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British house prices have picked up over the past 12 months, and some are concerned about an unsustainable price boom. But Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, played down these fears. “Prices are rising off a low base and talk of a housing bubble in relation to the national market is overdone,” he said. “We are seeing continued house price growth in London combining with modest gains across other regions and creating a picture of a broadening market recovery,” he added. Hometrack said it expected prices to continue to rise in the short term but cautioned that the market remained very sensitive to changes in demand and especially changing expectations over the outlook for mortgage rates. Separate data from lender Nationwide released on Friday showed that British house prices shot up at their fastest annual pace in more than three years in September. House prices have been aided by government schemes to lower banks’ borrowing costs and help home-buyers struggling to find large deposits. The latter scheme is set for expansion at the start of 2014. Britain’s finance minister George Osborne said on Thursday that he wanted the Bank of England to keep a closer eye on whether the scheme might stoke a bubble. BoE Governor Mark Carney reiterated his view in an interview published on Friday that the market was seeing a turnaround but that levels of activity remained only around two-thirds of their longer-term averages for the sector. Hometrack said an improving market was bringing more supply to the market outside southern England and keeping price rises in check.

UK retailers remove ‘staggeringly offensive’ mental health costumes from sale

Walmart subsidiary Asda showed a man in a blood-stained white coat brandishing a meat cleaver to advertise its “Mental Patient Fancy Dress Costume.” Tesco’s advertisement for its “Psycho Ward Costume” showed a man in an orange boiler suit branded “PSYCHO WARD” brandishing a hypodermic needle and wearing a mask similar to that of Hannibal Lecter in the film, “The Silence of the Lambs.” An Asda spokeswoman offered the company’s “sincere apologies for the offense” the costumes had caused. “This was an unacceptable error and the product was withdrawn immediately,” she said in a statement. “We take our responsibilities very seriously which is why we will make a sizable donation to Mind.” Tesco also issued an apology, saying in a statement: “We’re really sorry for any offense this has caused and we are removing this product from sale.” Mental health charity Mind welcomed the withdrawal of the costumes, saying the retailers had shown themselves to be “extremely misguided” by offering them for sale. Slept in. Have @asda withdrawn their ‘mental patient fancy dress’ costume or are we going to organise a protest at HQ? #timetochange Alastair Campbell (@campbellclaret) September 26, 2013 Alastair Campbell “It is staggeringly offensive to the one in four of us affected by mental health problems and our families and friends, and troubling that some businesses are still so out of touch with the public mood,” spokeswoman Sue Baker said in a statement . However, Baker said the outcry the costumes provoked on the social media site Twitter was encouraging. “We hope this will urge Asda, Tesco and other retailers and manufacturers to review their processes and consider taste and decency on mental health grounds, to avoid fueling stigma and discrimination that are so damaging for large numbers of the population,” she said. Mind and the group Rethink Mental Illness run the Time to Change campaign to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination. One of the campaign’s supporters is Alastair Campbell, who was former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s media chief and who has publicly spoken of his battle with depression . Campbell was among those who tweeted his displeasure at the “brutally stigmatizing outfits.” “@asda and @tesco should sign up for one of the @mindcharity @Rethink_ @TimetoChange mental health training courses,” he tweeted . Campbell alleged that Amazon still carried mental health patient costumes and called for people to tweet the company, asking it to withdraw them.