Money | Anorak - Part 90

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

Cash For Honours Probe Costs Pass £750,000


SLEAZE is now as much a part of British politics as Peter Snow’s swingometer or John Prescott’s urbane charm. (Pic: Beau Bo D’Or)

And as the latest investigation into the dark underbelly of Parliament continues to probe, so the costs keep rising.

Scotland Yard has revealed that over £750,000 has now been spent on the ongoing cash-for-honours affair, a sum that includes staff salaries, overtime, equipment and expenses.

The figures were released, somewhat grudgingly, by the police after a Freedom of Information request, with only the overall total figure disclosed.

With three of the main suspects, Lord Levy, Ruth Turner and Sir Christopher Evans all re-bailed pending further inquiries, the cost of whole sordid affair looks set to continue to spiral.

Wonder if the taxpayer can flog a few peerages to balance the books?

Posted: 5th, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

The Future Of The BT Phone Box

LIKE the few remaining genuine left-wing Labour MP’s, phone boxes have become little more than quaint reminders of a bygone era.

phone-box.jpgHowever, despite the ubiquity of the mobile phone, a tiny handful of people still make use of the 64,000 traditional phone boxes across the land. And not just to sleep or lose weight in.

Still, with the boxes struggling to make a decent profit, Ofcom have finally given BT the go-ahead to raise the price of a call from their retro booths.

The move comes after intense lobbying from BT, with the telecoms company arguing that unless it was able to charge some customers more, it would struggle to maintain the network of call boxes.

According to BT, 40,500 of its 63,795 boxes are unprofitable with the number of calls made from BT payphones more than halving in the last three years. In that period, the percentage of consumers using phone boxes has also dropped from three per cent to near zero per cent.

BT’s plans include lowering prices in some areas to try to attract more callers, such as introducing low cost calls to India in areas with high Asian populations.

Considering the hideous stench inside most of the boxes, maybe BT should introduce urinals into their booths as well. It’d make them more useful…

Posted: 5th, June 2007 | In: Money | Comments (9)

City Bosses Paying Less Tax Than Cleaners

WELCOME to Blair and Brown’s Britain, where millionaire City chiefs pay tax at a lower rate than the people who clean their plush offices.

A loophole in the law allows fat-cat chiefs of private equity firms to pay as little as 10 per cent tax on their earnings.

However, in a severe criticism of his fellow bosses, SVG Capital’s Nicholas Ferguson, has brought the issue out into the open.

Says he: “Any commonsense person would say that a highly-paid private equity executive paying less tax than a cleaning lady or other low-paid workers can’t be right. I have not heard anyone give a clear explanation of why it is justified.”

Following Ferguson’s attack, the Treasury has now been forced to finally get off its behind and look at ways of closing the unfair loophole. Although whether they actually do change anything remains to be seen.

The Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable, opines: “It is scandalous that there are many people on low or middle incomes who are paying more and more tax and yet you have very rich people paying only 10 per cent. It is Gordon Brown who has created this, despite supposedly being the father of social justice.”

Private equity firms make their money by borrowing millions to buy underperforming companies, before cutting costs (i.e. sacking half the staff), stripping assets and then selling them for massive profits.

And getting the cleaners in to spruce the place up…

Posted: 5th, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment

The Path To Prosperity: Suing The Council For Damaged Dog Food Tins

broken-pavement.jpg IF you’re short of a few quid and of a litigious bent, then the east of England is the place to be.

According to figures acquired by the BBC, councils across the east of the country have spent millions of pounds on compensation for people who have been injured by tripping up on the pavement.

Since 2001, £6million, excluding legal fees, has been paid out by councils to members of the public. Claims include £43,000 for a leg injury and a whopping £3.28 payout after someone fell and dented their dog food tins.

However, Essex County Council was quick to point out that it successfully defends or rejects approximately 82% of claims against it.

Norman Hume of Essex County Council says: “It’s fair to say there’s an increasing compensation culture at play.” His council will “spend a record amount this year in Essex, something close to £75m on maintenance of our roads and footways”.

