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Money | Anorak - Part 91

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Money in the news and how you are going to pay and pay and pay

Dearest Britain: A Two-Tier Economy

A NEW report from the Royal Bank of Scotland reveals that British shoppers are being ripped-off in comparison to their European and American counterparts.

The report in question, entitled ‘The Return Of Rip Off Britain?’, highlights that while Britons pay quite low prices for their weekly shop, when it comes to computer game consoles, branded electronic goods, alcohol, furniture and rail tickets, they are being left out of pocket.

The rise of a ‘two-tier economy’, where only the smartest consumers or those with access to the internet can find the best deals worries Martin Lewis of moneysavingexpert.com,.

Says he: “Companies have finally realised the ultimate economic dream where rather than offer one price for all, they charge customers what they are willing to pay. So you have information enfranchised consumers who get amazing bargains and very cheap prices, and then you get people who don’t, through ignorance or because they want to do it quickly, and pay masses more.”

Posted: 30th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Cash In The Surgery: Doctors’ Healthy Pay

doctor.jpgALL those years of medical school have paid off rather well for GPs, who, according to NHS figures published yesterday, earned £100,170, on average, in 2004-05.

With NHS negotiators underestimating the payments that GPs would be able to claim under the snappily-entitled Quality and Outcomes Framework contract, primary care trusts had to pay them over £300m more than expected in the first year, despite the fact that these family doctors now don’t have to provide care at night or at weekends.

A spokesman for the Department of Health says: “GPs are getting paid more because they are doing more. We invested extra funding in GP services both to improve services and reward GPs.”

No wonder GPs try to hurry you out of the surgery. They need time to count their money.

Posted: 27th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Mick Jagger On Top: Where Is Chesney Hawkes?

chesney.jpgFROM Sixties rebels to bastions of the rock establishment, the Rolling Stones are as popular as ever with their bank manager still getting a lot of satisfaction.

According to the Sunday Times rich list, to be published this weekend, the stadium giants rank as the richest band still on the road, with a combined fortune of £570m.

Not surprisingly, the svelte 63-year-old Mick Jagger is the top Stone, with £215m to his name while poor Ronnie Wood has to make do with a paltry £75m.

However the richest individual in music is one Clive Calder, former owner of Zomba, the independent label and former home to pop loony Britney Spears.

Calder, who now lives in the Cayman Islands, is worth a whopping £1.3bn. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Paul McCartney come in second and third respectively.

In the under 30’s list, the hideously naff violinist Vanessa-Mae Nicholson comes out on top, with £32m to her name.

But where is Chesney Hawkes?

Posted: 27th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


An End To Free Banking

pickpockets.jpgTHE great bank charges debate rumbles on with the news that a full-scale inquiry is to be launched into the much-publicised illegal penalties imposed by banks on their customers.

The Office of Fair Trading announced the inquiry yesterday.

However, while campaigners welcomed the news, the likelihood is that the banks themselves will, rather unsurprisingly, cover their losses by imposing charges elsewhere.

Leslay McLeod of the British Bankers’ Association warned consumers of the likely end to ‘free banking’ – “A lot of banks would like to keep free banking if they can. But a lot of them are going to have to examine the OFT’s conclusions and tweak their model accordingly.”

According to Which?, customers pay £4.7 billion a year in default charges.

But, unlike petty pickpockets and shoplifters, the big-wigs behind the illegal penalties will never end up being charged with anything, never mind go to prison.

Posted: 27th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Paying For Cristiano Ronaldo: Manchester United’s Ticket Prices

ronaldowink.jpgTHE sight of Cristiano Ronaldo tip-toeing up the wing at Old Trafford may make Manchester United fans go weak at the knees, but with the club announcing another steep increase in ticket prices, many supporters will be going weak in the wallet as well.

Season tickets will rise by up to 14 per cent and these increases, coming on the back of a 12.5 per cent rise last summer, are sure to increase the hostility of many Red Devils’ fans towards the Glazer family.

The Americans denied reports in 2005 that they were planning to increase ticket prices – a rise of 54 per cent by the summer of 2010.

But fans such as Mark Longden, chairman of the Independent Manchester United Supporters’ Association, are worried. Says he: “There is absolutely no justification for putting ticket prices up.

“Clearly it flies in the face of the thinking all over the country, from Bolton to the Emirates. They have all frozen prices and in some cases reduced them.”

