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vital statistics

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The world was 4.1 per cent weirder in 1998 than 1997, says the paranormal journal Fortean Times.

The Empty Homes Agency has helped fill 150,000 properties in the last five years. The MoD has 13,000 empty houses, costing £1 million to keep secure.

Central London office take-up for 1998 totalled 1,150,000m2, a fall of 8 per cent on 1997, but still the second highest annual level for more than 10 years, says property consultant cb Hillier Parker.

Deputy pm John Prescott has announced a £1.65 million bond issue to raise cash to build the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. The bonds are being issued by London and Continental Railways, but have a full government guarantee.

English council rent arrears for the year ending 31 March 1998 rose to 6.5 per cent of authorities' rent roll - some

£473 million. Last year it was 6.4 per cent, said the detr.

The rics expects house prices to rise 4 per cent in 1999 after a gain of 10 per cent last year. Transactions are expected to fall to 1.3 million from 1.35 million in 1998.

Trade secretary Stephen Byers aims to save businesses up to £200 million by simplifying rules governing the £3.60-an-hour adult minimum wage from April. Changes involve scrapping written details in payslips.

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