Money | Anorak - Part 95

Money Category

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

Accusations Of Homophobia In Financial Services

FINANCE giant Zurich was in the dock yesterday after being accused of deliberately destroying a small company run by the gay activist and entrepreneur Ivan Massow.

The Guardian reports that the Zurich group initially joined forces with Massow’s company to offer financial services to the gay community. However, it is alleged that Zurich then reneged on an agreement to make its own policies more gay friendly, a move which lost Massow Financial Services its customers and reputation, eventually leading to its collapse.

Massow has accused the banking giant of deliberately setting out to destroy his company, once worth £22m, after he ran a poster campaign in the 90’s criticising Allied Dunbar, now part of Zurich, of homophobia.

The case at the Bristol high court continues.

Posted: 3rd, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Hollywood Star Pays £4m to join The Circus

fo25.jpgRESIDENTS of the picturesque town of Bath are steeling themselves for the imminent arrival of a bona fide Hollywood bad boy.

The Mirror reveals that Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage is coughing up £4m for a five-storey 18th century townhouse, once home to the Earl of Chatham.

The house, which includes an indoor swimming pool, forms part of the famous ‘Circus’, a curved millionaires row in the middle of the Somerset town.

The Mirror’s top investigative journalists managed to squeeze some highly confidential information out of a neighbour – “We’re told he has bought it but I don’t think he’s completed the sale yet. Our daughter saw him in The Circus six months ago.”

Such is the way with breaking hard news…

Posted: 2nd, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Insurance Scams On The Increase: PPI

AS we now know all too well, banks will do their utmost to squeeze every last penny out of their customers and now consumer group Which? has revealed that consumers are being tricked into buying expensive payment protection insurance (PPI) when taking out a personal loan.

Over half the companies investigated by Which? added PPI automatically to their quotes without informing the customer. Indeed, the latest figures suggest that there are around 20m policies currently active in the UK despite the fact that PPI is often sold to people who don’t need it.

The Office Of Fair Trading claims that only 20% of the total amount claimed for on PPI policies is actually being paid out, compared to 82% in the motor insurance industry.

Martyn Hocking, the editor of Which?, warns us: “If you are taking out a loan, make sure you know if the quotes you get include PPI. It is not compulsory so if you don’t want it ask the lender to remove it.”

Posted: 2nd, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Barbra Streisand: You Don’t Bring Me Money Anymore

barbra_streisand_braless.jpgLEGENDARY singer and gay icon, Barbra Streisand is planning to make a killing when she plays her only UK show this year.

According to the Mirror, the Oscar-winning superstar is set to charge fans up to £500 per ticket when she performs at the revamped Millenium Done, now known as the O2 Arena.

Those prices dwarf even the likes of Madonna, who charged up to £160 for her Confessions tour.

The show, on July 18, will include a 58-piece orchestra and a spokesperson for the singer tells us: “If you think that FA Cup tickets are going for £1,600, you get some sort of context.”

Babs Streisand banging out show tunes or Jose Mourinho dramatically hurling abuse at the officials at Wembley as Cristiano Ronaldo falls over theatrically. Which will be the more showy, camper and self-important?

Posted: 1st, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (6)

Bank On God: Thou Shalt Not Go Bankrupt

money_tree5.jpgSADDLED with enormous debt? Frightened you will lose your home? Well now there is a new, rather divine financial consultant on the block, ready to help you get your finances in order. His name is God.

According to the Telegraph, thousands of Americans struggling with debt are turning to church financial programmes which teach the Christian participants how to manage their money using a mixture of budgeting advice and Scriptural teaching.

One such programme has been completed by 350,000 American families, with each paying $80-$90 for the accompanying books and CDs.

Radio presenter Dave Ramsay, the face behind that ‘Financial Peace’ plan is convinced of its benefits. Says he: “Even if you’re not some kind of sold-out believer, you can relate to Proverbs 22:7, that the borrower is a slave to the lender. It’s like a Mark Twain saying.”

With the financially burdened participants still encouraged to cough up as much as 10 per cent of their income to the various churches involved, soon God will have enough cash to buy a Premiership football team.

And one good enough to come in the top dozen…

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

Money: Friends and Family Better Than A Pay Rise

THINK you‘ll never be able to afford that holiday home on the Cote d’Azur or that Bentley you always wanted? Well think again – simply pop ‘round to your mate’s house for a drink and then spend a few minutes at your mum’s, and you’ll be rolling in dosh.

Well, not quite, but according to a new survey published in the Journal of Socio-Economics, seeing friends and family every day is apparently worth the equivalent of an £85,000 pay rise. Even chatting to neighbours every so often makes us as happy as if we’d been handed a £37,000 increase.

However, beware! For a painful divorce can bring sadness equal to a debt of £139,000.

On average, according to the study, a person earning £10,000 per annum who sees their friends and family every day is as happy as someone earning £95,000 a year who only rarely sees their loved ones.

So there you go, keep avoiding your family and your mates and you’ll be able to pay off your debts, and maybe have a nice holiday, in no time.

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

Money Talks: New VoicePay Machines

unitone.gifFROM Big Brother’s Chantelle Houghton to Stephen Hawking, the humble voice is a many-splendored thing.

But despite the fact many of us hate the sound of our own voice, a new service using our dulcet tones will be launched today to combat credit credit card and online banking fraud.

Under VoicePay, the brainchild of entrepreneur Nick Ogden, when a customer tries to use a credit card or access an online account, as well as having to enter the usual passwords and PIN number, the service will automatically phone the user to verify their identity.

The ‘VoiceVault’ voice recognition technology is already used by ABN Amro allowing people to even trade shares over the phone.

But how secure is it?

Expect impressionists Rory Bremner and Jon Culshaw to top the next Times’ Rich List.

Posted: 30th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat: Any Rubbish Will Do

THE winner of the campest show on television has already bagged a big recording deal, before even being chosen by the public.

According to the Mirror, the successful contestant on the BBC’s Any Dream Will Do show will bag a £200,000 deal with Universal Records, a deal which has been secured by the diminutive Irish star-maker Louis Walsh, the man who will manage the show’s winner.

“The idea is to rush out an album of Joseph songs straight after the series ends. I’m sure it will be very popular”, gloats Walsh.

For Walsh and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s bank accounts, any rubbish will do.

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

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,.

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

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

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)

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

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)

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)

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)

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

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 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

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

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

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

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)

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)

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

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

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

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