rally at 3pm.

Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband are also taking part in a CitizensUK event this afternoon. Mr Cameron had been due to take part but pulled out.

And Labour Leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, is campaigning with comedian Eddie Izzard in Glasgow.

Poliquin: We Must Ensure Single Parents Can Provide for Their Children

Raising a child alone is one of the hardest things to do.

Far too often, I have heard stories of kids growing up without having the necessary means for food, shelter and an education because their family is not receiving the much needed child support payments from their deadbeat parent.

According to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, in 2013, the child support program served nearly 17 million children – nearly 1 in 4 kids. As of April, Maine’s total child support case load is 56,731. That is 56,731 kids who deserve our attention.

Additionally, CNN has reported that more than $100 billion is owed in unpaid child support. Maine has $529,769,734.76 in unpaid child support payments. That number is outstanding and deserves our attention. Imagine what those payments represent for a hungry child! Those payments could represent a safer home and a better education, leading to a brighter future.

This past month, Maine’s Division of Support Enforcement amp; Recovery collected $5,068,293.68 toward that debt. Clearly, much work is still required.

In Congress, I will work to help our custodial parents receive the child support payments they desperately need in order to provide more opportunities and freedoms for their kids.

To that end, I introduced the Child Support Assistance Act in order to help state and local enforcement agencies aid families in collecting child support payments.

As of now, to locate a delinquent parent and enforce an appropriate level for child support payment, enforcement agencies verify employment through consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) in order to obtain a consumer/credit rating. However, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA), CRAs may not release consumer report information to a third party, such as an enforcement agency, unless they have legal bases for obtaining the report. This is a problem we must solve.

The consumer reporting agency must also provide the delinquent parent with prior notice which can give that deadbeat parent ample amount of time to manipulate their financial situation to avoid an appropriate level of child support. That is simply not fair and it isn’t right. Additionally, this notice requirement is also an unnecessary cost and burden for our state agencies.

The Child Support Assistance Act will fix these issues by amending the FCRA, allowing enforcement agencies to rapidly obtain consumer reports on delinquent parents. This change facilitates enforcing child support payments, without giving a delinquent parent an opportunity to change or hide their true responsibility.

This bill will also expressly allow the enforcement agency to set an appropriate amount for child support payments and adjust the level as needed. I believe these common sense solutions are sorely needed.

As your representative, I will continue to work to help our local and state enforcement agencies in collecting child support payments from deadbeat parents.

As a single father, I understand the rewards of raising a child alone, but I also know how difficult it can be. We must ensure our custodial parents have the means to provide for their kids.

I am honored and humbled to represent you in Congress.

Black River Park first Green Star SA rated office precinct in SA

The eight buildings at Black River Park office precinct in Observatory, offering a combined 75,000m² of office space, have earned unparalleled green building credentials. Besides being the first full office park to have all buildings Green Star SA rated, it is also home to the first Green Star SA Existing Building Performance (EBP) certified building and the first buildings to receive a 6 Star Green Star SA Existing Building Performance rating.

Brian Wilkinson, CEO of GBCSA, comments, “This is a major achievement, both for Black River Park and for GBCSA. Certifying all eight of Black River Park’s existing buildings is quite a feat, especially for a precinct of this size. It is an exciting example of outstanding sustainable innovation, and confirms the vision of its management team and their outstanding commitment to sustainability.”

He adds, “We would like to see more business parks following this leading example. All the buildings at Black River Park were certified using the EBP rating tool. The EBP tool means that South Africa’s many existing buildings in established office parks can now be retrofitted with green innovations and certified. This has huge potential for positive impacts to our environment, our businesses and our economy.” Nedbank Corporate Property Finance sponsored the EBP tool.

Black River Park is home to more than 110 companies, including the GBCSA’s head office and South African Property Owners Association’s Western Cape offices. It is now owned by JSE-listed Redefine Properties. Redefine acquired the landmark green office precinct as part of its Leaf Capital deal earlier this year.

Redefine CEO, Andrew Konig, comments, “The Black River Park complex has set itself apart with pioneering green initiatives and sustainable building management. We are exceptionally pleased to acquire this property, which perfectly supports our commitment to sustainability.”

The Black River Park buildings received maximum points on all credits targeted in their Green Star SA submissions. Three buildings received a 6-Star Green Star SA rating, three received 5-Star certifications and two earned 4-Star ratings.

Sally Misplon of Misplon Green Building Consulting, the Green Star Accredited Professional and principal participant in the green project team, guided Black River Park right from the very start in its certification project.

Some of the green initiatives undertaken by the office precinct to secure its ratings include:

  • The largest roof-mounted photovoltaic system in Southern Africa.
  • Feeding electricity back into the grid.
  • A high-performance green cleaning programme.
  • 68% of the tenants in the office park signed a Green Lease. These leases encourages collaboration and govern the relationship between the building owner and the tenant to manage and operate the building along environmentally sustainable principles, to the benefit of both.
  • For comfort and well-being, the building features performance glass and balcony overhangs, to reduce heat and shield harsh sunlight.
  • All lights in common areas were replaced with LEDs, with owners and tenants both benefiting from cost savings achieved as a result. A financing option was also offered to tenants to enable them to retrofit to LED in their own premises.
  • Indoor air quality testing and management.
  • All 6 Star rated buildings stood out for water and energy performance. They outperformed the Green Star benchmarks and achieved significant improvement on their baselines.
  • Sustainable management and operations that optimise the buildings’ environmental performance.
  • A green travel plan to encourage alternative modes of transport to and from work.
  • Sustainable procurement and purchasing practices. For every product or consumable purchased by Black River Park, the most sustainable one is selected.
  • All waste at the park is sorted into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. It also correctly disposes of fluorescent tubing, batteries and e-waste. Garden waste is recycled and reused as mulch.
  • Ecological gardens, including a vegetable garden and fruit orchard, are maintained with borehole water pumped on site.

