Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Can't Pay, Won't Pay

I’m a great fan of a character called Martin Lewis, the self-styled Money Saving Expert of radio, TV and the net. He knows how to play the financial services system to find good deals for clued-up punters.
He also urges people to be responsible and prudent in getting out of debt and living within their means.
But I believe he might be missing a trick. He has yet to spot the bargain of the century for people with a wardrobe full of designer clothes they can’t really afford, the memories of a holiday in Las Vegas and brand new replica England kits for the kids.
And the bargain is this. You don’t have to pay for it all. For the "spend generation", where you get what you want and don’t live with the consequences, the panacea to the mounting bills is simply to become insolvent - through something called an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA).
All it takes is a session on the internet filling in details about personal circumstances, then a consultation with an insolvency specialist and then filing through the court to stop those nasty credit card companies from sending any more bills. The clothes still fit, the car still runs well and the house isn’t going to be repossessed - and the bank are willing to let the punter pay about 40p for every £1 they owe.
It might be a tall order to expect someone who has displayed very little personal responsibility to knuckle under a more rigorous financial regime, but that’s one of the requirements of a system run by qualified and regulated insolvency practitioners, as opposed to, say, a loan shark.
Close watchers of the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) cannot have failed to notice the prevalence of companies in this parish offering personal insolvency services and joining AIM. Investors love the success of Chorley-based Debt Free Direct, which floated at the back end of 2002, while others have followed the stampede to the stock market and seen their share prices soar - Accuma, Debtmatters, Clear Debt. Companies offering loans to people the banks won’t touch - like Bury-based Compass Finance - have expanded to offer IVAs to people who think "one last loan might just do it".
So, just as your insurance premiums go up because insurance companies settle bulk claims, however spurious they know them to be; and as you pay off your credit card every month and live within your means, but wonder why you need the help of Martin Lewis to avoid creeping charges - there’s why. Enjoy the summer.
(Lead article, Insider, August 2006)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I fought the law

Andy and Christine Wyeth have produced an absoutely amazing medley of images and sounds from my birthday party.

Not least the picture, above, of me belting out one of the four numbers we perfomed on the night.

I'll try and get some out to people and post a few more on this blog.

Fighting the landbankers in Marple

From time to time this blog will look at a few local issues.

One at the moment regards a property company selling plots in Marple to investors in the hope they will one day get permission for residential development. Very unlikely.

See link on Marple News opposite for more on this.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


One of my boys finished nursery last week. He's now ready for school in September. At the end of his personal yearbook was this lovely piece adapted from the original by Robert Fulghum. So true...

Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in nursery. Wisdom was not at the top of the University mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.These are the things I learned..

Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm biscuits and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup - they all die. So do we.

And then remember the book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and sane living.

Think of what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world had biscuits and milk about 3 o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and cleaned up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

State control of the population

Sustainable development and environmentally-friendly living have become the twin mantras of the modern age. Only this morning as I drove my BMW 4X4 the short distance from home to work I was treated to more water torture of controlling drivel on Radio 5 Live. Some toss about how single men are a threat to the planet, because they leave the Sky Plus box on standby.
There was even a suggestion that communal living was a better way. That single households were to blame....for what?
It's summer and there's sod all to talk about on the news, apart from Lebanon, so this may be throw away chit chat. But be aware that some policy wonk or other will begin seriously suggesting tax breaks for communes. A new tax on fridges. A levy on DVD players. A fine if you don't take your plastic bottles to the tip (I do, by the way, but then I drive a car with plenty of room).
The solution to the greenhouse effect, if it exists, does not lie in peddling guilt and micro-management of people's lives. It lies in developing better and more effecient energy resources. But this doesn't interest the busybodies, quangos and self appointed environmental do gooders. This all comfortably satisfies a need to control, legislate and nanny, because underpinning it is a world view that says people cannot be trusted to control their own lives so we must do it for them.