Barry Gibbs, of pressure group Taxpayers Alliance, says: “There’s an issue about what councils are paying out and whether they have robust enough procedures to check on the authenticity of claims.

“There needs to be clearer guidelines from central government on what are legitimate claims because ultimately all the cheques are signed by the taxpayer.”

I can feel a severe case of repetitive strain injury coming on…

Posted: 5th, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment

In For A Penny: Ken Bates Back In Charge Of Leeds

ken-bates.gifBAD Santa, Ken Bates, has regained control of ailing giant Leeds United following a recount of votes taken at last week’s creditor’s meeting.

The famous club, that reached a Champions League semi-final only six years ago, have seen their fortunes plummet, culminating in the club being put into administration and suffering relegation to the First Division in May.

After putting the club into voluntary administration with debts of £35million, the 75-year-old Monaco-based millionaire required 75% of creditors’ votes to buy back the club.

While a number of other consortia were apparently interested in purchasing the Yorkshire outfit, the former Chelsea bigwig can now move ahead with his plans to pay creditors just 1p in the pound of debts owed.

KPMG’s joint administrator, Richard Fleming, says: “I am satisfied that, in voting to accept this proposal, the creditors have approved a solution that allows the club to plan ahead for next season, reduced uncertainty for all those with an interest in Leeds United, provided some return to creditors and avoids liquidation.”

Bates originally bought a then debt-ridden Chelsea for £1 back in 1982. How’s that for inflation?

Posted: 4th, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Illegal Bank Charges: The Test Case

ON rumbles the bank charges row. However, this time it’s those lovely banks that are planning a court case.

The financial bigwigs are reported to be considering taking a legal test care to finally end the ambiguities over claims for, apparently, ‘illegal’ bank charges.

A number of judges have been pleading with the banks to resolve the whole issue and clarify the law in the High Court, and now their wishes may be granted.

Following last month’s ruling in favour of Lloyds TSB over a customer who was claiming for ‘illegal’ bank charges, the whole situation remains somewhat up in the air.

However, with experts sceptical about the current Office of Fair Trading investigation into bank charges, it could fall to a test case at High Court level to once and for all clarify everything.

Campaigners estimate that the charges are worth over £4.7billion a year to the banks.

Posted: 4th, June 2007 | In: Money | Comments (6)

NHS Neglect: £20 to See Your Doctor In The Evening (Bring Wine)

IS this the beginning of the end of the NHS as we know it?

A group of family doctors is ready to propose a fee of £20 to be charged for evening or weekend appointments. Fears are rising that the founding principles of our health service are set to be fatally undermined.

The £20 charge, which will be proposed at an upcoming British Medical conference, is in response to recent calls for family doctors to justify their hefty salaries, which have jumped to an average of £106,000 per annum.

In 2004, new GP contracts saw 90 per cent of family doctors opt out of providing care in the evenings, at weekend and on Bank Holidays. But with agency doctors and local hospital filling the gaps, patients are growing increasingly unhappy at not being able to access their own GP.

Michael Summers, of the Patients Association, says: “The conditions that people suffer from out of hours are just the same as those they suffer from during the day. Why should they have a second-rate service? I have been campaigning for some time for the out-of-hours service to be overhauled. People will die otherwise.” (Presumably Summers isn’t threatening to murder people himself if he doesn’t get his way.)

However, Andrew Green, a Yorkshire GP, is all for the new charge. He tells us: “They are going to be people in employment, almost by definition, and to ask them to bear the extra costs seems reasonable. I do not think a fee of £15 to £20 would be exorbitant. This should not be paid for from general taxation.”

But don’t we pay for the doctor through tax already?

Posted: 4th, June 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)

Water Companies Make £2billion Profits

anorak-wetlands.jpgTHE British public is saddled with rising water bills and annual hosepipe bans, and water companies up and down the country are laughing all the way to the bank.