Perhaps some of the most exciting green innovations at Black River Park are those involving the park’s tenants. These include holding a ‘cycle to work’ day, a clean-up of the Liesbeeck River that runs past the park and other activations with the precinct’s tenant community. Numerous other presentations and showcase tours are held for parties such as UCT, African Utility Week, Iziko museum and the like.

“It is wonderful to see an office park owner going above and beyond what’s required for certification,” says Wilkinson. “These initiatives encourage people to do more within green spaces and enjoy their many benefits. They bring sustainable environments to life and encourage the wider community to become an active part of the green building movement.”

High LTV Lending Is Actually a Good Thing

In the six months since the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the GSEs announced the return to low down payment mortgages, with Fannie Mae CEO Tim Mayopoulos noting, Now we can safely and responsibly do these loans, the industry and its followers have been in debate on the prudence of GSE re-entry into high loan-to-value lending.

Given recent history, thats an understandable response from the general public and some mortgage lending stakeholders. However, the practically Pavlovian fear and loathing triggered by the phrase 97% LTV is overblown.

Seasoned mortgage veterans of several boom-bust cycles know that borrower creditworthiness and dependable collateral valuation are the benchmarks of a responsible mortgage. When these attributes are eroded or systemically overlooked, any loan product can go rogue. Conversely, when healthy credit risk and collateral risk management assessments are in place, virtually any loan product can be properly originated within accepted risk thresholds at appropriate pricing.

Perhaps it has been too easy to forget why the mortgage market did not merely experience a correction in 2008, but instead contributed to a global economic derailment. The reasons had little to do with oft-referenced subprime mortgage products. The true culprits were turning a blind eye to historically sound practices for credit underwriting as well as systemic disconnects in collateral assessment and valuation methodology. Flaws in the fundamentals — safe and sound credit and collateral risk management processes — meant not only devastating numbers of mortgages defaulting, but credit losses that shook Wall Street and forced the GSEs into conservatorship.

African Bank – No Rescue Plan for Borrowers

African Bank was hiding the fact that the loan hadnt been paid well or at all by extending more credit to the consumer. This practice seems to have been well established and pervasive.

The National Credit Act lays down that if consumers are over-indebted or failing to make payments on loans, banks or other lenders may not get them deeper into debt.

GroundUp spoke to two African Bank clients in Grahamstown with the help of activist Ayanda Kota of the Unemployed Peoples Movement. Both asked not to be identified. Both say no affordability assessment was done before their credit agreements were signed.

One man, who worked as a petrol attendant, says he got a loan on the basis of his identity document and payslip. He has since lost his job, and says African Bank hounds him regularly for the money he still owes. He has suffered major depression and believes his adverse credit record is making it hard for him to find a new job.

The other man, a municipal worker, took out a loan for R3,000 to solve private problems in my family. African Bank wanted my ID book and my pay slip, he says. He took the loan out in 2013 and now owes African Bank some R4,500.

The manager of a financial company that provides funds to microlenders in rural areas says African Bank would even lend to people that his clients, the microlenders, had refused.

We were told about the problem with African Bank, about the bank being excessively lenient with consumers, close on two years before the problems with African Bank came to light, he says, speaking on condition of anonymity.

African Bank was giving money to people that our clients wouldnt touch.

It was widespread, but we got the most complaints from the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. We were told by the microlenders that they expected African Bank to blow up because their bad debts were going to come round and smack them. It wasnt a surprise at all when African Bank got into trouble.

A Durban-based debt counsellor says that African Bank was also misled by consumers who knew how to work the system, and that staff at the bank would show people how to work the system.

For instance, he says, a wife would deposit her salary in her husbands bank account to achieve a bigger loan while applying for a loan on her own account also.

In August 2014, the share price of Abil, the holding group of African Bank, plunged 95%, after the bank announced that it needed R8.5 billion to stay afloat. The Reserve Bank bailed African Bank out soon afterwards.

But this does not mean any relief for the borrowers. George Roussos, Group Executive Core Operations at African Bank told GroundUp in a written statement, There is no payment holiday for anyone owing on a loan from African Bank and no one was released of their debt obligations.

Roussos said, The Bank does not and has not lent credit recklessly and where instances arise due to errors or manipulation by either staff and or customers, these matters are investigated and are dealt with accordingly.

When the bank was put into curatorship, he said, the bad debt book was valued at R17 billion, for which the SA Reserve Bank is to pay R7 billion. Collection of bad debts would continue and be strengthened, he said.

Regarding novation, he said: The term can be used to describe a situation where a customer falls into arrears and a new agreement replaces the old one, the new agreement novates the old agreement with different terms on the same amount of debt. African Bank does not apply this practice as described above. The Bank allows customers to consolidate debt that they have acquired, and this process is typically accompanied by an additional disbursement to the customer.

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