While much of the hand-wringing and hostility over the Glazers’ £790m takeover of the club has been quelled by United’s recent success on the pitch, the attack on a car thought to contain the Glazers outside the Lowry Hotel after United’s victory over Milan on Tuesday was a clear sign that not everyone is happy with the state of play at Old Trafford.

Posted: 26th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comments (4) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Spanish Property Crash Is Our Eldorado

eldorado1.jpgBRITISH ex-pat gangsters are steeling themselves for the predicited collapse of the Spanish housing market after shares in construction companies went into freefall on the Spanish stock market.

With the boom now about to end, speculators who bought property in Spain over the last few years in the hope of making a quick profit are most at risk. Although on the positive side, this means that, according to Home Overseas Magazine’s Jamie Liddell, “It will be the perfect time to pick up a bargain”.

Over 250,000 properties along the Costa Del Sol and the Costa Blanca are British owned.

But, according to Pierre Williams of Inside Track, it’s not all bad news . Says he: “That does not mean that those quality properties in quality locations can not deliver excellent returns as a mid to long term investment.”

Opportinity awaits.

With so many cheap properties and ex-pats about, surely it’s time for the BBC to bring back Eldorado and all that Los Barcos with Marcos…

Posted: 26th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comments (4) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Houses Of Pain: Property Repossessions Will Rise

AS the dark clouds continue to gather over the housing market, the Guardian warns us that even small increases in interest rates will push up the number of repossessions in the UK to the highest levels since the crash of the early 1990’s.

According to Business Strategies, even a one-percentage point rise to 6.25% in borrowing costs would cause 55,100 homes to be repossessed in 2009, over three times last year’s total of 17,000.

While even if interest rates stay at 5.25%, repossessions are set to double over the next two years. According to Neil Blake of Experian, “Even if interest rates fall back in 2008, write-off rates [for bad debts] and repossessions are still expected to continue increasing until 2009”.

Of course, with that 100% mortgage, what’s new? The bank owns your home anyhow…

Posted: 26th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Money Experts Move Banks

pink-bank.jpgALMOST 13,000 consumers a day are switching banks in protest over penalty fees, according to a survey by MoneyExpert.com.

This adds up to around 2.29 million dissatisfied customers taking their financial business elsewhere in the last six months.

With a ruling from the Office of Fair Trading indicating that the ridiculous penalties – up to £39 for bouncing a cheque – amount to nothing less than illegal charges, irked consumers are launching claims for a refund before looking for a new bank.

The Mail says that the big banks, such as HSBC and Barclays, are dangling big incentives in front of new customers in an attempt to stop the exodus.

But with consumers learning how to play the system by frequently changing banks, credit cards and loan providers, it’s becoming harder to attract people who won’t stand for uncompetitive deals anymore.

According to MoneyExpert.com chief executive Sean Gardner: “Customers are getting the message that you don’t have to just sit there and take it. With banks under threat for overdraft fees, they are the ones feeling the pinch at the moment.”

Who would have guessed?

Posted: 25th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Lottery: Government And Banks Win Every Time

lottery5.jpgNEARLY £2 billion of Lotto cash is sloshing around in unused bank accounts, the Government has been forced to admit.

Civil Servants only revealed this information after Denis Vaughan, the man who led the original campaign for a UK lottery, demanded to know just how much cash which still unused.

Vaughan, president of the Council for the Advancement of Arts, Recreation and Education fumed: “It’s ruining the Lottery because the poor people who play don’t see any effect on their lives, which is what I started it for.”

Twenty-eight pence from every £1 Lotto ticket sold goes to fund causes – charities, sporting projects and heritage schemes.

However, while the National Audit Office has told organisations such as the Arts Council and Sport England to distribute their cash within one month of receiving it, armies of bureaucrats have been wrapping the money up in red tape.

Makes you wonder what the Lottery is for?

Posted: 25th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Wimbledon: All England Club Serves Equality At Last

henman.jpgNEWS that Wimbledon is about to enter a sponsorship deal with a sunscreen provider may well be a bit of wishful thinking on behalf of the All England Club – surely an umbrella manufacturer would be more apt for those rain-sodden days.

However, the main revelation to come from the lips of chief executive of the All England Club, Ian Ritchie, along with chairman Tim Phillips, was that finally Wimbledon is to become an equal employer.

