Money | Anorak - Part 92

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

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

Robbing Of Sherwood: Nottingham Tops Burglary League

ACCORDING to the myth, Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. And according to a new report, that fine Nottingham tradition of theft is still going strong.

The report, by Endsleigh Insurance, ranks Nottingham as the burglary capital of the country, with residents there twice as likely to suffer a break-in as the average UK householder.

Leeds takes the runners-up spot in the rankings with Hull, London and Oxford next.

Residents of Guildford will be leaving their front doors on the latch and their cars unlocked in celebration after the report named the Surrey town as the most secure place to live. Swindon, Dundee, Bath and Coventry make up the more desirable top five.

The statistics reveals that burglaries across Britain have fallen by almost 60 per cent since 1995. And Police Chief Supt Marcus Beale is understandably pleased with the results. Says he: “One burglary is still one too many, but the figures show we are heading in the right direction.”

Burglars across the nation, get yourselves to Nottingham sharpish before the boom ends.

Massive mortgages are turning us all into nothing more than “bonded labourers” according to a new report.

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

John Prescott’s Housing Policy Jag

prescott-museum.jpgWITH apartment blocks going up on every bit of vacant land faster than you can say “property developers are the spawn of Satan”, it comes as little surprise that there is now a surplus of flats struggling to be sold. (Pic: The Spine)

New Government figures show that since 2000 the price of a family house has risen at eight times the rate of a new flat as the shortage of houses and “tidal wave” of new flats continues to drive the property boom.

With families now struggling to make the move up from apartment to house, both the Tories and a number of building experts are pointing the finger at John Prescott.

Since the introduction of the part-time Deputy Prime Minister and part-time lover’s planning regulations in 2000, the number of houses being built has dropped significantly, with over 20,000 fewer built last year than in 2000.

Those PPG3 guidelines brought in by the New Labour heavyweight forced developers to maximise the number of homes built on each plot of land in order to meet the need for new homes while avoiding the need to build on green belts.

Roger Humber, of the House Builders Association, isn’t impressed. He tells us: “When politicians try to rig the market they eventually corrupt the market. It’s the outward workings of Prescottian economics, as I call it.”

Humber also points to the current situation in Manchester were there are 20,000 flats awaiting planning permission compared to just a handful of houses.

Tory housing spokesman, Michael Gove, also has a pop at Prezzer: “Government housing rules have led to a ‘pile ’em high’ approach to development, which has seen us getting flats rather than family homes. We know the primary demand is for family houses but because of the planning system there is a lack of supply.”

I wonder how many families could live in one of Prescott’s Jags?

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

No Change For Lottery Winner David Ashcroft

sorry_3.jpgMANY a lottery winner has claimed that their new found wealth won’t change them. They then set off on a maelstrom of lavish spending, drug abuse and eventual bankruptcy and depression. And it serves them bloody right.

But in the case of mild-mannered David Ashcroft, a £12.3million National Lottery winner back in 1997, very little does seem to have changed.

Now aged 40, he still lives in the same modest house in Liverpool with his, er, parents. But let us not judge him harshly.

In continuing to work as a furniture restorer and limiting his big spending to a new van, double-glazing for the family home and a caravan in north Wales, Ashcroft is, as the young whippersnappers of today say, ‘keeping it real’.

He has, however, been generous with his cash, splashing out on flash cars for his siblings, including a £60,000 Ferrari.

While Ashcroft himself hasn’t spoken publicly since his win, the Daily Mail did manage to collar a neighbour who reveals: “No one can quite fathom it. He’s got money to burn and yet he seems to spend next to nothing on himself. Some people say he is afraid of what it would do to him if he ever started spending it. He is afraid of what he might become.”

As for love? Well, at the time of his big win, Ashcroft said: “Any girlfriends from the past will probably come from my days in kindergarten” (which taken the wrong way could be deeply worrying).

Ashcroft has not found love. The multi-millionaire is single and on the look-out for Miss Right.