New figures to be released this week by the big water and sewerage companies will show that the industry has once again enjoyed a major increase in profits.

South West Water’s parent group, Pennon, is expected to see its profits climb from £142million to £157million while the likes of Northumbrian Water and Yorkshire Water’s owner, Kelda, are expected to show increases of six and eight per cent respectively.

These figures will no doubt anger customers who have seen water bills rise at above inflation rates recently.

Industry regulator Ofwat expected to come under fire for failing to protect the needs of customers.

In 2005, the industry regulator announced that companies could increase their prices by more the current rate of inflation on condition that they invested in their own, rather leaky infrastructures.

However, while the amount of water from leaks has fallen, four out of 22 companies in England and Wales still fail to hit their leakage target, amounting to an incredible 3.6 billion litres of drinking water escaping out of pipes and mains every day.

And then they tell us to stop watering our gardens?

A spokesman for Ofwat says: “We set the prices as low as possible, while allowing water companies to make investments. Our primary objective is to make sure customers pay no more than they ought to.”

I’ve had enough. I’m going to turn my lawn into a wetland this summer and attract wading birds. Turn off the water and kills the birds? They wouldn’t dare…

Posted: 4th, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment

American Idol Simon Fuller Bids To Buy Elvis Presley, Ali and David Beckham

victoria-beckham.jpgSIMON Fuller, the rather wealthy little man who oversaw the rise of the Spice Girls as well as creating the Pop Idol phenomenon, is launching a $1.3billion joint-bid to acquire entertainment giant CKX.

Joining Fuller with the bid is Robert Sillerman, America’s 375th richest man and the former owner of SFX Entertainment. Sillerman is currently the largest shareholder in CKX and is set to make a presentation to the directors of the company with the aim of acquiring the group’s 97 million outstanding shares.

The company currently owns the name and image rights to Elvis Presley, which it bought from the rock’n’roll icon’s daughter Lisa Marie in 2005, as well as those of Muhammad Ali and a little known footballer who goes by the name of David Beckham.

Other famous names involved with CKX include Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Woody Allen.

Expect Posh Spice to start angling for a role in Allen’s next movie. Maybe a remake of Annie Hall – with a dead shark skin bag…

Posted: 1st, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment

It’s All In The Jeans: The Denim Mao Suit

denim.jpgFROM hip young things to sad middle-aged men, jeans continue to provide the backbone to many a UK wardrobe and the denim domination looks set to continue with reports claiming that three pairs of jeans will be sold every second of every day this year.

The research, from Mintel, reveals that Britons will splash out around £1.5billion on an estimated 86 million pairs of jeans by the end of the year, an increase of more than 40 per cent in the last five years. (You can have any pair of trousers so long as they’re denim.)

While designer brands such as Diesel and Nudie Jeans continue to excel, it is the phenomenon of own-label jeans, such as those made by George at Asda and Topshop, which have fuelled the denim boom.

Indeed, according to the figures, own-label sales grew by 41 per cent between 2004 and 2006, accounting for almost 25% of the market.

According to Mintel’s Vivianne Ihekweazu, “Jeans are the ultimate fashion success story. Today, we not only wear jeans lounging in front of the TV, but we are also happy to wear them for a night out on the town or for a day at the office. More recently, we have even seen celebrities wearing them down the red carpet.”

They still look rubbish on Jeremy Clarkson, though.

Posted: 1st, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

For The Love Of God: Damien Hirst’s Skull

for-the-love-of-god.jpgTHE world-renowned Brit Art superstar Damien Hirst has unveiled his latest and most expensive creation to date – a jewel-encrusted skull. Yours for a paltry £50million.

The 41-year-old, apparently, sourced over 8,000 flawless diamonds which he then, erm, stuck (possibly with superglue or maybe Pritt) all over an 18th century skull to create the work which will be the highlight of his new show ‘Beyond Belief’.

Not short of a bob or two himself, after selling lots and lots of pretentious tat, I mean important and challenging pieces, to very rich people, Hirst spilt the £12million cost of the raw materials with dealer Jay Jopling.

