Money | Anorak - Part 97

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

British Lawyers Go West

US TV is full of legal dramas starring svelte and urbane lawyers balancing tough court cases and steamy office romances and now it seems that all that glamour and sex is tempting British legal eagles to join US firms.

Well, that and the extra cash.

The Times reports that last year alone, 71 partners left UK law firms for their American rivals in London with the vast majority moving for the substantially higher salaries.

According to Legal Business magazine, US law firms in the capital are outperforming their British counterparts with Sullivan & Cromwell, a New York-based firm with 56 lawyers in their London offices, the best-performing firm in the city.

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

Sick Phone Charges On The NHS Patientline

phones.jpgIT seems as though the nation’s “entrepreneurs” will do whatever it takes to squeeze every last penny out of the old and the infirm.

Following the recent furore over extortionate car parking charges at NHS hospitals, bedside phone services are now to rise in price by an incredible 160%, according to the BBC.

Private telecommunications company Patientline, who provide a large proportion of hospital bedside phones, have decided to increase the cost of calls from 10p per minute to a whopping 26p per minute.

The company themselves have, not surprisingly, defended the increases, claiming that the rises will allow them to significantly drop the cost of their more popular bedside TV packages.

However, Patients Association spokesman Michael Summers was fuming. Says he: “These people are ill, often recovering from operations, and the hike from 10p to 26p to phone out is really too much. People are going to be really upset with this.”

Two years telecoms regulator Ofcom launched an investigation into Patientline over high charges and although nothing came of it then, the company may well face more scrutiny now.

Posted: 4th, April 2007 | In: Money | Comments (3)

Lloyds Bank Wants A Sharia The Wealth

NEVER ones to miss out on a new sources of profit, banks are now turning their attention to the previously untapped Islamic business market.

According to the Guardian, Lloyds TSB has become the first mainstream bank to launch a sharia-compliant business account, introducing the ‘Islamic Business and Corporate account’.

The new service will be available to Muslim businesses throughout its network of branches with Lloyds director Truett Tate proclaiming “the entrepreneurial spirit in the UK is truly something to be proud of, and Muslim businesses are making a phenomenal contribution to this through their creativity and incredible work ethic”.

According to Islamic law, bank accounts should not charge or pay any form of interest, a rather good idea if you ask me, and one that surely should be applicable to any faith, or indeed no faith at all.

But watch out for those bank charges!

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

Liverpool Kops Good News

scousers.jpgWHAT with a summer transfer fund of a reported £40 million and construction on a swanky new stadium about to begin, things at Liverpool FC are looking decidedly rosy.

Even the players are enjoying their own bit of good fortune with their cash, with flame-haired full-back John Arne Riise learning yesterday that an embarrassing bankruptcy order against him had been lifted by a judge.

The 26-year old Norwegian had been declared bankrupt with debts of just under £100,00, despite earning a not-too-shabby basic wage of £50,000 a week.

The Sun reports that the case was linked to a dispute with Riise’s former agent Einar Baardsen and the while the bankruptcy, described by the Kop hero as “an oversight”, is now history, the dispute between the two men looks likely to rumble on.

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

Tesco Not So Local

tesco-local.jpgTHOSE lovely mega-supermarkets are at it again.

The Independent reports that Tesco are being accused of “stretching the definition of local past breaking point”.

The retail giant has launched a last-ditch attempt to stop the Competition Commission from focusing on local markets in its new study of the grocery industry.

The CC is investigating whether or not supermarkets are excessively dominating local shopping and in response Tesco is arguing that “local” should mean as much as a 30-minute drive from a store rather than the traditionally accepted 10-to-15 minute journey.

The UK’s biggest supermarket chain also claims that the UK grocery market should be viewed as one single national market.

Is this what Tesco means by an “inclusive offer” to the shopper?

Posted: 3rd, April 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)

Never Never Land – Britain Banks On Debt

skint.jpgIT seems that no matter how many warnings about heavy debt the humble householder and consumer are given, we just can’t seem to stop our lust for shiny, bright new things.