The womens’ game, often far more entertaining than the serve-heavy male equivalent, will now receive the same prize money as the mens’, with the champions of both picking up a cool £700,00 each from a total purse of £11,282,710.

The men’s champion will receive 6.9 per cent more than last year while the women’s winner will pick up 12 per cent more. First round losers will pick up £10,00 for their troubles.

So that’s ten grand a head for Britain’s wildcard entries…

Posted: 25th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Norman Baker MPs’ Drink And The Freedom Of Information Act

norman_baker_140×140.jpgHOW much drink do the MPs and their assorted lackeys and guests quaff at the House of Commons?

As Dizzy notes, thanks to Norman Baker MP for Lewes, East Sussex, we now know. “In the past 11 months the Refreshment Department of the House of Commons have purchased 103,000 litres of booze at a cost of £520,400. Wine is clearly the drink of choice accounting for 73% of that spending.”

As the Express reports: “Total travel expenses for MPs last year included £4.5million, including almost £2million on car mileage, £1.5million on trains, £1million on flights and more than £45,000 on taxi fares and hire cars.”

It’s all part of the Freedom of Information Act – something which David Maclean MP’s Freedom of Information Amendment Bill sought to make MPs exempt.

Writes Baker: This bill is an astonishing, brazen attempt to water down the Freedom of Information Act, only two years after it came into force. In effect, it is a bill that seeks to remove Parliament and MPs from public scrutiny. And by staying quiet – they call it staying neutral – the government connived at the wrecking of its own flagship act.”

What was that saying? Oh, yes – they work for you

Posted: 23rd, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Tony Chan Chun-chuen Foresees Nina Wangs’s Fortune

nina1.jpgWAIT, it’s all coming clear to me now. I see a short dark stranger, and she’s giving me a blooming great wad of cash. Two billion pounds of it.

Even Chinese fortune teller Tony Chan Chun-chuen would have been hard pressed to predict this piece of good fortune, but the confidante of Asia’s richest woman, Nina Wang, who died from cancer this month, has been named as the sole beneficiary in the childless Mrs Wang’s will.

The Telegraph tells us that Wang, known as ‘Little Sweetie’, built up a massive property empire from the business of her husband Teddy, who was kidnapped by gangsters and never seen again back in 1990.

The condition is that the fortune-teller should use the money in a “good and proper way”.

However, with family members fuming over the will, I predict a hotly-contested legal dispute.

It is not known if the late Ms Wang knew Anna Nicole Smith…

Posted: 20th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Buying Property And Leaving It Empty – For Squatters

WHILE the housing market edges ever closer to a full-blown crash, first-time buyers are now being squeezed out of the market by speculators who are buying up new homes and then leaving them empty.

According to the Mirror, huge numbers of properties are being kept empty as investors wait for the prices to soar before cashing in, with these “buy-to-leave” speculators making a killing without having to go to the bother of having tenants.

Apparently only 30% of city centre apartments in Leeds are occupied while cities such as Liverpool are also suffering.

Squatters, get squatting.

Posted: 20th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Cash In The Attic For Standard Life

WE all have some spare cash lying around, a 10 pence piece down the back of the sofa, or some now useless Italian Lira from a holiday years ago.

However for 222,000 members of Standard Life, a whopping £261 million in shares remains unclaimed.

Since the former mutual insurer floated last year, there has been a steady stream of around 7,000 policyholders a month coming forward to claim their shares and cash but a huge amount of money still remains untouched.

The company’s latest list of unclaimed shares is topped by two customers in Derby who have yet to claim £116, 123 and £109,424 in shares and another policyholder in Glasgow with shares worth £115, 151 as yet unclaimed.

However, with the unclaimed shares set to sit in the insurers’ asset trust until 2016 before being distributed to, amongst others, charities, the absent-minded policyholders needn’t rush.

Posted: 20th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Jailhouse Rocks For One Pensioner

INTEREST rates may be about to rise and homeowners may be struggling to keep themselves out of bankruptcy, but it’s not all bad news. According to one pensioner, there is a simple solution – go to prison.

The OAP in question is a certain Michael Sams who is serving four life sentences at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire for the murder of teenage prostitute Julie Dart and the kidnapping of estate agent Stephanie Slater.

The 65-year-old, according to the Times, has written in a prison newspaper,. Says he: “How many pensioners in the community, who are totally dependent on the basic state pension and live in rented accommodation, are able to spend around £20 per week on luxuries? Have you ever seen an OAP inmate in tatty clothes or scruffy trainers? Not a hope! Materially, we OAPs in prison are far better off than those in the community.”

Mervyn Kohler, spokesman for Help The Aged, was forced to agree, up to a point. “In material terms, Mr Sams is probably absolutely right. But there’s one small shortfall here. Given the choice, I’d much rather be outside than inside.”

So there you have it. Struggling with your mortgage? Worried about mounting debts? Don’t get another loan or sell one of your children. Simply wear a hoodie and stick two fingers up to a CCTV camera. Or knock a policeman’s hat off his head. Or kill someone.

Then you’ll be fine.

Posted: 19th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Stolen Bulldog Broadband Customer Details

cabinet1.jpgWE might as well forget about shredding our bank accounts and upgrading our internet security software. What’s the point?

It seems that an infinite level of incompetence on the part of numerous companies coupled with a growing illegal trade in personal information are rendering any security measures pointless.

According to the Guardian, around 100,000 customers of broadband provider Bulldog are the latest victims to have their private details stolen.

Cable & Wireless, the global giant who sold Bulldog’s customer base to Pipex last year, admitted that customer contact details had been “illegally obtained” by a shady “unnamed third party” back in 2005.

Managing director of Bulldog Internet, James Brown, was definitely not, er, feeling good. Said he: “It has become apparent that at some point in December 2005 Cable & Wireless had some of their customer contact details illegally obtained by a third party. This resulted in a small number of their customers receiving unsolicited calls.”

You might as well just paint your bank details on the side of you houses in big red lettering.

That’s if you can afford a house these days.

Posted: 19th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Castles In The Sky – Interest Rates Rise And Fixed-Rate Mortgages

AN Englishman’s home is his castle but with interest rates set to rise, banks and building societies have decided to make it even harder for homeowners to pay for their beloved properties.

The Telegraph informs us that a number of mortgage brokers have suspended their fixed-rate mortgages after experiencing a huge rise in the number of inquiries from customers desperate to secure fixed-rates deals before the forecasted interest rate rise.

The likes of the Alliance and Leicester said that “unprecedented demand” for its fixed-rate deals had “left us with no option” but to suspend the products.

All this comes after the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, wrote to Gordon Brown, pledging to use interest rates to bring inflation down.

One suspects Mr. King doesn’t have to worry about paying his mortgage every month.

Posted: 19th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Family Misfortunes – More TV Phone In Scandal

portraitsgallery7.jpgVERNON Kay, he of the ‘hilarious’ Northern ‘wit’ and the never-changing hair-cut, has joined the likes of Richard and Judy as the latest celeb to be tarnished by a TV phone in scandal.

According to the , staff on Kaye’s hideously naff ‘retro’ and ‘ironic’ Saturday Gameshow Marathon failed to count around 10,000 text entries in a competition with prizes worth £25,000.

Those 10,000 viewers, who texted the correct answer to the question “In which gameshow would you hear the phrase ‘Our survey says?’ (it’s Family Fortunes, by the way) didn’t receive a confirmation text until after the deadline.

ITV have since apologised and is now planning to stage another draw for the people affected, a move which will apparently cost the broadcaster and additional £25,000.

Come back Les Dennis, all is forgiven.

Posted: 18th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Gordon Brown’s Interest Raised

gordontony.jpgGORDON Brown may have dodged a vote of no confidence in the Commons yesterday, but news that the Bank of England is preparing to increase interest rates as soon as next month is sure to embarrass the increasingly fallible Chancellor.

With inflation breaching the Government’s target by over one per cent last month, homeowners already crushed by debt, are set to take another hit with rates possibly even rising to nearly six per cent.

Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England has even been forced to write a letter to the Chancellor explaining the rise in inflation.

Tony Blair has, however, backed Brown, claiming, thought gritted teeth “Name me a better Chancellor since the Second World War in this country”.

One suspects the Prime Minister won’t have trouble paying his mortgage once he leaves No 10.

Posted: 18th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


America’s Two For One Dollar Deal

backscatter-thumb.jpgYOU might have to put up with finger-printing and eye recognition and god knows what kind of profiling upon landing at an airport in America, but get through the Orwellian welcoming party, and you’ll find yourself flush in the US of A.