The skull, which is the biggest jewellery commission in Britain in a century, will be on show at the White Cube gallery in Mayfair.

It is entitled “For The Love Of God”.

I couldn’t have put it better myself. (Anyone else think Hirst’s laughing into his sleeve?)

Posted: 1st, June 2007 | In: Money | Comments (14)

A Happy Tax Freedom Day To You!

gordon-brown.jpgWHERE are your pointy party hats and streamers? Why don’t you have a piece of cake and a glass of cheap sparkling wine in your hand?

Don’t you know it’s Tax Freedom Day? No? Well you’re not the only one. (Pic: The Spine)

The Guardian have been kind enough to remind us that today is the day that marks the theoretical point in the year when we apparently stop working for the Government and start making money for ourselves.

The date is arrived at by working out the length of time the average UK resident must work from the start of the year in order to pay off their annual tax burden. And June 1st is that special day.

According to the Adam Smith Institute, the Government grabs over 40% of the nation’s income, to spend on spin doctors and farewell tours.

However, the independent financial advice website claims that UK tax payers are giving up far more of their earnings than they should with the UK set to lose £7.9billion this year on unnecessary tax. Which is rather a lot, isn’t it.

Somehow I don’t feel like partying now. Nor paying. Come the revolution…

Posted: 1st, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Council Bans Playing Football In Leicester

WHILE England’s national team continues to struggle, the future looks even worse for the Three Lions, as the next generation of footballing talent apparently can’t even have a kickabout on the street.

The Mail reports that children in the suburban cul de sac of Utah Close in Leicester have been banned by the local council from playing football on the quiet street because it “posed a danger” to the public.

With the officious local authority threatening to hand out £100 fines to parents of children who continue to perform the heinous act of, er, kicking a ball around an empty street and local residents are livid.

Sales Manager Ian Fenton, 43, who has three sons, wonders: “They are treating our children and us as if we are criminals. We want our children playing where we can see them. We moved here so that there was a nice, safe environment for them to play in, where they could interact with other children their own age. Playing in the street is something that has gone on for generations in this country. Now the council want to take it away. It’s ludicrous.”

A county council spokesman responds by saying, “The parish council has been contacted several times in recent years about children setting up goalposts that were blocking the road. It is rare to issue such warnings, and they would be considered only in a case where a persistent problem has been reported by other residents.”

Expect the weight of the local kids to shoot up in the coming year.

£100 fine for kicking a ball? You’ll also get an £80 fine for dropping a cigarette butt.

Posted: 1st, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Arriva Arriva! Speedy Rail Fares Set To Rise Again

arriva1.jpgSMALL wonder more and more people are deciding to work from home.

With the Government doing all it can to discourage the humble commuter from travelling by car, it then expects them to pay through the nose for tardy and crowded train services.

Now rail passengers are facing the threat of even more big price hikes after two operators decided to substantially increase their fares.

In Wales, Arriva Trains have decided to raise their off-peak fares by over 30 per cent and South West Trains are targeting the off-peak traveller, hiking up their ticket prices by 20 per cent.

Surprisingly, these huge fare increases have not been challenged by the Office of Rail Regulation, leaving consumer groups and unions angry and fearful that other rail companies will follow suit and raise their prices.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the consumer watchdog Passenger Focus, says: “It appears that off-peak passengers are left unprotected. It implies that 20 and 30 per cent rises are insufficient to trigger an investigation. If 30 per cent is not enough, it is hard to know what is.”

Smith also claims that passengers using Southern services into Victoria could be next in line for a massive ticket price hike.

However, the ORR, in responding to criticism over its inaction, retorts, “Just because a ticket price is raised significantly does not mean that it is excessive and an abuse under competition law.”

A 30 per cent increase isn’t excessive? I wonder how many ORR bigwigs travel to work by train.

EMI has signed a deal with YouTube that will allow users to access videos by the music giant’s artists.

