People of Bedford really generous

August 22nd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

 People of Bedford really generousBedford – it’s alright really, according to new findings from JustGiving.

According to figures from the UK’s biggest fundraising website, Bedford is the most generous town in the UK.

The good people of Bedford, in Bedfordshire, gave £1,145,967 in the year to May 2014, with 41,631 people digging deep into their pockets.

Cambridge came in second place, with £1,440, while Reading was third with £1,711,566.

By calculating the figures of funds donated, in proportion to the giving residents of the town in relation to the town’s overall population.

Those Top 10 Towns:

1. Bedford – £1,145,967 given by 41,631; population 79,150
2. Cambridge – £1,440,634 given by 48,295; population 126,480
3. Reading – £1,711,566 given by 58,235; population 159,247
4. Brentwood – £750,509 given by 21,672; population 74,460
5. Woking – £921,165 given by 27,646; population 99,567
6. Aberdeen – £1,872,610 given by 58,307; population 220,420
7. Cheltenham – £976,995 given by 33,381; population 115,900
8. High Wycombe – £1,004,113 given by 31,658; population 93,736
9. Watford – £737,375 given by 22,643; population 93,736
 10. Bristol – £848,674 given by 28,553; population 121,723

Well done Bedford!

You’ve got something going for you, at least!

Co-op announce losses of £75.8m

August 22nd, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Co op Co op announce losses of £75.8mThe troubled Co-operative Bank have announced pretax losses of £75.8m for the first six months of this year. Losing that amount of money is not a thing to be sniffed at all.

They’ve said that “much needs to be done” in turning around the company, and hopefully, someone was on-hand to give them an award for stating the obvious.

That said, it isn’t all gloom – this is a significant reduction on the £844.6m loss during the same period last year, but at the same time, customers clearly aren’t happy as the bank said they’d lost 28,199 current accounts in the six months to 30th June.

Chief executive, Niall Booker, said the “deep-rooted issues” would continue to impact on the company’s performance for a while yet.

“Considering the scale of the challenge we faced a year ago we are encouraged by the progress made to ensure the stability of the bank. By the measures of capital and liquidity the bank is considerably stronger than it was a year ago. We are ahead of schedule in the disposal of non-core assets and have improved governance, particularly at board level. However, the issues we continue to face in building a sustainable business are deep-rooted and there remains much to be done,” he said.

“Transforming the organisation into a viable and profitable business which generates capital in the long term still requires significant change – both operationally and culturally.”

“The core bank continues to remain stable. In the first half of the year more people switched into the bank than in the second half of 2013. Although we have also seen an increase in the number of people switching out of the bank, the net numbers remain small relative to our total number of current account customers whose continuing loyalty is deeply appreciated. Recent trends suggest this net outflow of retail customers has slowed.”

One thing working in their favour it seems, is that for the most part, people just can’t be bothered to switch their current accounts.

We’re spending less on food

August 22nd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade
lidl shopper 300x199 Were spending less on food

“Mmmm Earlobe risotto! Yum!”

Food shop spending dropped in July for the first time in a quarter of a century.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, a year-on-year fall of 1.3% was the first seen since records began back in January 1989.

The price wars have had some effect, as the report says that prolonged discounting was affecting overall sales.

It goes on to suggest that the big supermarkets have been upping their game against having their market share arses kicked by the likes of Aldi and Lidl.

The headline figure for retail sales showed a weaker than expected 0.1% growth month-on-month.

However, a three-month on three-month increase of 0.3% was the seventh consecutive improvement, the longest period of sustained growth by this measure since November 2007.

It’s also quite good news for online shopping, as spending increased 11.2% in July on a year earlier but fell 1.9% compared to June.

Speaking some sense, and illuminating the caution, Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte said: “Many consumers are yet to feel the benefits of the economic recovery and are reluctant to let go of their recessionary behaviours, particularly when shopping for food.

“Consumers continue to show a willingness to spend on non-food items, but are doing so selectively.”

payday loans Cheap credit websites slammed by Financial OmbudsmanThe Financial Ombudsman is spitting feathers over sites that take money from unwitting people on the promise of finding them cheap credit, only for their loans to vanish into the ether.

Complaints have rocketed to the ombudsman, saying that middlemen for payday loans are leeching all their money from them, without giving them the loan they initially asked for. Some instances saw consumers being debited multiple times without being warned thanks to their bank details being passed onto other credit broking websites.

And it is a big problem – the ombudsman says that, so far this year, over 10,000 people have complained about credit broking websites. That’s twice the number of complaints from 2013.

One of the main problems is that people are using these sites thinking that they were direct applications for loans, rather than a middleman.

Senior ombudsman Juliana Francis said: “It’s disappointing that people who are struggling to make ends meet are being misled into thinking that these websites will get them a loan.”

If you have problems regarding this, it is definitely worth telling the ombudsman because the majority of cases they’ve taken on have resulted in a refund.

In two-thirds of the investigated complaints, the ombudsman agreed that the consumer had been on the end of unfair treatment. So don’t be shy and get in touch with them.

Interest rates: no need for rise

August 20th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

British high street 300x180 Interest rates: no need for riseThanks to supermarket price wars and sales on the high street this summer, there’s been no need for the Bank of England to go ahead with early interest rate rises. Hurrah!

The consumer prices index, or CPI, went from 1.9% to 1.6% last month, which means it is still below the Bank’s 2% target for the seventh month on the trot.

The Office for National Statistics reckon this is down to a third month of falling food costs, which is due to the supermarkets scrambling for what customers they can get with all manner of discounts and offers.

The July RPI figure, which they use to set next year’s regulated rail fares, came in at 2.5%, which hopefully is good news for commuters expecting a massive price increase in the new year.

The City was a bit freaked out by the drop in CPI. Experts said the lack of evidence of inflation would stay the hand of the Monetary Policy Committee from a first rate since 2007.

There’ll no doubt be more exciting news like that when the Bank publishes the minutes of its August meeting, but otherwise that’s all quite optimistic news isn’t it?

Please say it is.

Petrol prices down for the bank holiday

August 19th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

asda petrol Petrol prices down for the bank holidayIt’s the last bank holiday before Christmas, so to celebrate, supermarkets have cut petrol prices by up to 2p a litre and diesel by 1p!

Asda kicked it off when they bugled that they’d be cutting their prices today (Tuesday), capping petrol at 124.7p a litre and diesel at 128.7p, which is the lowest the chain have had since January 2011.

Then Sainsburys and Tesco both chipped in by saying they’d be reducing their prices on petrol and diesel too, although neither chain has a national price cap.

Supermarkets being supermarkets, they’ve always had the chance to offer cheaper deals for the driver, especially when tied up in points and rewards and brand loyalty type stuff.

However this move has been seen as a response to the otherwise slightly dearer independents, according to Paul Watters, AA’s head of public affairs

“We have seen competitive independent retailers east of London selling petrol as low as 125.9p a litre recently, which heralded a more general move by Asda,” he said. “With its national pricing policy, that lower pricing will be spread to drivers across the UK and will spur other retailers to follow.”

“However, depressed demand is also a major influence as families in the UK, Europe and the US continue to struggle with family finances. Although pump price movements have been relatively benign this year, the trauma of price spikes from 2011 into 2013 continues to haunt drivers.”

According to the AA, the average price across the UK yesterday was 129.71p a litre, and diesel was 133.74p.

The other supermarkets are set to follow, because that’s what they do.

HSBC and First Direct simplify charges

August 18th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

HSBC HSBC and First Direct simplify chargesRejoice, dear HSBC and First Direct customers, for unauthorised charges are going to be simplified!

At the moment, the banks charge £25 set-up fee for people going over their agreed limit.

However, from November this will change to a £5-a-day usage fee, capped at £80 for a monthly charging period, somewhat less appalling than the current £150.

The charges are also capped by the amount the account holder exceeds their authorised overdraft limit: so if the transgression is only of the order of £15, that is the maximum that they will be charged, even if they stay over this limit for more than three days.

Customers will also benefit from a £10 unauthorised overdraft ‘buffer’ before any charges start to kick in.

Also, which is quite handy, the banks will alert customers who go over their limit by text. They won’t be charged anything if their balance is within their limit before 11.45pm the same day.

This move follows Barclays’ recent re-jigging of their charges system.

A man named Andy Mielczarek, head of retail products at HSBC UK, said: ”We have spent time listening to our customers on how we can improve our overdraft offering.”

“These changes have been designed to provide a simpler way for customers to understand the cost of any borrowing not agreed in advance.”

The bank helpfully point out that there will be no charges if you DO stick in your limit. Well, duh. Next time though, how about getting rid of pointless charges altogether?

Npower lose both customers and cash

August 15th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

npower logo Npower lose both customers and cashNpower has shed 62,000 of household customers in the last year.

That’s a bit careless.

The troubled energy supplier also reported a 38% drop in profit for the first six months of the year.

Profit before tax and interest payments on debt fell to £109m, or about £14 per customer, from £176m last year, npower said.

Understandably, the firm is spending more on improving its customer service, while costs of the government’s energy efficiency scheme have risen.

There’s also a worry that coal and gas stations may be shut down as low wholesale prices are making them run at a loss.

Npower also blamed the mild weather and one-off factors for the drop in profits to 2.27bn euros (£1.8bn), which is a little bit daft seeing as it is actually Summer and it is supposed to be the time people tend to lay off the radiator action.

They have until the end of the month to sort out its billing problems or it will be forced to stop all telephone sales to new customers. Apparently, their challenge for its customer services is to ‘become a more human interface while remaining compliant’.

Well, using language like ‘interface’ and ‘compliant’ is really going to help there, pal.

wonga ladies 300x282 Payday loans companies not entirely honest shockPayday lenders and credit services must do more to make sure they aren’t misleading customers.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), who took over supervision of the consumer credit market, has looked into 1,500 promotions being offered by various lenders and debt managers and general hoodlums, and has opened 227 cases into promotions that looked a bit iffy.

Unsurprisingly, payday lenders aren’t particularly hot on such things as the facts, and hoodwink customers with puppets and other nonsense, while sneaking through completely unreasonable risk warnings or representative APRs.

Rules state that all promotions must be clear, fair and not misleading for consumers.

Various promotions that did not meet the new regulations include nefarious sponsored links, when someone Googles ‘debt help’ and is lead off to a magical world only to be mislead.

General advertising arsery where loans weren’t entirely clear about their rates and credit also got a shoeing.

Clive Adamson, who is a director of supervision at the FCA, said: “It is important that all firms ensure financial promotions are fair, clear and not misleading so that customers are able to make informed decisions.”

“We are disappointed to see standards fall short of what we expect, particularly in the consumer credit space, four months from when we took over regulation.”

“We believe that firms in this sector can do more to ensure financial promotions meet the standards we would expect and will continue to monitor performance in this area.”

While the firms are all “Yes, we’re sorry. It won’t happen again”, the regulator plans to continue monitoring them and have words should anyone fall breach again.

We’ll see.

zs 300x222 Ladbrokes profits halved despite some footballLadbrokes have seen their profits almost halved in the first six months of 2014, from £55 million to £27.7 million.

And that’s even factoring in a boost from betting around this year’s World Cup football tournament.

Operating profits dropped more than a fifth, after some rough weeks, such as for football in January and also a higher percentage of favourites winning horse races.

This follows news earlier this year of losses from 2013 due to a bugger up with investment in new technology, and took longer than it should have to achieve an online presence due to a calamitous new software developer.

Group chief executive Richard Glynn reckoned that the company had managed to complete all its planned improvements in time for the World Cup, and the small upswing there reflected that.

“Our offer performed well, delivering a great betting experience for our customers and a good result for the business in a highly competitive market.”

He goes on: “We now have the products, the platforms, the people and the brand in place to deliver. Ladbrokes today is a far stronger company and positioned for growth.”

Wanna bet? HAHAHAHAHA. Sorry.

Nokia to release a £15 handset

August 12th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

Nokia have unveiled their cheapest handset yet!

The Nokia 130 is aimed at customers in emerging markets such as Africa and the Middle East. It comes as both single and dual-SIM card varieties, and costs a sniptacular $25 (or £14.50).

nokia 130 500x281 Nokia to release a £15 handset

It doesn’t have the internet, which is now obviously the first thing one wants when looking for a phone, but is optimised for music and video playback, with up to 46 hours worth of music playback time and 16 hours of video. Music and videos can be stored locally on the device with an SD card (the phone itself can store up to 32 GB).

Before you say “Well that just sounds like an elderly iPod you can chat on”, it also comes equipped with an FM radio, flashlight and 1.8-inch LCD display.

Nokia’s daddy Microsoft is quite keen to engage with people who have yet to own a Microsoft or Nokia gadget.

In a rather creepy interview with Recode, Microsoft’s Jo Harlow said: “Microsoft doesn’t have any other project that can reach these consumers.”

“These consumers will create a Microsoft account and become part of the Microsoft ecosystem.”

There’s no release date as yet for the Nokia 130, but it will be available in Africa, the Middle East and a handful of European countries. And pretty soon, you can probably “source” one off eBay.

Blind will be able to see by 2016

August 11th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

oxford smart glasses 300x242 Blind will be able to see by 2016High-tech glasses that help the blind and partially sighted to actually see, could be in the actual shops in 2016.

Created by the University of Oxford, and in eventual conjunction with the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB), the high-falutin’ glasses have a 3D camera that helps maximise a person’s vision, by separating and highlighting objects in their limited vision.

RNIB’s Solutions managing director Neil Heslop claimed to Sky News that trials with the glasses had proven to be a huge success with their guinea pigs.

There are approximately 360,000 registered blind and partially sighted people in the UK, of which it is said that 150,000 of them will benefit from the new specs.

Admittedly, right now they look quite clunky, what with that whole ‘having to cart a laptop around with them’ thing.

However after Google’s Impact Challenge threw them £500,000 after winning a competition, the team at Oxford can modify the glasses and headset into something more streamline.

More trials are happening as the team hone their design into a more practical shape, but the goal is for them to be available by 2016 around the £300 mark.

Hurrah for technology making a nice difference to lives, and hurrah for being able to see in general!

Here’s a butchers at the glasses in action

Tax credit crisis as claimants miss deadline

August 11th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

tax credits 300x221 Tax credit crisis as claimants miss deadlineA load of people have failed to renew their tax credit claims, and now face a world of palaver as they could be cancelled.

According to figures from the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), some 455,000 claimants haven’t renewed their claims, even though the deadline for renewals was delayed after strike action buggered things up.

A three-day walkout by Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members, meant that the deadline was pushed back by a week.

Households up and down the UK rely on tax credit payments, helping families and the like with basic needs and childcare.

Claimaints who do bother, can now also do it online thanks to a new service from HMRC.

Approximately three million people did renew in time for the deadline, and while the 455,000 who didn’t do it in time, this is lower than the 650,000 who were tardy last year.

If the deadline has completely passed you by, get in touch with the UK Tax Authority sharpish.

insurance def 300x199 Are you being charged for being savvy about your buildings insurance?The mid-nineties were dark days. Not just because of Peter Andre and East 17 but also because those were the shady times when building societies forced you to take out their own buildings insurance policies when you had a mortgage with them- at a healthily inflated premium of course.

But in the face of a sledgehammer of legislation to tackle the problem, the practice was dropped, and in today’s more enlightened times, new buyers are free to shop around, using any one of the multiple comparison sites around to secure the best deal on home insurance.

However, there is still an issue for homeowners. Last month comparethemarket.com (the one with the rodents) calculated that, for thesignificant number of people, who have not switched since taking out their home insurance under sufferance through their original lender, they could have saved ‘legacy losses’ totalling around £2.2bn – an average of £1,446 per household over the last 20 years.

Additionally, the cheeky anthropomorphic creatures discovered that some building societies, mostly smaller regional ones, are still levying a penalty charge of up to £45 if you choose not to take out their overpriced insurance.s

Sounds a bit rum. Of course, the building societies can’t actually charge you for not buying their products, that would be madness. What they can do, however, is charge you an administration fee for requiring sight of your alternative insurance provider to ensure that it is, in fact, bona fide. Unlike the admin charge itself.

The comparethemarket.com research found Ipswich building society to be the worst offender in a list of 18 lenders which charge home buyers for daring to choose a cheaper insurance provider.Ipswich charges £45, but out of the other charging lenders, the largest is Skipton, which charges £25.

Simon McCulloch of comparethemarket.com said, based on the mortgage and remortgage market share of those lenders that impose a fee, consumers are collectively paying nearly £2m a year for these charges.

“These charges are essentially a tax on being financially proactive and prudent,” he said. “Shopping around for buildings and contents insurance saves a third of UK households more than £100, which could, for example, pay for your first six months broadband after you move house. But charges like these are designed to put people off doing this and, in many instances, to tie them into more expensive products.”

A spokesman for the Ipswich said: “The society has recently conducted a review of the ‘own insurance’ mortgage fee. The result of this is that we intend to remove this fee for all applications from 1 September 2014.”

A Skipton spokesman said: “There is a charge we make to ensure that if someone buys their buildings insurance elsewhere, we need to check that the property is properly insured.”

And yes, I know they are mammals.

grandparent 225x300 Pensions likely to be cashed in after new rules, claim taxmen The taxman reckons a third of the workers who retire with private pensions next year, will cash in their pot immediately.

Due to new rules introduced in March’s Budget, retirees are allowed to dip into their pension savings at normal tax rates.

Of the 400,000 retirees, HM Revenue & Customs is expecting approximately 130,000 will do it.

After the quarter of a pension pot which can be accessed tax free, from next April, workers will pay their normal income tax rate on further cash released, instead of the 55% tax that is currently charged if someone aged over 55 stops work.

This crystal balls thinking also suggest that due to George Osborne’s shaking up of the system,  the Treasury look set to gain around £3.8 billion over the next five years.

It’s expected these changes will lead to fewer people using their pot to buy an annuity, which pays out a guaranteed yearly income once they’ve retired.

An annuity tends to last for the rest of a retiree’s life and acts as an insurance against the possibility of them outliving their savings.

Although annuities haven’t had the best press of late, what with sinking rates and people not being arsed to find the best deal for themselves.

A man named Paul Green, speaking for Saga, said that a survey it had recently carried out among 2,400 over-50s about the new pension freedom found that one in six (15%) of those still working plan to cash in their full pension pot.

“It is vital that people are properly advised about the tax implications of withdrawing more than 25 per cent of their pension pot before they do something that they may live to regret.”

Take heed of his wise words, or you may as well run into traffic now, dear reader.