According to a report by economist Marchel Alexandrovich – snappily entitled “The savings ratio turns negative – is a recession around the corner?” – households are now dipping into their savings in order to fund current spending, something that hasn’t happened on a major scale since 1989.

The Telegraph reports that figures from the Bank of England also show that families are borrowing even more against the value of their homes as their “appetite for debt returns”.

While the Guardian uses Bank of England statistics to reveal that Britons took £2.4 billion more out of their homes in the last quarter of 2006 as house prices rose again.

With families’ savings now falling for the first time since the late Eighties, a recession could be on the horizon, so too another rise in interest rates.

If only those shiny, bright new things weren’t so darn shiny, bright and new.

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

Upstairs Upstairs

havers1.jpgANOTHER elderly Brit who has been struggling to gets his hands on some cash is uber-posh luvvie Nigel Havers.

The urbane 57-year old has finally won a large cash settlement from his late wife’s £2.3 million estate after a prolonged court battle, according to the Telegraph.

The actor, son of former Lord Chancellor Sir Michael Havers, began his legal battle after his wife Polly, who succumbed to ovarian cancer back in 2004, left most of her sizeable estate to her two sons with Havers only getting a share of their London marital home, poor fellow.

However, much to the delight of the actor, famous for his roles in Upstairs Downstairs, The Charmer, A Passage To India and not much since, he will now get his well-manicured hands on a tidy £375,000 sum as well as the proceeds from the sales of his late wife’s Mercedes along with a whole load of her jewellery.

However, despite his single-minded quest to attain a bigger slice of the estate, Havers has hardly been teetering on the brink of homelessness, as he currently resides in salubrious Holland Park with multi-millionaire divorcee Georgiana Bronfman.

Posted: 2nd, April 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)

Pensioners Too Proud To Beg

beggar.jpgGORDON Brown isn’t the only one currently suffering from a pensions-related issue, as according to the Mirror, more than 1.7 millions pensioners are failing to claim benefits as they are “too proud to beg” for the money.

Apparently application forms, which pry into the details of old folks’ savings, are putting them off claiming an extra £40 every week in pension credits.

Pension Rights Campaign secretary Margie Arts wants the whole system revamped with pensioners automatically given their benefits without having to wade through the paperwork “My members are proud people”, she said, “ and they don’t want to tell strangers what their personal circumstances are”.

Help The Aged’s Anna Pearson is also unhappy with the Government claiming that “nearly £2.5 billions of pension credit is now going unclaimed each year. More should be done to ensure information on claiming gets to those who need it”.

Posted: 2nd, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Gordon Brown Pension Raider

pension-protest.jpg‘NEW Labour’ and ‘spin’ sit as comfortably together as ‘bread’ and ‘butter’, ‘fish’ and ‘chips’ and ‘Pete Doherty’ and ‘bad hygiene” and now, once again, the Government is being accused of another gigantic spin, this time in relation to pensions.

Back in 1997, when Tony and Gordon were mere striplings, filled to the brim with hope and yet to be sullied by sleaze, war, more sleaze and more war, the Chancellor cut relief on company dividends in his first budget, a move which raised £5 billion a year from retirement funds but also lead in part to the number of people in final salary schemes falling from 11 million to just 4 million.

However, a decade on, and the episode is back in the news following the release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act on Friday, documents which reveal that the Chancellor had been warned about his plans to remove key tax benefits enjoyed by pension funds in that first budget.

However, while ministers had been insisting that Brown’s decision had been endorsed by the Confederation of British Industry, the CBI have now refuted that suggestion with director-general Richard Lambert accusing the Government of spinning the story.   Lambert claims his organisation had “objected strenuously to the policy”.

The Times sees this latest embarrassment for the Brown as another reason why his move to No. 10 might not be such a smooth operation after all.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne has also vowed to lead a Commons debate on the issue, all of which is sure to turn the heat up on poor old Gordie.

