Taxpayers will on Thursday take another step towards recouping money injected into the banking system during the 2008 financial crisis with the formal launch of a £5.5bn auction of housing loans.

Sky News has learnt that UK Asset Resolution (UKAR) will announce that it has kicked off the process to offload the Bradford & Bingley (B&B) mortgages, more than six months after bankers were hired to prepare the process.

Significantly, the sale proceeds will‎ be used to repay the outstanding £4.7bn of a Treasury loan to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), the interest on which is paid by Britain's five biggest banks and Nationwide, the building society.

£11bn of that loan has already been repaid.

The return of the remaining sum, expected to take place early next year, will mark another milestone in removing the legacies of one of the ‎worst financial crises in British history.

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, said in his Budget last week that further disposals of Royal Bank of Scotland shares would resume within about 18 months.

Among those expected to table bids for at least part of the mortgage assets are Blackstone, the New York-based private equity giant which acquired an £11.8bn portfolio alongside Prudential earlier this year.

Challenger banks such as OneSavings Bank and hedge funds including Och-Ziff are also likely to be among the parties expected to consider offers.

Google is facing legal action launched on behalf of 5.4 million people in England and Wales over allegations it unlawfully collected their personal data.

If successful, those affected could receive compensation.

The campaign Google You Owe Us says that between June 2011 and February 2012, Google bypassed the default privacy settings on users' iPhones to collect user data unlawfully.

The company is alleged to have placed cookies on the Safari browser to track users.

Unusually, the campaign is a representative action, brought on behalf of all those affected - similar to a class action lawsuit in the US.

Richard Lloyd, the representative claimant in the case, told Sky News: "My job is to represent everyone that was affected by this breach of trust by Google to make sure that these vast companies have to be held accountable in the British courts.

"They're not above the law. And we want to see more than five million British consumers given the compensation they're due."

The campaign estimates that, if the claim is successful, those affected could receive up to £200 in compensation each.

A planned train strike could hit one of the busiest travel days of the festive period, with workers walking out three days before Christmas.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), has announced workers on the Virgin West Coast line will strike six times in December and January, with one walkout planned to take place on 22 December.

The union said around 1,800 train managers, on-board catering staff and other workers would be involved in the action.

As Christmas falls on a Monday, a strike on the Friday before could scupper thousands of people's plans to travel to family and friends for the holiday period.

Holidaymakers heading out of London will also be badly hit by closures due to planned engineering works at several stations.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union said the industrial action, which will take place on 15 and 22 of December, and then 5, 8, 26, and 29 January, are in a row over pay and working conditions.

General secretary Mick Cash, said: "Our members on Virgin West Coast are striking for workplace equality and workplace justice.

Consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest level since just after the Brexit vote as households shun major purchases according to a closely-watched survey.

The findings from the GfK consumer confidence index, which is carried out on behalf of the European Commission, may be of concern for retailers in the key pre-Christmas period.

It showed a 2 point fall in the index to -12 in November, its lowest level since July 2016 and slightly lower than economists' expectations.

Joe Staton, head of market dynamics at GfK, said: "Sadly there's no festive cheer.

"Household jitters following the recent interest rate hike, squeezed incomes, higher inflation and economic uncertainty have dampened the consumer mood across the UK."

Mr Staton said consumers were "resolutely gloomy" about the economic outlook and that, despite recent strong retail sales, there had been a sharp drop in the major purchase element of its index.

"This will be an acute concern for retailers as they gear up for the key Christmas selling period," he said.