But Ashcroft is surely learning a valuable lesson in affairs of the heart – no matter how much money you have, living with your parents at the age of 40 is going to turn off pretty much every woman on the planet. And if you doubt me, ask my mum…

Posted: 29th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Payday Bonanza: The Price Of Love

donald-trump-hair.jpgYOU may be, like me, devastatingly handsome and uproariously witty, but if you don’t have the cash/money/wonga/benjamins, then you are destined to struggle in the game of love. Or so say the world-renowned sages of, erm, Five TV.

According to a new poll by the makers of Trust Me, I’m A Holiday Rep, Colin & Justin’s Wedding Belles and All New Cosmetic Surgery (Live!), two in three people would rather their other half earned an extra £10,000 than be better-looking, cleverer or funnier.

The survey also discovered that 77 per cent of people associated a Surrey accent with wealth while just one per cent linked a Scouse accent to big money.

Alex Menzies of Five says: “Wealth is now the biggest motivator for love, but it’s tricky to know who’s got a big piggy bank or an empty wallet.” How insightful.

The survey was carried out for Five’s new game show (another one?) Payday Bonanza, which is to be hosted by the interminably smug Colin Murray. In the show, contestants can win each other‘s annual salaries. I bet it’ll be ‘full of tension‘. I can’t wait.

Michael Jackson was paid £5million just to turn up at a birthday bash for the Sultan of Brunei’s son. Nice work if you can get it.

Posted: 29th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Buy-To-Letters Beware: The Taxman Cometh

gordon-brown.jpgTHE Government’s quest to squeeze every last penny out of us continues with news that a large number of buy-to-let property owners could be facing a major tax disaster. (Pic: Beau Bo D’Or)

According to the Times, 80,000 buy-to-let landlords may have claimed too much tax relief or have failed to accurately declare the amount of rent they are receiving. And now the taxman is coming to take it all back.

Worryingly for landlords, HM Revenue & Customs can claim back unpaid tax from as far back as six years, which could leave many facing tax bills so huge that they may even have to sell their property.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation on at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, hopes HM Revenue & Customs use the softly softly approach.

Says he: “Buy-to-let investors are generally not tax evaders. Many think the mortgage interest is at such a level that it covers the rental income and that they don’t have any additional tax to pay. But the tax situation is so complex they may well have tax to pay.”

Serves them all right for owning more than one property.

The Gambling Commission is considering banning ‘wacky’ bets such as which player gets the first yellow card in a football match as these wagers apparently open the way for corruption.

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

Bank Make Too Many Errors Says Jim Cousins MP

A LABOUR MP on the Treasury select committee has claimed that a large number of homeowners are being overcharged by mortgage lenders because of apparent errors in the calculation of interest owed.

Jim Cousins’ claims follow a review by auditing firm BankCheck, which found that the likes of the Nationwide, Alliance & Leicester and Abbey have been benefiting from these blunders with repayment mortgages apparently the most prone to the mistakes.

Cousins now wants a new banking code of practice in which customers’ repayments are checked regularly by the lender.

However – surprise surprise – the banks have refuted the claims.

Abbey says: “Checks are built into our mortgage processes. We are confident that this process is robust.”

The Nationwide puts it: “Mistakes occur in a minimum of cases but we have confidence in the integrity and accuracy of our systems”.

Alliance & Leicester did admit to one such mistake in which a man was overcharged by 0.5 per cent over 15 years, costing him over £2,000, which was eventually refunded. However, they blame the fact that when the mistake initially occurred back in 1984, their system relied on typewriters rather than today’s apparently failsafe computer system.

Sure. Only aren’t the same people who used to type now working on the computer? And odd how these mistakes favour the lender…

A hotel in St Ives has been given a public slap on the wrist by the Royal Mint after using pound coins as promotional items.

Posted: 28th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Copper Theft for Chinese Olympics Derails British Trains

copper_pipes.JPGWE’VE all heard the “leaves on the line” excuse for trains delays and cancellations, haven’t we?

Well, to be honest, I’ve never actually heard it myself, but apparently it is quite common.