With the pound breaking through the two dollar mark yesterday for the first time in almost 15 years, airlines and travel agents were bracing themselves for an expected explosion of bargain hunting trips across the Atlantic.

The Times tells us that the likes of Hong Kong and Cuba, who peg their currencies to the dollar, will also provide rich pickings for bargain-crazy Brits.

However, custom officials do warn that travellers should declare any goods bought above £145. A Revenue and Customs official said “We know when flights from the US land. We hope that most people are honest.”

They know when flights from the US land? The clever so and so’s.

Posted: 18th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The Pocket Money Hit-Man

WHILE City boys continue to earn bonuses big enough to buy a small country, or indeed a peerage, spare a thought for the humble and hard-working hit-man.

According to the Mirror, a teenage assassin was being quizzed after he asked his friend to kill his dad for a total amount of £2.50.

The put-upon Louisiana 16-year-old was apparently tired of being told what to do by his father so decided to hire another teen to shoot the parent in question.

While the cheap-as-chips gunman did indeed turn up at the house, a woman spotted his gun and locked the door, causing the boy to flee. Now the son is being held on charges of solicitation for murder, which could mean life in prison for the youngster.

And to think the £2.50 hit-man thought he’d be fine once he had a trade.

Posted: 17th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Barclaycard Won’t Take No For An Answer

WE all get them, those annoying marketing phone calls that interrupt your dinner or the dramatic climax of EastEnders. Yet despite organisations such as the Telephone Preference Service doing their best to help us dodge these useless calls, companies still persist.

Barclaycard has now taken telemarketing to a new level in cheek, reports the Telegraph, knowingly contacting customers who had previously asked not be phoned.

Finding a loophole in the system, the company has been contacting these customers and listing out all the services that the bank is unable to inform them about.

One such customer, Tig Gooch, received three calls in a week with the caller proceeding to tell her “because you have asked us not to contact you we are unable to inform you of our new and exciting financial services” before then listing all those services.

Best just keep your phone off the hook. All the time.

Posted: 17th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


NatWest Holiday Money

GOT your passport? Check. Swimsuit? Check. Anti-diarrhoea tablets? Check. But what about a suitcase full of cash?

Banking giant NatWest has now decided to squeeze a few more quid out of the humble holidaymaker this summer.

According to the Guardian, from June 5, holidaymakers who bank with Natwest will be charged a minimum of £1.25 for every debit card transaction abroad, up from 75p.

Withdrawing £100 from an ATM abroad will now be cheaper, although still at a staggeringly high £4.75 per transaction. However, using a card to pay for a £1 Metro ticket in Paris will cost £1.27 in bank charges alone.

A NatWest spokesperson tried to defend the move, saying “An average withdrawal is £100, and these new charges make it cheaper to withdraw that money.”

Expect another national campaign on this issue in the coming months.

Posted: 17th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


No Show Without Richard & Judy

SOME two months after the outing of Richard and Judy’s phone-in quiz scam, the Mirror reports that not a single viewer “ripped-off” in the debacle has been reimbursed.

While a hotline was set up and arrangements made for claimants to receive a pre-paid barcoded envelope and form, said barcodes were printed incorrectly leading to the massive delay.

“We’ve had to have them reprinted”, explained a TV executive.

You will, however, be happy to know that Richard and Judy will be back on our screens in June with “their unique blend of celebrity interviews, sharp discussion and topical features”.

Like fraud…

Here’s that Richard & Judy video again…

Posted: 16th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The Green Ming – LibDems And Green Shield Stamp Duty

ming.jpgRAISING their voices to let us know that they are still alive, yet alone still around, the Lib Dems are proposing that homeowners face a retrospective rise in stamp duty if they fail to install green measures within a year of moving into their home.

The Guardian tells us that a £2,000 subsidy would be available to introduce the energy saving package, which would cover home insulation, draught-proofing and heating renewal.

Lib Dem environment spokesman Chris Huhne is unimpressed by the government’s commitment to cut carbon emissions from homes by 60% by 2050, claiming that there aren’t the policies in place to meet this target.

Expect to see the ageing Menzies Campbell travelling to Westminster on his penny-farthing in the coming months.

Posted: 16th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0