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f you’re planning to drive to France and go through Paris, Lyon or Grenoble, beware. New rules mean you’re likely to need to display a vehicle emissions sticker on your windscreen, while older cars could be banned altogether at certain times.
The three French cities have introduced the ‘Crit’Air’ scheme, which is designed to curb pollution and requires most vehicles driving within designated ‘environmental zones’ to display a window sticker (known as a vignette).
The stickers cost €4.80 (around £4.17), including postage to the UK. There are six categories of sticker, which are colour-coded according to how much vehicles pollute and range from the cleanest (Crit’Air 1), for electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles, to the most polluting (Crit’Air 6).
While the vignettes only cost a few pounds, if you’re caught driving without one in an environmental zone you could be hit with a hefty on-the-spot fine of up to €135 (about £117).
Be careful when buying one though. MoneySavingExpert.com has identified at least one non-official site selling the vignettes at more than six times the price on the official website. Don’t be fooled – always buy through the French environment ministry (see full help on how to get a sticker below).
For more ways to cut the cost of driving at home and abroad, see our 50+ Motoring MoneySaving Tips.
How do the new restrictions work?
Not all vehicles require a sticker – cars registered before 1997, motorbikes and scooters from before June 2000 and trucks and buses from before 2001 are all excluded from the scheme and can’t be driven at all when the restrictions apply.
While technically you can drive a vehicle without an emissions sticker through the restricted zones when the restrictions aren’t in force, the RAC strongly recommends that if you’re planning to drive in Paris, Lyon or Grenoble, and you qualify for a vignette, you get one and display it at all times. Otherwise there’s a risk you may be caught and fined, especially as restrictions could vary locally.
Here’s how the driving restrictions work in the three cities:
Full details of all France’s traffic restrictions and schemes can be found on the EU’s Urban Access website.
The scheme’s already up and running for French drivers, although cars registered in foreign countries including the UK can be safely driven in Paris without a vignette until Friday 31 March. It’s not clear whether there is any equivalent tolerance period in place for tourists in Lyon and Grenoble.
Authorities in about 20 other French towns have already signalled their interest in adopting the vignette scheme, so if you’re a fan of driving holidays in France you’d be wise to get to grips with it now.
Go to the French environment ministry’s website to apply – don’t buy from anywhere else as we’ve seen some non-official sites selling these stickers at vastly inflated prices.
It’s not necessary to apply for a particular vignette. Simply fill in the order form – it’s in English – with details of your vehicle and you’ll be sent the right one. (If you’re unsure and want to check your vehicle’s European emissions standard, use the RAC’s website.)
This is the ONLY way to apply if your vehicle is registered in the UK – you can’t get a sticker once you’re in France. To fill in the form you’ll need the following info:
It can take up to 30 days from your application to receive the vignette by post – you can track its progress. Unfortunately there’s no express delivery option, so apply well before your holiday. If you leave it too late, you’ll have no option but to avoid the restricted zones.
Once your vignette arrives, attach it to the lower right-hand side (as seen from driver’s seat) of your windscreen in such a way that it can be read by someone outside the car. View the official instructions for how to do this, or watch the video below (even if you don’t speak French, you can see how it’s done).
Reprinted from Money Saving Expert
The alternative garden festival WE’RE BACK!
The Chelsea Fringe is back for its sixth year. Last year we reached our 1000th event! This year the Festival will run from 20 May to 4 June; that’s 16 days, three weekends and one Bank Holiday Monday to fill with exciting gardening/arts projects and events.
We are inviting individuals and organisations, first-time “Fringers” and veterans to discuss what they might like to do. If you already have a project or event in mind for the alternative gardening festival please get in touch with us at email@example.com – here as we are now open for new submissions. And pass this on to anyone else who you think might be interested.
You can find out more here:
Calling all Volunteers
No time to volunteer?
BE A FRIEND
Want to Know More before Deciding?
The 2016 Fringe was a huge success, with some 350 community gardening activities, garden/art installations and happenings, walks, talks, food events, open days, exhibitions and performances across London and far beyond. There was excellent coverage in the national media – newspapers, magazines, radio and television here. We also renewed our broadcast partnership with BBC Radio London (the Robert Elms show) and that will continue in 2017.