Posted: 2nd, April 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Gordon Brown’s In The Black, Tory Party Parties & Bob Kylie Tells All


Strapped For Cash

The fall-out from the recent Budget continues with government figures now showing that the disposable income of households grew last year at the slowest rate since 1982, says the Telegraph.

Ballooning mortgage payments and utility bills along with rising taxes are to blame. The Office For National Statistics suggests British families were losing an average of £22 each in the final quarter of last year.

This rather unimpressive news comes on the back of the disclosure that 5.3 million people would be worse off as a result of the Chancellor’s Budget last week.

Citigroup’s Michael Saunders puts it nicely: “The fruits of growth continue to go chiefly to the Chancellor and corporate profits, and not consumers”.

Vote for Gordon?

Cash On A Plate

Put away your tuxedos, party dresses and best hooray-henry guffaws, the era of the Tory fund-raising bash could be over.

The Mirror reports that the Conservatives are facing a ban on ‘cash for dinners’ banquets by the over-worked Commons Sleaze watchdog.

Reports claim that the party of Opposition have raked in over £1 million a year from their ‘lavish feasts’ in the House of Commons dining rooms, with voice-of-the-people David Cameron thought to have raised £100,000.

However, Standards Commissioner Sir Philip Mawer is likely to outlaw the practice and give the Tories a slap on the wrist for exploiting Parliament.

But isn’t that what all the political parties do? What are they without Parliament?

Kylie Should Be So Lucky

One of the great phenomena of New Labour’s Britain, the ‘consultant’, has a new king – step forward Bob Kiley.

The72-year old American, brought over by Ken Livingston to erm, ‘consult’ on London’s transport system, has admitted to receiving up to £737,500 over two and a half years for doing, in his words, “not much”.

According to the Guardian, the former CIA man, who also admitted to having a drink problem, quit his job as London’s transport tsar back in 2005 but is still picking up a rather hefty ‘retainer’ as well as enjoying the comforts of the £2 million grace and favour Belgravia townhouse Red Ken bought for him on behalf of Transport for London.

When asked about his continuing fees by the Evening Standard, Kiley’s reply is sure to embarrass Livingstone: “If you ask me what I actually do to earn my consultancy I’d have to tell you, in all honesty, not much”.

What price honesty?

Picture: Poldraw

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

United Kingdom Of Sainsbury

jamie_oliver.jpgTHE continuing plans to turn Britain into one giant supermarket were given another boost today when friend of the community Sainsbury’s published healthy new sales figures.

With a number of private equity firms reported to be planning an imminent takeover, the figures which show a 5.9% growth in sales in the 12 weeks to March 24th are sure to have the Sainsbury’s big-wigs dancing in the aisles.

Reuters finger Marks & Spencer as another company currently pondering a takeover bid for Sainsbury’s, who now have around 16.5 of the country’s 125 billion pound grocery market.

The Sainsbury’s group claim the impressive sales results are due to store refurbishments, a growth in the sale of Fair Trade products, a focus on healthy eating not to mention the sale of goods linked to the national “Red Nose” charity day.

Making money out of charity – another reason to love your big supermarket.

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

New Labour – New Poverty

politics.jpgIN a blow to Gordon Brown, new figures reveal that poverty is on the increase in these fair isles for the first time in six years, news that reflects rather badly on the Chancellor.

The Guardian reports that the official figures, released by the government, show that the number of people living in poverty – calculated as those living on 60% of average incomes – rose to 12.7 million in 2005/06 from 12.1 million the previous year while the number of children living in poor families rose by 200,000 to 3.8 million.

Jim Murphy, the Minister for Welfare Reform tried to spin the dismal figures, “Despite these figures”, he faffed, “we have, over the past decade, had the fastest falling levels of child poverty in Europe”.

While that well-known friend of the poor, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, lambasted the findings, “We need a different approach. Simply throwing money at the problem has failed”.

I for one would be delighted if they threw some money at me.

Posted: 28th, March 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)

Ofcom Cuts Phone Bills

banksy-telephone-booth.jpgOFCOM have decided to cut the cost of calling mobiles, says the Times.

The communications regulator will impose the price cuts until 2011, with the average home phone bills likely to fall by about £8 a year.

Still, anything that gets the big boys to cough up just a little more is worth celebrating, although mobile phone operator 3 are apparently pondering a challenge to the ruling.

Overall, Ofcom puts the consumer savings at between £400 and £500 million a year for the next four years (don’t get too excited, it’s still only £8 a year on a typical home home bill) although mobile phone customers won’t gain at all as any savings will be offset by price increases elsewhere.

Posted: 28th, March 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)

Building The 2012 London Olympics From Scratchcards


WEMBLEY – the new Wembley – is ready and one day so too will be the new Olympic complex in the East End of London. And Beau Bo D’Or has the pictures to give hope to one and all that it will be ready on time.

But it needs paying for. A huge sports stadium at the less salubrious end of London doesn’t build itself. The budget for the 2012 London Olympics has risen to £9.35bn, nearly four times the £2.4bn estimate when London’s bid succeeded.

Construction is now budgeted at £5.3bn. There is a £2.7bn “contingency fund”, in case builders fail to reach their targets. If they do, the workers can be assured that they will be well paid for extra work.

Do you think the construction companies will need to tap into this massive pot of spare cash?

Maybe. Just maybe. Try it with your loft extension. Tell the builder that if he fails to do the job on time and to budget, you have an extra, say, ten grand in your back pocket that he can have. Let us know what happens.

But the Olympics is a good cause. So an extra £675m will be squeezed from lottery funds – now £1 in every £5 of good cause money goes to the Olympics.

So dig deep. Then deeper. Buy one of our new Olympic scratchcards. Keep the flame alive…

It will happen. Here’s a reminder of how the new Wembley was once a dream…


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

PC’s Supermarket Sweep

sweep3.jpgAS big corporations continue to get even more money out of us by whatever means necessary, a humble copper has managed to stick one in the eye of big business, albeit illegally.

“PC Clubcard” as the Telegraph hilariously (my side are actually splitting) christens policeman Shaun Pennicott, found a loophole in Tesco’s Clubcard system and systematically returned to their stores, day and night, in order to repeatedly scan the same voucher at self-service tills.

All this scanning eventually earned the 42-year-old office a whopping 75,000 points which he then converted into British Airways air-miles.

The Times reports that the 42-year-old, who has a holiday home in Tenerife, initially took advantage of a Tesco promotion involving Bird’s Eye meals, buying 759 of the cheapest meals in three days, thus legally receiving 38,000 Clubcard points.

However, his Clubcard habit grew to the rather mundane point where he was popping into the supermarket at every opportunity.

An £800 fine and an order to do 120 hours community service was the criminal mastermind’s punishment, although apparently, according to Tesco themselves, the loophole is still open as it would be too costly to close down.

Hmmm, I suddenly feel the need for a few hundred fish fingers…..

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

More Council Tax

ind1.jpgTHAT mess of rubbish strewn on the ground after the bin-men have been, those street-lights than haven’t worked for years, the graffiti on the wall outside that has never been cleaned up (although maybe the latter is a Banksy creation)…

Well, it’s all paid for by your council tax contributions and now, according to the Telegraph, you’ll have to pay even more.

The Government are expected to unveil above-inflation council tax increases today, with bills set to rise by an average of 4.2%.

Indeed, since New Labour came to power, council tax revenues have more than doubled to £23.5 billion while the bill for an average band D home has shot up by 85% in the same period.

Tony Blair’s home comes with the job…

Posted: 27th, March 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Barclay’s Diamond Geezer

ccprof06.jpgAS large swathes on the British population continue to challenge their banks over illegal bank charges, let’s spare a thought for the appropriately monikered Barclays president Bob Diamond.

The Independent tells us that the 55 year-old could earn a potential £42 million for his work in 2006.

That figure is apparently made up of a “basic salary of just £250,000” (not much more than the minimum wage then), with a cash bonus of £10.4 million and shares worth £4.5 million thrown in.

The Telegraph puts the total figure at a measly £22 million which still makes the passionate Chelsea fan the best paid executive of a British listed company.

Not surprisingly, Barclays did their best to justify the enormous salary package, claiming that it was “linked to performance and should be seen in the light of actual achievement”, while the BBC’s business editor has little problem with the salary either.

Mr Diamond’s overdraft limit is not reported…

Posted: 27th, March 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)

We Shall Not be Moved By Estate Agents

estate-agents.jpgMOVING house is considered to be one of the most stressful things one can do, along with filling in your tax returns and watching Steve McClaren’s England play.

However, according to the Telegraph, the average homebuyer now has the added pressure of rapidly rising taxes and costs.

Indeed, in the last decade, the cost of moving house has almost tripled to a staggering £10,000.

The BBC takes its figures from a recent survey by and the website breaks those costs down into £5,000 in stamp duty, £3,000 in fees for those lovely estate agents, £1000 for those similarly lovely lawyers and their fees and finally, around £450 for removal costs.

Not surprisingly, with people discouraged by these hideous costs and deciding to stay where they are, the current market has the fewest properties on sale in a decade.

Boom & Gloom

Staying with the wonderful world of housing, the nation’s capital, home to Pearly Kings, Russian billionaires and a never-ending choice of free newspapers, has enjoyed yet another property boom with March experiencing the largest monthly increases in four years, says the Guardian.

In a report by Hometrack, London has apparently become ‘disconnected from the rest of the country’, with property prices rising by 1.8% in March, the biggest hike since the summer of 2002.

With demand for homes in the city from bonus-rich City boys and a shortage of properties in the capital, this metropolitan boom has, according to the Independent, lead to a ‘ripple effect’ in the suburbs, with the likes of Sutton, Merton and Brent all seeing big price increases.

Posted: 26th, March 2007 | In: Money | Comment

eBay & The Web Of Deceit

untitled.JPGNOT content with being skinned alive by outrageous bank charges, the innocent consumer has now also been taking to the cleaners by that purveyor of all known evils – the internet.

According to a survey by Get Safe Online in conjunction with the BBC, 12% of us have suffered online fraud in the last 12 months, at an average loss of £875.

Ebay’s Garreth Griffith (a man with the rather woolly title of ‘head of trust and safety’), whose website has been the target of all sorts of fraud and phishing shenanigans, urges its users to read the website’s security information – “Just as people buying a video recorder dispense with the instruction manual so that mentality manifests itself on the internet.”

Good point. But what’s a video recorder?

Posted: 26th, March 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Old Folks’ Homes – The 127-Year Mortgage

theladykillerspic.jpgBACK to the property game for a tale of either admirable trust or bad business practise, depending on your point of view.

A 102-year-old pensioner from East Sussex has been given a £200,000 mortgage to be repaid over 25 years, says the Mirror.

The unnamed man, born the same year as Christian Dior, Jean-Paul Sartre and Howard Hughes, will be 127 if the loan runs its full term, beating the world-record for the world’s longest-living person, which currently stands at 122.

However, while more and more pensioners are looking to boost their savings with investments in property, Age Concern’s Gordon Lishman is indeed concerned.  

Says he: “It’s crucial they think through the long-term implications. Changes in circumstances, such as retirement illness and disability, divorce and bereavement can all contribute to debt problems later in life”.

One suggests that it’s the ‘bereavement’ bit that may have the most relevance in this case.

Posted: 26th, March 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)

Arsenal Takeover Mystery

arsenal.jpgAS Arsenal buy yet another teenage prodigy in Arsene Wenger’s quest to field the first-ever pre-pubescent Premiership team, Arsenal fans’ interest has turned to boardroom shenanigans.

As the last of the big four Premiership clubs to remain in English hands, somewhat ironically considering their penchant for foreign talent, fears are rising that a takeover bid from either Russia or the Middle-East could be on the cards, according to the Times.