Anyway, rail bosses can now, somewhat bizarrely, add “copper has been stolen” to its list of stock excuses as soaring global demand for the metal continues to fuel a huge growth in trackside theft.

Last year, over 240,000 minutes of delays for train passengers were caused by the theft of copper, with robberies at tracks and depots increasing by almost 500 per cent.

In the north-east, the problem is particularly widespread, with two-thirds of all rail delays down to copper theft.

Andy Trotter, deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police is understandably concerned by this metal madness. Says he: “It is a growing problem. You have only got to look at the rising copper price on the metal market and the theft of copper matches that rise almost absolutely. Unfortunately, the impact on the infrastructure is beginning to bite.”

It’s not only railways that are falling victim to the copper thieves either, with police in Bradford blaming metal mercenaries for the demolition of a bungalow after copper gas pipes on the outer wall of the house were ripped out, leading to an explosion.

So what happens to all this dodgy metal? Well apparently it is ending up in China where the demand for copper has been fuelled by the Beijing Olympics and demand for telecoms infrastructure.

With the global price of the metal rising fivefold since 2001, hitting £4,000 a tonne this year, expect to hear more copper-based rail excuses.

Apparently, even 2p pieces are worth more if they are melted down. Time to take a blow-torch to your piggy-bank.

China’s rising shares have pushed Shanghai’s main stock index past the 4,000 mark for the first time.

Posted: 28th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

End Of The Housing Boom On Nigh

IT seems that a new report on the housing market is published every day and the latest to reach us, from Hometrack, reveals that the housing boom may be coming to an end.

According to the report, house-prices in two-thirds of postcodes in England and Wales were either static or fell in May. The average price of a home in the UK did rise this month, however, but only be a measly 0.6 per cent, lower than April’s 0.7 per cent rise.

With the Bank Of England’s recent penchant for interest rate rises and a rising supply of homes, this cooling of the housing market won’t have come as a huge surprise and Hometrack’s Richard Donnell expects the slowdown to continue.

“The steady ratcheting up of interest rates was bound to take its toll eventually. We expect the headline rate of growth to slow relatively quickly over the rest of the year towards 4 per cent as affordability pressures put a continued squeeze on purchasing power and more supply comes to the market,” he says.

Despite the overall slowdown, London, unsurprisingly, continues to dominate the rest of the country, with the metropolitan market posting an increase of 1.3 per cent.

Still, now is the time to sell your house and live the life of an affluent hobo.

A sacked secretary who claims to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder is suing a company for £15million because her desk was too far away from a window.

Posted: 28th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Council Tax Snoopers Snap Homes

THE digital camera has long been a useful tool for traffic wardens eager to attain proof of a parking infringement but now it seems that other council officials are themselves getting snap-happy.

According to official figures, council tax snoopers have taken over 1.3million photographs of homes in order to catch out owners who should be paying higher bills.

In all, 823,000 properties have been snapped and then added to an electronic database in the past two years as Government officials look for signs that homeowners have added to the value of their property with additions such as conservatories and attic conversions.

Eric Pickles, the Tory housing spokesman, is unimpressed. Says he: “This new evidence proves the privacy and property of honest, law-abiding citizens is under threat from Gordon Brown’s greedy hands – and his paparazzi council tax inspectors. I am alarmed that faceless Whitehall bureaucrats are now rolling out a sinister property photo database. Not only are civil liberties under threat, but I fear these photos will be used to tax features like conservatories, extensions, gardens and patios.”

However, pebble-dashing, Union Jacks and garden gnomes will lower your bills by 100%.

Posted: 28th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

£73,000 Wasted On Police Exams

brightonpolice.jpgPOLICE officers hoping to make the step up to the heady heights of inspector level will have to re-sit their exams after staff shortages and apparent technical problems invalidated the initial exam results.

The cost of repeating the exams coupled with the subsequent selection process is likely to cost over £70,000 of public money.

According to Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, “It was a disaster. These were the next candidates for inspectors but it went awry for a number of reasons. Hundreds took the exam and it is quite a stressful situation. A lot hinges on this. It has thrown a spanner in the works and officers are understandably upset. We don’t want to see this repeated.”

The Met Police described the supervision at the exam centre in leafy north London’s Alexandra Palace as “inadequate” but surely they weren’t worried that their aspirant inspectors had resorted to cheating, were they?

Well, not according to a Met spokeswoman who says: “We do not assume or believe that any candidates were cheating – only the fact that the supervision on the day was inadequate. It would be impossible to address the issues without asking all officers to resit the exam.”

Police breaking the rules? Never.

Over 1,000 pieces of memorabilia from the first family of pop, the Jacksons, are set to go under the hammer in an auction expected to raise millions of dollars.

Posted: 28th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Gordon Brown Taxes Us £6.60 An Hour

gordon.pngFOR every hour that you worked last year, £6.60 (on average) was collected in taxes by the Treasury. This is more than even the minimum wage.

These figures, calculated by the Daily Telegraph, are over £1 up on figures from five years ago and illustrate the huge tax burden placed upon Britain’s families.

Overall, figures from HM Revenue and Customs’ recently published annual report, put the Government’s total tax take at a whopping £423billion, £25billion up on the previous financial year.

Not surprisingly, campaigners such as Corin Tayor of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, are disappointed. Says he: “Gordon Brown has stealthily increased taxes faster than earnings and these new figures are another shocking indictment of just how over-taxed people are. The Chancellor needs to wake up and give families relief from the record tax bills they are facing.”

Shadow chancellor George Osborne is also less than happy. Says he: “This tax-per-hour figure brings home just how much people are paying Gordon Brown in taxes. No wonder we’ve got the highest tax burden in our history. The real tragedy is that so much money is then wasted.”

A sheep-shelter in the Cotswolds has been sold for £325,000. Who said the property market has gone maaaad?

Posted: 28th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

David Beckham’s £50million McClaren’s England Appeal

england-beckham.jpgWHILE England boss Steve McClaren fumbles around for a saviour, David Beckham’s already ballooning bank account could swell to the tune of an extra £50million. (Pic: The Spine)

Beckham will cash in if he can inspire his wilting countrymen to Euro qualification.

According to the Telegraph, the former Manchester United icon’s recall to the England squad could trigger a whole new set of lucrative sponsorship deals. But it could also put his Los Angeles future in doubt.

PR guru Max Clifford looks at Beckham’s MLS career . Says he: “If in the next couple of games he really makes a name for himself again you can see a situation where he is going to say ‘why on earth am I doing going to Los Angeles?’ which is basically a retirement plan.”

However, neither wife Victoria, desperate for promotion to the Hollywood A-list, nor LA Galaxy manager Alexei Lalas will be too thrilled about their star man’s England recall.

Commenting on Beckham’s inclusion in the latest England squad, Lalas tells us: “I don’t want to stand in the way of a player representing his country but we have to be prudent and understand they have to be the appropriate games. But from a business perspective, it is not the greatest news as we are selling a team with David Beckham in it and a lot of people are excited about seeing him play with the Galaxy.”

Rumours are that the dismal and desperate McClaren is set to recall Gary Lineker, Glenn Hoddle and Bobby Charlton.

Roman Abramovich has decided to stop throwing his money at Chelsea in order to make them successful. So where does that leave Jose Mourinho? And whose money will he use instead – Ashley Cole’s?

Posted: 28th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Glazers Deny United Sale

A SPOKESMAN for Manchester United owner Malcolm Glazer has moved to refute a story in the Mirror which claims the American billionaire is set to sell the club after profits fell short of expectations.

The Glazer family took control of the Red Devils less than three years ago, amidst a barrage of protest by United fans angered by the £790million sale of their beloved club.

However, with the vast majority of anti-Glazer sentiment proving to be nothing more than hot air, it was soon business as usual again for the Manchester giants who, this season, secured the Premiership title for the first time in four campaigns.

The Mirror claims that the relationship between the club’s management and the Glazers has become fraught, with the Flordia-based owners now looking for a way-out. The paper quotes a “well-placed City source” saying: “What we’re all hearing is United hasn’t turned out to be what the Glazers thought it was. When they paid so much, they were convinced a lot of money was to be made. Buying United wasn’t about owning a football club, but a business decision and from an investment point of view it’s been little short of disastrous.”

However, according to the Glazers’ spokesman: “There is not a grain of truth to this story – the family is committed to the long-term ownership of the club.” So there you have it. Or not. Depending on what you believe.

According to the Home Office, organised criminal gangs are raking in a rather impressive £15billion a year in profits. Maybe one of them could buy United if the Glazers do decide to sell.

Posted: 27th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Elderly Face Home Care Hike

roylefamily_2.jpgWITHOUT home care many of the nation’s elderly wouldn’t be able to live relatively independent lives, but with councils planning to raise fees – in many cases by more than 100 per cent – a large number of OAPs may be forced into homes, or go without the care altogether.

A survey commissioned by the Telegraph has found that older people will face an average increase of 29 per cent in home care fees this year, with a quarter of councils planning rises of more than 40 per cent. London’s Brent and Lewisham councils top the list with their respective fees set to treble.

With home workers often providing the only regular form of human contact for the aged, these increases could have a devastating effect on the nation’s half-million pensioners who receive council care at home.

David Walden of the Commission for Social Care Inspection says: “If charges are so high that people don’t access the services, that could have a deleterious effect on people’s health and we would be concerned about that.”

Councils claim that the increases are linked to the current financial crisis in the NHS, with health trusts, eager to wipe out their £512 million deficit, trying to make council taxpayers foot the bill for services which the Health Service should be providing.

Whatever happens, there’s no way my Nan is coming to live with us. She’s a bloody nightmare.
You can pick up almost anything on eBay these days, even a heart valve. However, the £300 life-saving device was eventually removed from the site by bosses.

Posted: 27th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Liverpool Break The Bank For ‘Snoogy Doogy’

doogie_woogy.jpgFOLLOWING their disappointing defeat at the hands of Milan in the Champions League Final, Liverpool are ready to splash the cash in order to rebuild Rafa Benitez’ side.

With Manchester United close to signing Bayern Munich’s Owen Hargreaves for almost £20 million and Chelsea expected to continue their policy of big name buys this summer, the pressure is on the Anfield club to keep up with their Premiership rivals.

With owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks desperate for Liverpool to mount a serious challenge for the domestic title as well as in Europe, the likelihood is that Benitez will spend some serious money in the summer.

While the likes of Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o, Valencia’s David Villa and even West Ham’s Carlos Tevez all possible targets, another name, according to Gillett, has come into the frame. Says he, “If Rafa said he wanted to buy ‘Snoogy Doogy‘ we would back him.”

And who said Americans know nothing about ‘soccer’?

The very hairy and very smug Noel Edmonds is set to pocket £400,000 for fronting a new Sky One quiz show – “Are You Smarter Than A 10-Year-Old?”. Yes I am, actually.

Posted: 25th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (6)

UK Houses 65% Overvalued: Property Crash

MANY of us have an inflated view of ourselves. And we all have an inflated view of our houses.

According to the snappily named Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, UK property prices are up to 65% too high and are among the most inflated in any major world economy.

The OECD also warns that a subsequent slowdown is long overdue and that a property crash could not be ruled out

Capital Economics’ Ed Stansfield points to lower borrowing costs and a shortage of new property as reasons for the UK’s decade-long property price explosion, although he puts the overvaluation of the housing market at a minimum of 15 to 20 per cent.

With experts predicting that the Bank of England could raise interest rates to 6 per cent by the end of the year, homeowners may well be forced to dig even deeper to pay the mortgage.

Will this property madness ever end? Expect the homeless to start paying rental on their shop doorways.
MPs are backing an attempt to erase the word ’McJob’ from the dictionary. It’s not like there are more important issues to address, is it?

Posted: 25th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

The Uncovered Truth About Travel Insurance

THE advent of cheap-as-chips flights (as long as you book six years in advance) and low budget hotel deals have allowed a whole generation of Britons to travel to exotic destinations across the world, something they wouldn’t have been able to do 20 years ago.

However, while the price of travel insurance has also followed suit, many travellers embark on their holidays with as little practical cover as Dawn French in a string bikini.

Research group Defaqto found that while some policies are now available for as little as a fiver, many fail to provide adequate cover.

Brian Brown, the report’s author, warns, “Before you sign up to a cheap policy, consider whether the insurer would actually be able to pay any claim.” He is also critical of insurance policies which set “single item” limits sometimes as low as £150. Says he: “If you lose a £400 camera you only get £150. After paying the excess, you might end up with just £75.”

The report commends Boots, Churchill Insurance, Direct Travel and Norwich Union for their good value while the Post Office also gets the thumbs up, despite its higher prices.

Or you can follow the lead of 10 million other Britons and not bother to get any travel insurance at all. Sure you’ll be fine. Honest.

Posted: 24th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Rise Of The Snooper State: Grass Up A Neighbour

blair_brown.jpgAS New Labour continues its seemingly unending quest to extinguish the last remnants of the nation’s community spirit, the Home Office publishes proposals which could see members of the public financially rewarded for informing on their neighbours who may be involved in such heinous crimes as benefit fraud and cigarette smuggling.

The system is based on a US scheme in which informants receive between 15 and 30 per cent of seized assets (in successful cases) and ministers are now pondering whether or not it could be imported into the UK.

Since its inception in the States in 1986, 11 billion dollars has been seized by the authorities and the wonderfully-monikered home office minister Vernon Coaker says: “It seems to have been successful in the US. We are asking is it applicable in this country, is it something that people would find acceptable and is there a workable model? We think it would be irresponsible for us as a Government not to look at what people are doing overseas.”

How much would you get for grassing up a bank for its illegal charges, I wonder? 15 to 30 per cent of the cash sounds good to me.

UK cinema siren Keira Knightley has accepted £3,000 in libel damages from the Daily Mail over suggestions that she had an eating disorder. The damages, which the svelte star will match, will be donated to ‘Beat’, the eating disorder and mental illness charity. Isn’t she great.

Posted: 24th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Government Selling Of Canals And Waterways

THERE’S nothing more relaxing than a walk upon a peaceful riverbank.

Look, what’s that over there – it’s a vole gnawing on some reeds, and there – a mummy duck and her newly-hatched ducklings on their morning swim. But wait, what’s that over there? Why, it’s a bloody great supermarket backing onto the water.

Yes, in its continuing quest to suck the soul out of Britain, the Government are contemplating selling off the nation’s canals and waterways.

British Waterways, the government-controlled body, currently looks after 2,200 miles of canals and rivers with its portfolio recently valued at over £500 million. However, the government estimate that all the towpaths and land alongside Britain’s canals could be sold for around £1 billion.

British Waterways currently relies on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) but is eager to become less dependent on the body and seek more commercial freedom and any sale of such prime land would no doubt attract the major property developers and the ubiquitous supermarkets.

Expect to be shopping in Sainsbury’s in a gondola before too long.

The council in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea are doing their bit to stem the tide of corporate imperialism by making a stand against chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee.

Posted: 24th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

£48million Divorce Payout For Axa’s Charman

charman.jpgTHERE are plenty of things you could buy with £48million – a football club, a peerage or even a two-bedroom (unfurnished) flat in central London.

Beverley Charman, ex-wife of insurance magnate John Charman, will no doubt be pondering these purchasing choices after a court upheld her massive divorce payment.

Mr Charman, head of the Axa Insurance group, had challenged the £48million settlement, claiming that it was “grotesque and unfair”. However, in response, lawyers for his former partner argued that the House of Lords had already set down guidelines for big money divorce rulings in which the family assets should generally be divided equally.

While Mr Charman’s legal team argued that as he had created most of their wealth, he should therefore keep the lion’s share, appeal judges Lord Justice Thorpe and Lord Justice Wilson ruled in Beverly Charman’s favour.

Mrs Charman says: “I acknowledge that the sum awarded to me is huge by any standards, but the court of appeal has decided that it fairly reflects the contributions made by John and me during our 28-year marriage. I am relieved that the appeal is over, and I hope that John and I can now concentrate on building our new lives.” And splurging all that cash.
Mrs Chapman could follow Mr Bean’s lead and cough up £500,000 for a classic D-Type Jaguar.

Posted: 24th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Government’s £125million Criminal Assets

WHO says crime doesn’t pay?

What with the luxury mansions, limited-edition Bentleys, wads of cash and the jet-set lifestyle, surely there must be something in the whole crime lark? Just ask the big banks.

However, a number of the nation’s criminals are having to go without the trimmings of their success after the Home Office released details of the £125 million in seizures it has made in the last year, including mansions, cars and even racehorses.

Conveniently, that figure matches the target set out by the Government for 2006/07 and paves the way for the Home Office to announce even greater powers to confiscate criminals’ ill-gotten gains.

Jeremy Outen of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit is pleased with the results but is eager to achieve more. Says he: “But I think we have a long way to go. Asset seizure is not yet at the heart of law enforcement. It is still more of an afterthought in many forces. Obtaining money is the motive behind three-quarters of offences in the UK, so targeting criminal wealth could have a much greater effect. But this is good start.”

So if you see a humble Bobby living large and racing around the streets in a souped-up Lamborghini with a racehorse in the back seat, you’ll know here he got it from.
Michael Jackson isn’t short of a bob or two, but the bizarre self-proclaimed ‘king of pop’ has put his comeback Las Vegas shows in doubt after demanding to be paid £100 million. He’s bad.

Posted: 24th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Squatter Harry Hallowes Joins Hampstead Elite

hallows1.jpgORGANIC Fairtrade beers were spat out in horror and copies of the New Statesman flung away in anger as news spread around the leafy streets of Hampstead that a homeless man – yes, a HOMELESS MAN – had moved in.

Seventy-year-old Harry Hallowes had been squatting on a secluded corner of Hampstead Heath – home to furry little animals like Bill Oddie and George Michael – for more than two decades.

But now, the Land Registry have decided to give Hallowes the title deeds to the 65ft by 13ft plot, thus marking the end of a three-year dispute between Hallowes and property developer Dwyer.

The developers had wanted to – surprise surprise – build luxury flats on the land but failed to evict the Heath-dweller at the court hearing, which instead ruled that as Hallowes had lived on the plot for 18 years, he was entitled to ownership of the land.

The delighted Hallowes tells us: “’I absolutely love it here. I’m delighted to get the title deeds. But I always expected to be given them. I didn’t expect any other outcome. I won’t be having a bird sanctuary or anything like that. Maybe I’ll build myself a house to live in, everybody else around here seems to love building houses.”

The plot is estimated to be worth around £2 million.

I’m off down to Regents Park to set up home. Ciao…
Newcastle United are said to be shocked at billionaire businessman Mike Ashley’s bid to take over the famous club.

Posted: 24th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (9)

Pay As You Throw: Bin Tax Spies In The Rubbish

CCTV cameras watch our every move across the urban landscape, spy drones hover menacingly above us and disembodied voices tell us to pick up the crisp packet we drop – welcome to New Labour’s Orwellian nightmare.

The control freaks in the government have now decided to furnish rubbish bins with microchips which can monitor just how much waste we are producing.

According to the Telegraph, more than three million households in Britain are equipped with the technology, increasing fears that we are about to get hit by new ‘bin-tax’ which will penalise householders who fail to recycle.

However, an opinion poll for Channel 4’s Despatches programme, which will be aired tonight, reveals that 62% of the population currently oppose the idea of a ‘pay-as-you-throw’ tax.

68 councils across the land have forked out millions on the new hi-tech bins although according to the Local Government Agency, all modern bins now come fitted with the technology as standard while almost all the current microchips were “inert”. We believe them.

Keeping with the Big Brother theme, Google are planning to create the most comprehensive database of personal information ever created.

Posted: 24th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment