06 March 2014

What’s been happening here?

It looks like we have been away for a few months however behind the scenes we have been working on new services and seeking further funding support… more about that in the coming weeks.

The MyMoneyPA ‘lifestyle’ personal assistant service has been discontinued.  We will explain why in later blogs.

So what have we thought about the events since the last blog?  We have loads of views on many aspects of how the consumer suffers at the hands of large greedy organisations however the banks seem to continue to bring out news that beggars belief.  The two standout stories are the Co-op’s demise and RBS’s continuing woes.

With a reported loss of £2bn the Co-operative Group is now considering selling off its farms and pharmacies.  It was the model for mutually owned business but its vision and delivery was a relic from the last century.  Its merger with the Britannia Building Society and the purchase of grocery chain Somerfield’s seem to have been at the root of their problems.

RBS’s problems just keep emerging.  It appears that they will post losses of around £8bn in 2013.  With new provisions for US litigation charges, payment protection and interest rate swaps along with the creation of a ‘bad bank’, the mainly state owned bank is a long way from moving back to the private sector… if it ever does!  On top of this we heard how the two partially state owned banks RBS and Lloyds engineered the demise of small firms for their own gain.

With these eye watering amounts of lost money, the really big question in all these stories is who is responsible and accountable?  The main perpetrators are hidden from view, have received huge salaries (they may no longer be with the organisation) and have not suffered the pain and anguish of their customers.  We’re not talking about the unfortunate people at the front end that simply carry out the wishes of management but the huge number of non-execs, senior managers and key advisors.  There needs to be more accountability for past decisions including prison sentences (where criminal activity or fraud is involved) and greater recovery of salaries and bonuses (perhaps via fines).

28 September 2013

Why Sell The Royal Mail And The North East Rail Line And Build HS2?

Why do some governments sell off well run and profitable businesses? Is it short term gain to pay off debts or political dogma?

Why does the Government intend to retain up to a 49.99% stake in Royal Mail? Does this  say it all really i.e. “It’s a profitable business but we need some cash now and the future dividends might be useful”. 

Royal Mail will be valued at an estimated £3.3 billion pounds. Most shares are expected to go to canny institutional investors. They know a good thing when they see it! The minimum investment for private investors will be £750.

Vince Cable says the sale will give Royal Mail “access to the private capital it needs to modernise the service”. Who would like to see “public” capital ploughed into this service rather than HS2 which will cost at least £50 billion and not reach the north east?

I don’t know about you, but I love my “postie”, both at home and at work. They work hard in all weathers to deliver on foot, bike or van. Most of the public think so too, especially those in rural areas.

Also, the north east rail line, (Edinborough to London), is up for sale. Currently in public hands, it is well run and profitable. So why sell it against public opposition?

We think the Government should scrap HS2 and invest in the Royal Mail and maintaining rail and road links throughout the UK. £50 billion to save 20 minutes off a rail journey does not make sense.

12 September 2013

HS2 - The Big White Elephant - Government Just Not Listening!

Thomas Frey, the futurist, recently looked at teenagers 20 years ago, their lifestyle today and what it may be like in 20 years time. He states that in 1994 “IBM Think Pads, Dell PCs, and Compaq Computers were hot. Steve Jobs shut down his NeXT Computer business, setting the stage for him to return to Apple in 1997.  Amiga, Commodore, and Atari computers were still around but in their waning years. Laptops were available, but rather clunky and crude. The Motorola PowerBook and IBM ThinkPad were early leaders in portability.”

He then goes on to compare to today. “Desktop computers are currently in their waning years, replaced by the likes of iPad, Xooms, Kindles, Chrome books, Nexus, Galaxy, and Mac Books. But smart phones now handle most of the heavy lifting. Nearly all information is stored on cloud-based services like Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive.”

The rate of change is accelerating due to new technologies and we are seeing massive changes in how society operates in the way in which people communicate and how people work.

Yesterday the BBC website said that a new report by KPMG had stated the HS2 rail project could boost the economy by £15bn per annum.  But the economic boost will not be felt until 2037.  That is 24 years away!  Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin used the report to reassert the case for HS2.  There are well over 1,000 comments from consumers on the website and almost all reject the case as a big white elephant.

McLoughlin believes that faster journey times and taking an estimated 500,000 Lorries off the road justify a £42.6bn budget.  The report has so many indeterminates in it, for example it states “the number of people who can reasonably access employment in South Yorkshire increases by nearly 32% as a result of investment in HS2”.  This is tosh!  How many people in South Yorkshire will use HS2 to get to work? Why not give part of the money to businesses in the area to grow and assist in exporting?

Let’s leave the justification to one side now and look at the major players in this. The elected Government is supposed to spend OUR cash wisely to assist everyone, businesses and consumers, to live a better life. The electorate is saying they don’t want this expenditure. Big businesses want it, especially those that supply to Government, such as the big consultancy and construction firms, as they will benefit. They know how to milk government contracts for maximum profit. We just need to review the many failed defence, building and IT projects to get confirmation of this.

In the reportthere is no evidence of where business and culture will be in 2034?  The market will be in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) along with other emerging economies.

So how do we in the UK compete? Good transport infrastructure is needed across the country, not just between a few chosen cities. Plus, technology will allow us to do most of our business via electronic means. The way we do business in 20 years time and the actual locations where we purchase from will be dramatically different. So why are we trying to save 30 minutes on a train journey between two cities?   

The decision making on this will be a good test as to whether the Government is really forward thinking and listening to the electorate, or whether it only listens to big business.  The next election will be won on the economy, but the politicians really do need to justify any major decision and really listen to the voters before then. 

05 September 2013

Wonga, Bale, Debt, Welfare Reform and Frost – Oh, it just gets worse and worse – for some!

Where are we going with money today?  The rich seem to get richer whilst the poor continue to struggle in very challenging circumstances.  This week’s news that Wonga has just increased pre-tax profits by more that a third to £84.5m shows that there are many desperate people out there trying to manage cash day-by-day and struggling to do so.  Their dilemma is that the cost of a Wonga loan, even if it is paid back in the agreed time, is very expensive and will still exacerbate their situation.

The Wonga profits would just about pay the fee that Real Madrid coughed up for Gareth Bale at the beginning of the week. A stunning world record of £85.3m. His wages of £300,000 a week or £15.6m a year is so much out of kilter with an averages fan’s wage that it is totally incomprehensible.  His 6 year deal will net him over £90m.  He might be a good footballer but has the world just gone mad?

Credit Action issued their Debt Statistics this week too.  The outstanding personal debt at the end of July stood £1.426 trillion of which outstanding unsecured (consumer credit) lending was £158.3 billion.  The debt levels are still rising – the average household debt in the UK (excluding mortgages) was £6,005 in July. This is up from a revised £5,931 in June.

The Government’s flagship welfare reform has been savaged by the National Audit Office.  The main participants in this reform, people on benefits, could have done with some of the reported £34m investment in IT systems that have been written off.  The project to date has cost a stunning £425m of which 70% has been on IT.  The people responsible in government, who get good salaries and gold plated pensions, and the contractors who maximize their profits when projects overrun will not be feeling the pain of trying to make ends meet.

Well – “That Was The Week That Was” - and on a sad note, the death of David Frost is to be mourned.  He was someone who wasn’t afraid to question those in power and to hold people to account.  And he also made us smile!

22 August 2013

Lottery funded money management research project in Northumberland

Blyth Valley Enterprise Limited (BVEL) has received a grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards For All funding programme to research the need for money management tools in the area. They are working with to carry out the research.

Money Advice Trust state that 10m people in the UK are struggling with debt.  Whilst StepChange the Debt Charity claim that 78% of those in debt say it’s damaged their self confidence.  Research by the Halifax recently concluded that almost 9 in 10 (86%) children aged between 8 and 15 said their parents fret over cash, mirroring a similar proportion of mothers and fathers (92%) who said they were concerned about their finances.

The grant will enable a number of workshops at local community venues in Blyth to engage with potential users to:

  • Investigate the full extent of the problems people face managing their financial affairs.
  • Determine the demand for simple, interactive money management tools.
  • Gather opinions from a wide range of people on the features they would like to have.
  • Understand how they manage their affairs at the moment including the actions they take if they spend more than they earn.
  • Review how they share their situation with friends, family, external advisors, etc.
Flyers advertising the drop in sessions, which are open to everyone, have gone out around the town and hopes are high for a good turnout. Refreshments will be provided.

A spokesperson for BVEL said:

“As a community focussed, not for profit organisation, BVEL is well placed to carry out this much needed research in the current economic climate. We are delighted to be working with MyMoneyPA as they are consumer champions and share our ethical values”.

If the results of the research are positive then further funding will be sought to develop ‘free to use’ money management tools.
The Big Lottery Fund is the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding across the UK.  The Fund aims to enable others to make real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need (

Blyth Valley Enterprise Limited is a not for profit organisation whose aim is to assist new and expanding businesses in the Blyth Valley area by providing managed office and workshop space ( is a free to use online personal assistant which includes a budget planner and an event diary with email reminders. They have a blog about personal finance and consumer issues (

Details of the venues and dates for the research sessions:

Buffalo Community Centre, 55 Regent St, Blyth
·      Wed 4th September - 10.00am to 12.00noon.
·      Wed 4th September - 01.00pm to 03.00pm.
·      Fri 13th September - 10.00am to 12.00noon.
·      Fri 13th September - 01.00pm to 03.00pm.

Isabella Community Centre, Ogle Drive, Blyth
·      Sat 7th September - 10.00am to 12.00noon.
·      Sat 7th September - 01.00pm to 03.00pm.

Briardale Community Centre, Briardale Rd, Blyth
·      Wed 18th September - 10.00am to 12.00noon.
·      Wed 18th September - 01.00pm to 03.00pm.