The north Londoners’ largest shareholder, diamond dealer Danny Fizman, has recently offloaded some of his stake in the club, a move which has seen the club’s share price rise £900 to £6,200 in just a week.

However, just who has been buying Fizman’s shares (659 of them at £5,975 a pop) remains to be seen. Although the Arsenal powers-that-be continue to deny takeover rumours, a spokesman for the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust admitted, “It is all very intriguing. We know who is selling, but we don’t know who is buying the shares or why”.

Could it be a Russian oligarch? A Qatar billionaire? A mild-mannered janitor? Or maybe it’s a Royal Bank of Scotland director?

Posted: 23rd, March 2007 | In: Money | Comment

George Osbourne’s Tuppence Worth

george-osborne.jpgAS the dust settles on Gordon Brown’s less-than-exciting two penny budget, people wanting to claim for the government’s tax credits scheme will have to wade through a voluminous 60 page booklet before filling in a fiddly 12 page form, says the Sun.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne is the first to bemoan the system. Says he: “Gordon Brown has increased taxes on hard-working families and then he expects them to fill in a complicated form to try to get back their own money”.

Fill in a form? In order to get money back? 12 whole pages? The cheek! The inconvenience! The injustice! Etc…

See our tribute to Gordon  

Posted: 23rd, March 2007 | In: Money | Comment

Don’t Bank On It – RBS Staff Brought To Account

rbs.jpgWHAT with underhanded bank charges and a colourful history of dodgy dealing, one could be forgiven in thinking that the banking establishment had all the morals of a money-grabbing ethically bankrupt dog. (Albeit one who could deal with the intricacies of the global financial market while weeing against lampposts).

Surely not?

 Well, according to the Guardian, the Royal Bank of Scotland is the latest bank to show its nasty side.

In a letter from the bank’s chief executive of retail market operations, Gordon Pell, RBS’ own staff has been threatened with disciplinary action if they decide not to open an RBS account. “Failure to do so will represent a breach of group policy and I will be obliged to write directly to your line manager asking them to progress this matter according to the group’s disciplinary policy”, writes Pell.

Apparently at interview stage, potential RBS staff are told that, in order to receive their salary, they will be required to open an account with the bank, a policy which has understandably angered finance union Amicus says the BBC. “If you work for Tesco you won’t be disciplined for buying your groceries from Sainsbury’s”, says union official Rob MacGregor, “RBS’s disproportionate and heavy-handed approach is counterproductive and bad for morale”.

Look out for RBS employees in the firm’s complaints department complaining to themselves about the bank’s high bank charges…

Posted: 23rd, March 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)

Gordon Brown – Because He’s Worth It


GORDON Brown has stopped.

THE Royal Mint has moved quickly to ensure that there will be enough two pence pieces in circulation in time for the drop in income tax announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown in the Budget.

Said the Mint’s chairman, Sir Marmaduke Copperbottom on Thursday: ‘We are now minting new “Gordons”, as the coins are already known, and they should fill the demand.’

The Spine

Posted: 22nd, March 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)

Flare Is Flare

bcr.jpgWITH the Beebs’ hit cop drama ‘Life On Mars’ giving us a weekly retro-hit of the Seventies, some of the era’s most memorable icons are shaping up for a court-room drama all of their own.

According to the Mirror, those high-priests of tartan (and crap hair-cuts) the Bay City Rollers are suing Arista Records for millions of pounds in unpaid royalties.

According to the band’s lawyers, the Rollers have only received one royalty cheque for £129,940, paid in 1997, since they finally split at the beginning of the eighties and have been forced to say ‘bye bye baby’ (it’s the only song of theirs I know) to countless other millions.

Considering the fact that, according to the same lawyers, Arista’s excuse for not paying out a penny more is due to the fact that the record industry giant apparently “does not know who to pay”, the ageing former Scottish teen idols may have a strong case.

The Mirror also tells us that singer Les McKeown is still touring while “another Roller became a plumber”. Great research.

Posted: 22nd, March 2007 | In: Money | Comment