House prices, rail fares and David Cameron's holiday in the headlines

Britain's housing market has seen values reach record levels, according to the front page of the Daily Express.

It reports that the average price went up by £23,000 during the year to June, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. While growth has been strongest in London, where the average is said to be £499,000, the paper declares the market to be "booming across the UK".

However, it's just "more bad news" as far as first-time buyers in the capital are concerned, says the Metro. "They will now need a minimum five per cent deposit of £19,350 - an increase of £3,150 on 2013 - for a starter home typically costing £387,000," it reports.

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The Daily Telegraph uses different figures to illustrate the same problem, saying the national average price for a first property reached £204,000 in June, up £22,000 on the previous year. Metro cartoonist Robert Thompson imagines an elderly couple telling an estate agent: "No, no... we're first-time buyers. It's taken us 53 years to save up the deposit." The paper's graphic also shows a "north-south divide" in price inflation, with growth in Wales, Northern Ireland and northern England slower than further south.

However, the Financial Times sees further signs that the trend for large increases is beginning to slow. It quotes one estate agent citing the prospect of interest rate rises and new mortgage regulations - including caps on high loan-to-income lending - as key factors driving the slowdown.

If readers feel as though they're forever being given different pictures of the housing market, Kathryn Hopkins sympathises in the Times: "There are so many house price indices knocking about that it seems as if almost every day we are either being told that we are in the midst of a housing bubble or that cold water has been poured on to an overheating market and prices are actually falling." Things may be about to get a little simpler, though. She says the ONS is working with three other data providers on a "definitive" index.


Journalist's 'beheading'

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Later editions of the newspapers carry reports of the apparent beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic State fundamentalists in Syria.

Both the Times and Sun move the story onto their front pages, noting that the extremists released a video purporting to show a "British jihadist" carrying out the killing. They use a still image from the video of man, said to be Mr Foley, dressed in orange and kneeling in the desert.

The Guardian says it was the not the first time that Mr Foley, who was captured nearly two years ago, had been detained. He spent six weeks in captivity after being detained by forces loyal to former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, it says. The Islamist organisation has threatened to kill a second journalist captured in August last year, reports the Daily Telegraph.


Fares fair?

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News that rail fares are to rise between 3.5% and 5.5% in January does not go down well with newspaper editors.

The Financial Times describes ticket prices as having gone "off the rails", while its cartoonist Roger Beale envisages pay-day loan companies setting up shop alongside ticket offices. Matt, in the Telegraph, sketches a couple of men overlooking a disused station, with one remarking: "They say some nights you can still hear the wailing of the season ticket buyers."

And Transport Minister Claire Perry's claim that rising rail fares could pay for "comfortable commuting" is criticised in the Daily Mirror. Likewise, the Mail's editorial column complains: "If ever there was an example of how disconnected politicians are from ordinary voters, this is it. With Miss Perry having access to a plump expenses account and taxpayer-funded government car, why on earth wouldn't she be?"

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The Sun reckons the minister needs to experience a peak-time commute for her weekly return journey from Wiltshire to London. "We'll put money on those trips [currently] being at convenient off-peak times on punctual, half-empty trains."

The Guardian says the government is "keen on trains", given its plans to spend billions of pounds on HS2 and Chancellor George Osborne's championing of improved links across northern England. But it argues: "Building railways can only be good for the country in the long term if people can afford to travel on them."

However, as the Telegraph points out, increasing the subsidy from the taxpayer may not prove popular: "The stark truth is that if we want a better network, which is carrying more passengers than at any time since the Twenties, it has to be paid for; those who don't use the trains fail to see why they should pick up the bill." The Times agrees that "cutting fares by increasing rail subsidies would be the very worst response", arguing instead that greater competition is the way to improve things for passengers.


Holiday sandals

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"It would not be a British summer without a picture of David Cameron perched awkwardly on a bistro chair in Cornwall," writes Tom Brooks-Pollock in the Telegraph, as the papers give their take on the PM enjoying his third holiday of the year.

The Daily Express enjoys pointing out Mr Cameron's footwear - sandals - and suggests it proves he's better able to unwind than back in 2012 when he was pictured wearing "incongruous black business shoes" in Mallorca. However, the Mail reckons his "very dubious" choice of "battered-looking" leather sandals prove "there are some things he has yet to learn" from his time in No 10. "This is despite the ample practice Mr Cameron has managed to squeeze in during his time in office - a total of 15 breaks," it adds.

Other papers are more concerned about the PM's ability to lead the country from afar at a time when British forces are becoming increasingly involved in efforts to protect minority communities from Iraq's Islamist extremists. The Daily Star interprets calls from former Head of the Army Gen Sir Richard Dannatt for Parliament to be recalled as a call to "Cam back and sort out Iraq".

Meanwhile, the Mirror adopts the tone of a Sergeant Major to headline the report: "Get back 'ere, you 'orrible little Cam." The Times's Patrick Kidd finds Mr Cameron's comment that he's "always within a few feet of a BlackBerry" reassuring "even if he did say in June that there are parts of Cornwall where he can't get a signal".

Michael White, writing in the Guardian, spells out the risks world leaders run in taking the month off, bearing in mind that the last banking crisis, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the creation of the Berlin Wall, the Suez crisis and World War One all flared up in August. Some of Mr Cameron's predecessors would have understood the need "to show hands-on leadership by making a pointless journey for the TV cameras", White writes.


Neighbourly relations

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They will count for nothing when it comes to next month's referendum but English people's views on Scottish independence have been making headlines just the same, with the i splashing the results of an opinion poll across its front page.

The "overwhelming majority" - some 59% - want Scotland to stay in the UK, is the main conclusion it draws from the research. Just 19% favour separation.

The Daily Telegraph highlights another strongly expressed opinion in the Future of England survey of 3,695 adults, summing it up as: "Keep your nose out of our issues, English tell Scottish MPs." The paper explains: "If independence is rejected, large majorities of voters south of the border support cutting Scottish public spending and banning Scottish MPs from voting on English-only laws at Westminster."

"If anything the message appears to be: 'Vote Yes by all means, but if you do you're on your own'," notes one Edinburgh academic quoted by the papers.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times finds Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond trying to reassure voters concerned about what currency an independent Scotland might use, without revealing his Plan B should Westminster reject a formal currency union. FT writer Kiran Stacey spells out how options such as as using the pound anyway, joining the euro and creating a new currency might work.

The Scotsman reports the nationalist leader's pledge that he would be prepared to give up his political career if it meant he could secure a "yes" vote in the referendum. The Edinburgh-based paper describes the comments as "a bid to demonstrate that the referendum is not just about the first minister".

In the Guardian, former BBC Director General Lord Birt raises another possible outcome of a "yes" vote - that the BBC could lose up to 10% of its funding in the form of the £320m currently paid each year by Scottish licence fee payers.


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