The Chelsea Fringe is volunteer-run and unfunded, operating as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company [CIC]
I hope you are all enjoying this lovely March weather, what great weather to be out in the garden! Here are few bits of news and information about upcoming events.
* Open Jardins/ Gardens Ouvertes is a scheme that was set up in France just a few years ago with the aim of opening gardens to raise monies for charity – rather like the Yellow Book scheme in Britain. They are keen to expand into the Occitanie region and we have agreed to open the garden here on Sunday 21st May, Sunday 25th June and Sunday 24th September (10 to 18h each day) as part of the scheme so for those of you who would like to visit the garden here occasionally we shall hope to see you. You can see more about the scheme at http://www.opengardens.eu/ , they are keen for more gardens to be involved so if you think you and your garden could be part of this you can contact Catriona McLean <firstname.lastname@example.org> who is the lead Co-ordinator for my South Western region.
* Sunday June 4th 2017 - we shall be holding a day in the garden here as an awareness and fundraising day for Languedoc Solidarité avec le Réfugies (http://languedocsolidarite.com/refugies/), this will partly replace the open weekends that we have held in the past and will include garden tours and other garden related acivities, La Table d’Emilie will be organising the food as always and there will be a range of activities on a garden fete theme …. come and try Sjoelbak, Jenga, Splat the Rat and many other garden games and fun activities …. more info nearer the time but please put the event in your diaries. We are still looking for one or two more people to become involved to organise and staff individual activities so if you would like to help please get in touch.
* last autumn we ran a gardening course - Aromatics for Languedoc gardens which was well received and a number of people have asked me to repeat it so we will be offering the Aromatics course again on Wednesday 10th May (10am to 4pm), as before this course is for gardeners and foodies alike. We will consider a range of over forty common and more unusual aromatics (herbs and spices) which we can grow in our gardens. We’ll look at how to identify plants, how to propagate and grow them, how to harvest and use them as well as thinking about how to incorporate aromatics in ornamental gardens and using them as companion plants. The course fee will be 50€ and as usual we will provide teas & coffees and ask you to bring a packed lunch. For more info contact Gill@lapetitepepiniere.com
* Imogen and Kate have been working very hard on their new garden and nursery next door - Le Jardin Champetre - and it is really looking good, they are open every Saturday from 10 to 5pm or by appointment so do come and see it. They are also taking part in the Open Jardins scheme and will also be offering a number of events throughout the year. You can contact them at <email@example.com> or <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As ever, for general gardening queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch, enjoy your gardens and we hope to see some of you during 2017.
Regards, Gill Pound
Le Jardin de la Petite Pépinière de Caunes
21, av de la Montagne Noire, 11160 Caunes-Minervois 04 68 78 43 81 www.lapetitepepiniere.com
There was bad news for holidaymakers, who’ll have to pay more for their flights soon; Air Passenger Duty (APD) rates are set to increase in line with the Retail Price Index in 2018-19.
There was relatively little movement for Sterling off the back of the Budget announcement, with the currency remaining at consistent levels against all major currency pairs pre-and-post Mr Hammond’s statement.
However, with Article 50 set to be triggered by the end of March, the next few weeks will be key for Sterling, with potential for the currency to experience volatility.
Your thoughts on the Budget
Before the announcement, we asked you; what impact the Spring Budget would have on Sterling?
The majority of you (40%) expected it to have a positive effect, hoping for an upbeat sentiment, focussed on positive growth in the UK economy to give Sterling a much needed boost.
Opposed to this, 32% of you thought Philip Hammond’s announcement would send Sterling on a downward spiral.
However, it was the minority that predicted correctly, deciding there would be no movement for Sterling (27%), with many commenting that there would be some initial change, before the pound reverted back to levels seen over the past few weeks.
Although the Spring Budget has had little impact on currency markets so far, the next few months could see considerable movements, with Article 50 set to be triggered and several high-profile elections across Europe. Get in touch today via our web site Currencies Direct
by Bob Elliott
A List of Essential Web Sites
Here are the most useful web sites that will help you set up the best services for you. There are many more of course and there are others only your telecom provider has access to as part of the services they offer.
Use this site to find out what the general broadband speed is in any town or commune where you are searching for a property. In the event of there being no service or a very slow one we can tell you if there are any upgrades planned for the near future at your local exchange
Found your ideal property? Use this site to see what broadband speed you will get there. If there is no line going to the property use the number of your nearest neighbour to get an indication of the likely speed you will get. Ask us to help with interpretation of the results if necessary:
A major investment in the broadband network started in 2013 with a planned completion date of 2022 and a budget of 20€Billion. The aim is to bring high speed broadband to about 80% of homes with towns having priority. Not all rural areas are guaranteed this improvement. Your telecom company or mairie may also have information on how and when this will affect your commune. To find out more go to this web site:
Choosing the right mobile is made much easier if you use the link below. It will tell you the coverage of each network, so you can choose the best for your area:
Calling UK non-geographic numbers (marketing numbers) from France is expensive. UK free phone numbers are not free either as your provider has to get your call onto the UK network, for which you will be charged. Go to this web site to see if there is an equivalent national telephone number:
Squeezing Maximum Speed from Your wifi
Like property, it is all about location, location, location!
• The higher the modem is located the better. Wifi signals are sent out radially and downwards.
• Modems do not like microwaves and white goods, so kitchens are bad.
• They don’t like TVs or mirrors either.
• Every modem has several wifi channels – but are factory pre-set using just one of three. Get help to change it if necessary.
• Make sure you have used your security code to stop others using your service.
Many of us dislike receiving cold calls from sales people. You can minimise this by going ex-directory (Liste Rouge) when you set up your line, but this may not be sufficient or you may want people to be able to find you for other reasons. Use the following web site to request your number not to be called by cold call organisations, the service is free:
Make sure you choose a provider that will give you the best advice now and look after you when things change.
Great information is only a call or an email away!
Prior House, 35 Sydenham Road, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 3RX T: 01483 477 100, F: 0330 648 0299,
An update from Blevins Franks, International Tax & Wealth Management
It is important to keep up to date on the latest tax rates and rules in France, in order to protect yourself from unnecessary taxation.
There are no changes to French income tax rates for 2017 (payable on 2016 income). The income tax bands for each rate have increased very slightly, however. For example, last year’s €9,700 nil rate band has increased by €10, and the 45% top rate band is up €152 for a new threshold of €152,260.
Individuals with a taxable income of up to €18,500 (€37,000 for couples) could benefit from a new 20% tax reduction. There is also scaled relief available for individuals earning up to €20,500, and €41,000 for couples.
The supposedly temporary ‘exceptional tax’ is still in place for 2017. This charges an extra 3% or 4% for income over €250,000 and €500,000 respectively, with higher thresholds for families.
Remember, income tax is payable on earnings, pensions, rental income and investment income, and you are taxed as a household rather than as an individual. Take advice to make sure you are taking advantage of available tax-efficient structures for holding your wealth and investment assets.
No changes to social charges in 2017 means your income continues to attract up to an extra 15.5% in tax. Together with income taxes, this can invite combined tax rates of as much as 64.5% on your investments. However, there are compliant, tax-efficient arrangements available in France that can help you lower this tax liability, sometimes significantly.
Although not due to come into effect until January 2018, you should be aware that a French Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system is planned. Not only will this apply to employed and self-employed individuals, it will affect those receiving French pensions and French unfurnished letting income. If you are a French resident, it will also apply to your wages, pensions and annuities paid by non-French entities, although it is not yet clear how this will work.
While there is a chance that the PAYE reform may be undone by the incoming President, you should prepare for an end to the current system where taxes are payable in arrears at the end of each tax year. As a result, most of your 2017 income may escape the usual income tax and social charges in 2018, although any income classified as ‘exceptional’ will still be subject to the normal scale rates of tax.
Despite rumours that the wealth tax ‘holiday’ period would be extended from five to eight years, this has not happened. So new residents of France still need to start paying wealth tax on non-French assets five years from arrival.
You are liable for wealth tax if your taxable worldwide assets are above €1.3 million, at rates of 0.5% to 1.5% on assets over €800,000. However, the French tax system still limits your combined income tax, wealth tax and social charges liability to 75% of your total income. While this sounds high, it does provide tax planning opportunities.
Wealth tax can prove costly for those unprepared for it, so if you are affected, seek advice on how you can legitimately lower this tax liability.
There have been no major developments here for 2017, although the succession tax reduction for families has been removed. Previously, beneficiaries with more than three children could reduce their French succession tax by €610 per third and subsequent child on inheritances from a parent or spouse, and €305 on legacies from more distant relatives.
Even if the removal of these allowances does not affect you, the new year is a good time to review your estate planning and make sure your arrangements are up to date.
Remember, French succession tax works differently from UK inheritance tax and the effect on your heirs depends on their relationship to you. Stepchildren and unmarried partners, for example, are seen as ‘non-relatives’ and face tax rates as high as 60% on inheritances and gifts. The ‘forced heirship’ rules also mean that natural children could inherit up to 75% of your estate, regardless of your intentions.
While you can override forced heirship by opting for UK law to apply under the ‘Brussels IV’ EU regulation, this is complex and can have unexpected consequences. Also, bear in mind that this will only affect how your estate is distributed – it will not remove your liability for French succession tax. Take personalised advice to ensure your legacy is dealt with according to your wishes while protecting your heirs from unnecessary taxation.
It is important to understand how French taxation affects you personally, and establish tax planning solutions based on your unique objectives and family circumstances. Even if you have already done this, regular review is essential to make sure your arrangements are up to date. For expatriates, an adviser with cross-border experience can help you make the most of opportunities offered by the French tax system.
Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual is advised to seek personalised advice.
To keep in touch with the latest developments in the offshore world, check out the latest news on our website www.blevinsfranks.com
We’re very sorry to report the death of Linda Shepherd
She was ‘an inspiration to us all’ and her work has helped thousands
Cancer Support France founder, Linda Shepherd, has died at the age of 64 following her own battle with cancer.
She founded the charity in 2002 in Poitou-Charentes after she was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer shortly after she moved to France. She praised the extensive treatment she went through but found she needed to talk to someone about her fears and worries in her mother tongue.
Her French doctor, Prof Alain Daban, CHU Poitiers head of the radiotherapy department at the time, encouraged her as he was aware of the need for a support group for the growing number of English-speaking cancer patients.
In the 15 years since then, CSF has helped around 2,000 people and the charity has grown so much that a national association was created to support the network of 15 affiliated, but independent, associations throughout France.
It trains volunteers who give practical help, information and emotional support adapted to the individual needs of the cancer patients themselves, but also to their carers, families and those closest to them.
When she stepped down as president in 2014 Mrs Shepherd’s work for British residents in France was recognised with an invitation to a garden party at the Paris British Residence for the Queen’s birthday and then an invitation from President Hollande to a State Banquet at the Elysée Palace.
By that time her cancer had come back but she continued to play an active part in CSF, even doing her last session as a trainer at her local group, CSF Haute-Vienne, last month although very poorly.
CSF national president Penny Parkinson said: “It is Linda’s vision and determination which led to the creation and development of CSF. Her tireless support and the example of how she lived her own life with cancer is an inspiration to us all.
“Only last November she was able to attend and contribute to our Trainers’ Conference in Toulouse.
“Her legacy is that the organisation she created is now helping anglophone people touched by cancer across a large part of France.”
by Jane Hanks, reprinted from The Connexion 24th March
by Richard Pickering, Head of Research & Insight Cushman & Wakefield
In the balance
Plan for Britain We are now serving notice on the EU under Article 50. Although the precise contents of the letter that Theresa May will send to Donald Tusk are unknown, she has given some indication of what may be in store in the form of a 12-point ‘Plan for Britain’ released last week. This can be summarised as follows: (1) certainty (required by business), (2) control of laws (ending EU primacy), (3) strengthening the Union (a nod to Nicola Sturgeon), (4) Common Travel Area (mitigating impact on Northern Ireland), (5) controlling immigration (control rather than necessarily curbs), (6) securing EU nationals rights (although no pre-commitment on this), (7) protecting workers rights (presumably both in respect of trade and domestic law), (8) free trade (if the EU accepts this), (9) new trade (e.g. with the US and China), (10) science and innovation (continuing partnerships with EU), (11) crime and terrorism (cross-border security), (12) a smooth and orderly exit (read: transitional arrangements).
Rates in the balance The BoE Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) last week voted by 8-1 to keep the base rate at 0.25% and to continue with its programme of buying corporate bonds. The MPC, which is tasked with keeping inflation at 2%, noted the prospect for a ‘slowdown in aggregate [consumer] demand’ over the coming year. It concluded: ‘Attempting to offset fully the effect of weaker sterling on inflation would be achievable only at the cost of higher unemployment and, in all likelihood, even weaker income growth.’ Meanwhile, across the pond, the Fed made the decision to raise the US base rate by 25bps to 1.00%. This comes in the expectation of looser fiscal policy and strong growth. Rising interest rates pose a risk to property pricing when this is not responding to stronger growth. However, an increase in rates can also stimulate lending, which in turn encourages demand for property.
Vertigo The Government is launching a £7.2m study into the health impacts of living and working in skyscrapers. The commission to the universities of Bath and Exeter has been prompted by concerns over the psychological impact of small vibrations and movement on some people. The world’s tallest towers can sway more than a metre in strong winds. Whereas this is imperceptible to most, it is also thought to cause mood swings and listlessness. Densification is largely inevitable, and in many respects desirable (reduced commute times, greater social interactions, sustainable and efficient use of resources). The challenge ahead is for the ergonomic approach to planning and building design to keep pace with the rate of population growth in our big cities (ave: 3.4%, London: 5.7%, Bristol 4.5%). Alternatives to high rise are an important part of this jigsaw.
Charleston East Corporate campus development took a step forward with the approval by Mountain View City Council of Google’s new ‘Charleston East’ facility in California. One of the key talking points about the futuristic community is the blurring of private and public space. The low rise 595,000 sq ft structure contains a public walkway though the ground floor which houses restaurants and staff canteens. In stark contrast to a traditional gated campus, Google is promoting it as a destination for the local community. Both physically and conceptually, this is a flexible, semi-public umbrella, designed and owned by an occupier, only part of which is for its exclusive benefit. This provokes interesting questions about the potential role of multinationals in delivering new quarters of our cities, where the government or existing landowners may be less able.
Productivity laggards In a speech to the LSE this week, BoE Chief Economist Andy Haldane set out a view of a two-tier corporate economy where ‘leaders’ coexist with ‘laggards’. Haldane cites recent research suggesting that a fall in real estate values during the financial crisis tightened collateral constraint and credit conditions for small business, and was ‘a potent crisis propagation channel’. However, this does not explain the subsequent failure to improve productivity as asset prices have recovered. For this he points to a failure of innovation to ‘trickle down’ from market leaders, due to IP constraints, natural monopolies and management failings. This diffusion lag is creating ‘clear and widening blue water’ between the top 5% of firms and the rest. This, more than regional or sectoral disparities, is what Haldane considers is responsible for global productivity stagnation.
Identity crisis Do you define yourself as European, British, by nation (e.g. Scottish), by county (e.g. Yorkshire), or by city (e.g. Cardiff)? This debate has been given context by those who feel that leaving the EU in some way diminishes their Europeanness, by the calls for a new Scottish referendum, and by the continued push for city devolution. However, there is also a wider economic context. The world’s most powerful cities are developing a runaway lead, and in many cases are stronger economies than substantial countries. Tokyo, for instance, has a larger economy than Spain; New York has a larger economy than Iran, and Paris outsizes the Netherlands. With much real estate investment focused at a city level, the importance of clustering to achieve scale benefits, (e.g. Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine) is apparent.
Robotic returns A study published by CEBR and Redwood Software this week suggests that returns from robotics offer better long-run value than investments in real estate, financial services or transportation. The study also notes that the UK’s robotics density lags behind the US and Germany at just 33 robots per 10,000 workers. By comparison, data from the International Federation of Robotics states that South Korea has a robotic density of 531 robots per 10,000 workers (with much of these in the manufacturing sector). On the face of it, this suggests greater potential for automation / job losses in the UK. The CEBR report states, ‘However while humans and robots are highly likely to be substitutes in the production process, there is a clear economic rationale for the two to not be perfect substitutes.’ Beyond employment impacts, the study reports that increased robotisation is positively correlated with productivity and GDP per capita, which supports the case for public investment
Good neighbours With Nexit-1 seemingly having been avoided in the Netherlands, a second Nexit has reared its head, as rumours emerge that Channel 5 may end the UK’s 31-year transmission of Neighbours. With UK viewers accounting for a significant percentage of the global market, the Aussie soap is as quintessentially British as St George (Turkish), Fish & Chips (Portuguese), or cups of tea (Chinese). At its high point in 1990, the show was attracting 21m UK viewers, whereas at the same time the population of Australia was only 17m. However, viewer numbers have since dwindled and Viacom has apparently flinched at the contract renewal. Australian High Commissioner, Alexander Downer, has recently made positive statements about the prospect of a post-Brexit UK/Oz trade deal. However, sightings of Toadfish Rebecchi in London during Monday’s episode of Neighbours have prompted speculation that either he, or possibly Dr Karl, will be managing these discussions going forwards.
British Airways is celebrating a decade of success and growth of its regional airline business.
BA CityFlyer, the wholly owned British Airways subsidiary, with its headquarters in Manchester, marks its 10th anniversary with good cause to celebrate – the number of customers using its services has more than quadrupled and aircraft numbers have doubled in the past 10 years.
BA CityFlyer is firmly established at London City Airport, which celebrates its 30th birthday this year, as the biggest operator in terms of routes, customers and aircraft movements.
Adam Carson, BA CityFlyer’s managing director said: “The 10-year anniversary is a significant milestone for us. Initially a business-based airline we listened to what our customers told us and moved into leisure flying as well, reaching a whole new market but at the same time expanding our core business network.
“The key to our success is our schedule, offering our customers well-timed and well-priced flights and plenty of choice to destinations they want to fly to. London City and Edinburgh airports have both been key to our operation, with aircraft and crews based there, but adding another London airport, Stansted, to our network was a major expansion ahead of new regional flying from Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol from May this year.”
British Airways actually began flying from the Docklands airport in 2003 as BA CitiExpress, the company formed when four regional airlines combined.
BA CityFlyer was launched on March 5, 2007 with 144 flights a week, increasing to 250 flights to six UK and European destinations with a month. This summer it will fly from London City and regional airports to a record 54 destinations in the UK and Europe.
The airline is expanding its regional operation to fly from Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol airports as well as increasing schedules at Stansted, Edinburgh and Dublin.
Declan Collier, CEO of London City Airport, said: “Over the last decade, BA CityFlyer has grown its fleet considerably and become our largest airline customer, offering great service and a growing route network that continues to be widely praised by our passengers.
“As London City Airport celebrates its 30th anniversary year in 2017, it’s fitting that we recognise BA CityFlyer’s 10 years at the airport, and thank the dedicated team that have helped contribute to a phase of record-breaking passenger growth.”
The original aircraft fleet comprised 10 RJ100 regional jets, but the airline soon took delivery of new greener Embraer jets and the current fleet has 14 Embraer 190s and six Embraer 170s.
In 2007 BA CityFlyer employed 278 staff, today it has more than 500 employees, including the management team based at its Manchester headquarters.
Underlining its business focus at London City, British Airways offered customers a schedule that enabled them to do a full business day in some of Europe’s major cities with a same-day return option.
More recently the airline has expanded its leisure flying, serving popular European sunspots and this summer almost two million seats will be on sale from London City.
Some of BA CityFlyer’s destinations and low prices include each way fares to Milan from London City and Stansted from £45, Manchester to NICE, Alicante, Ibiza and Palma from £49 and Bristol and Birmingham to Palma and Ibiza from £49.
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