Posted: 1st, June 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Ian Anderson Wins £10million Space Adventure

astronaut.jpgA BRITISH data analyst is set for the journey of a lifetime after winning a competition to fly 62 miles above the earth.

Ian Anderson, 32, entered the competition in the New Scientist magazine which asked entrants to choose the “best invention of all time”. The Staffordshire-born married man selected the radio as his answer. And he won.

New Scientist editor Jeremy Webb gushes: “Mr Anderson was simply the best. He gave a justification for radio that goes way beyond what we normally associate with it. Everything from medical scanners to mobile phones relies on radio; during the last war it gave us radar and afterwards it opened a new window on the universe with radio astronomy. It was the best of a very good bunch.”

But not a very exciting bunch, I imagine.

The prize flight, worth an estimated £10million, is set to take off in 2009 in a spacecraft called the Xerus that, rather worryingly, has yet to enjoy its maiden flight.

The plane, which apparently looks like a miniature space shuttle, carries one pilot and just one passenger.

God help the pilot if Anderson starts droning on about the radio again. And Anderson…
Kathleen Searles, 89, didn’t fancy mixing with the hoi-polloi on a flight to Greece, so she called a cab instead, paying a total fare of £2,000 for the 4,000 mile trip.

Posted: 31st, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

What A Waste Of Crime:

pc-comp.pngCRIME fighting may now be a hi-tech affair, but according to the Mirror, Britain’s boys and girls in black still have some work to do when it comes to embracing the digital age.

A £3million police website set-up for crime tip-offs has been shelved after officers failed to bother even logging on. The site,, was supposed to provide the nation’s crime fighters with a cyber-centre where people could post details about anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.

However, due to a lack of interest by the coppers themselves, the site is to be closed down.

Deflated project leader, Chief Constable Peter Neyroud, reveals: “Only a handful used it to any significant degree. Expenditure of such a large sum on a narrowly distributed service could not be justified.”

Tory peer Lord Marlesford, who uncovered the whole mess, is less than chuffed. “It’s staggering – another Home Office shambles. There’s a desperate need for ministers to get a grip,” he says.

Many critics also believe that officers were reluctant to use the site as they didn’t want more crimes reported and thus push up the crime rate. Others believe that they were just too busy driving through red lights….
Tesco plan to reward customers who bring their recycling back to the store by giving them Clubcard bonus points.

Posted: 31st, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (3)

House Prices Rise By 10% In A Year

houses.jpgTHE property boom may be starting to cool down, but house prices are still on the up, according to figures released by the Nationwide.

The building society claim that the average British house now costs £181,584, almost £17,000 or 10.3% up on May 2006.

However, the figures also reveal a slowdown in the market, with prices rising by 0.5 per cent in May compared to the 0.9 per cent rise in April.

Nationwide bigwig Fionnuala Earley has warned of yet another interest rate rise, something that could put off even more first-time buyers from starting their climb up the proverbial property ladder.

Says she: “The housing market is still showing signs of cooling and should therefore add little to the upside inflationary risks considered by the MPC. The three-month on three-month rate of growth still shows a clear downward trend as the effect of earlier increases in interest rates takes hold. However, higher interest rates, with the threat of more on the horizon, should signal caution to those thinking about stretching themselves to get a foot on the ladder.”

Global Insight’s Howard Archer isn’t surprised by the figures either. “The Nationwide data is consistent with our expectation that house prices will lose buoyancy gradually over the coming months as demand is increasingly pressurized by the rising affordability pressures stemming from higher interest rates, modest real disposable income growth and elevated house prices,” says he.

Did you get that? Mr Archer works for, er, ‘Global insight’. For more clear-as-mud news on the housing market, stay tuned…

Supermarket giant Asda’s credit card reward scheme has apparently saved their customers £1million at the petrol pump.

Posted: 31st, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Britons Drowning In Debt

THE nation is edging ever nearer to a debt nightmare. According to the Registry Trust, up to a million households will face court action over their debts this year.

Figures from the not-for-profit company reveal that 247,187 debt-related judgements were issued against individuals in the first three months of this year, almost a 10 per cent increase on the same period last year.

With rising house prices forcing homebuyers to take out enormous mortgages added to rises in interest rates and rising council tax and energy bills, the nation’s household debt now tops an incredible £1 trillion and things look likely to get even worse.

A spokesman for the National Debtline charity questioned the behaviour of banks, saying, “The question is whether it is irresponsible lending or irresponsible borrowing. It is down to both. We would like to see more responsible lending.”

Peter Tutton of Citizen’s Advice is concerned by the growing number of creditors skipping negotiations with debtors and going straight to court action. Says he: “Our concern is that creditors are using court action rather than trying to negotiate with debtors. Court action adds greatly to the costs and hardship people in debt face. Creditors should always try to negotiate in line with industry standards before resorting to such action.”

Take care. Read the small print. And sleep on it…

BT staff have missed out on a £25million windfall as customer dissatisfaction continues to grow.

Posted: 31st, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

What’s A Speeding Ban Between Friends and Family?

WHAT are deceitful bunch we are. What must the powers that are be thinking? Actually they’re probably delighted that we’re following their lead.

Anyway, according to Churchill Insurance, up to 500,000 speeding motorists are swapping their three-point penalties with friends and family in order to avoid a ban.

With 12 points earning you an automatic disqualification from driving, motorists on nine points are increasingly getting their nearest and dearest to take the heat in order to avoid losing their licences and according to the survey, 29 per cent of drivers see nothing wrong with deceiving the system.

But with speed camera technology improving, it is proving harder to fool the system.

A Churchill spokesman warns us: “Trying to escape convictions by swapping points with another person is highly illegal and can lead to prosecution. The way to avoid a speeding ban in the first place is simple – drive responsibly.”

Or join the police force

Posted: 31st, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Property Boom Hits Cannabis Factories

cannabis.jpgTHERE are many obvious consequences of the current property boom, from unfeasibly enormous mortgages to the unfeasibly large amount of hatred one may have for property developers.

However, a negative effect on the illegal drugs industry definitely isn’t one of them.

Yet, according to a report by the Metropolitan Police Authority, the number of new cannabis factories in London is dropping as rising house prices hit the dealers’ profit margins.

It is estimated that there are currently between 700 and 800 premises in the capital, often bought or rented by Vietnamese gangs, where the hi-tech factories are run.

However, the property boom, coupled with sophisticated police tactics, such as using thermal imagery cameras to spot the illicit cultivation, is starting to have a major impact on the production of the Class C drug in the capital.

Will any good ever come from the property boom?

Internet provider Tiscali have received a barrage of complaints from customers after failing to warn users that millions of e-mails were disappearing into a “black hole”.

Posted: 31st, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (5)

Manchester City’s Ray Ranson Of Light

IT was to be a match made in footballing heaven – former star turned millionaire entrepreneur taking control of the club where he made his name.

But after months of protracted negotiations with Manchester City’s board, Ray Ranson has decided to pull out of his takeover bid.

A statement to the Stock Exchange says: “Ray has been unable to reach agreement with the board and withdraws from talks relating to a possible bid.”

Ranson, who made his money in insurance and sports finance, had submitted a bid in April worth an estimated £90million. The deal is rumoured to have included the repayment of £20million in loans owed to chairman John Wardle and David Makin, as well as a transfer war chest of £20million.

But with little or no headway made in the negotiations with the City board, Ranson’s dream of owning the club where he started in the game is, for the moment, over.

However, the 46-year-old hasn’t completely put himself out of the picture as he did reserve the right to renew his interest in City should former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the man believed to be club’s preferred choice to take over, make a formal offer.

Or City win the Premier League…

Posted: 31st, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

By George – It Asda Be A School Uniform For A Tenner!

krankies.jpgONCE upon a time, celebrities wouldn’t be seen dead in cheap and cheerful high-street rags. But with everyone from Beyonce to Kylie embracing the likes of Top Shop and H&M, low-cost can now mean high-fashion.

Now it seems that school children too will be able to get suited and booted at uber-low prices.

According to the Mail, Asda are set to introduce new school uniforms, including shoes, for less than a tenner in a move that could start a new price war in the competitive £1 billion school uniform market.

The “value” outfit from Asda’s George range will undoubtedly be the cheapest on the market for three to six-year-olds while larger outfits for the six to ten age bracket will start at just £12.96.

While the news will be welcomed by cash-strapped parents up and down the country, one wonders just how many third-world children are being exploited to make the garments.

None, says George, who maintain the clothes have been “ethically” sourced from factories which are regularly audited.

Expect to see Ant and Dec modelling their new line in three-to-six year-old outfits this summer. If Kate Moss and Madonna can do it, why can’t they?

Posted: 30th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

It’s Not A Wonderful Standard Life

fat-cat.jpgEXECUTIVES attending Standard Life’s first annual meeting as a listed company were met by fierce criticism from staff and unions, not to mention a man in a cat suit.

The protesters were livid over the company’s decision to end its 80 years as a mutual, claiming that the new plc-style Standard Life had rewarded company executives at the expense of the majority of its staff.

However, the likelihood is that chief executive Sandy Crombie won’t be bothered in the slightest by all the kerfuffle, as the company’s share price has increased by almost 50 per cent since the flotation last year.

Outside the meeting in Edinburgh, more than 20 union members from Amicus protested about Standard Life’s failure to recognise the union, with one protestor donning an ‘hilarious’ fat-cat suit and thus giving us all a lesson in the art of subtle humour.

Laughed? Almost…
Up to 700 Kwik Save employees look set to lose their jobs after the supermarket chain closed a third of its stores across the UK.

Posted: 30th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

The Big Music Rip Off: CD Wow Breaks The Law

philton-jblunt.jpgTHOSE poor dears in the music industry.

After years of getting away with massively inflated CD prices, the Internet revolutionised the business and seriously ate into the industry’s profits, with peer-to-peer websites and cheap online shopping finally forcing music bigwigs, temporarily, to stop snorting their cocaine and start smelling the coffee.

However, in a ruling by the High Court yesterday, the industry hit back against websites selling uber-cheap CDs.

Website CD Wow, which sells chart albums for as low as £6.99, was ordered to pay the music industry £41million after their policy of shipping in cheap CDs designed for the Asian market was deemed to be illegal.

A delighted Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry, says, “Illegal imports of this kind undermine the huge investments made by businesses here in home-grown musical talent.”

CD Wow, which is currently the third-most popular online music retailer, vowed to fight the ruling and plans to carry on its cut-price business.

Chief executive of the company, Henrik Wesslen, replies: “It shouldn’t matter whether we are buying from an official distributor in the UK, Europe or the Far East, what is important is that we are buying legitimate products from the record companies themselves.”

Legitimate top music products like Coldplay and, er, James Blunt…

Posted: 30th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)

£100,000 Set Aside For Bank Charge War

DESPITE the surprise decision by a judge in Birmingham to dismiss a claim for £2,545 by Lloyds TSB customer Kevin Berwick, the nationwide campaign to challenge illegal bank charges continues to grow.

Leader of the campaign,’s Martin Lewis, has organised a so-called “fighting fund” along with the Consumer Action Group which will be used to help people fight the dodgy charges.

Currently standing at £100,000, the war chest consists of money raised by campaign groups as well as donations from private individuals.

Lewis, who also appears regularly on the BBC, urges people not to be put off by the recent court decision in Birmingham.

Says he: “It is almost laughable. In football parlance the banks are crowing about the fact that they are now only losing 100,000 to one and not 100,000 to nil. This is a desperate attempt to scare people away and it is important we do not allow their spin and spiel to put people off.”

Fight the power. Etc.

Most Britons would need a windfall of at least £100,000 to change their lives, according to a new survey.

Posted: 29th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment