Monday, 11 April 2011

Replies from The Bank of England and Brian Hartzer, CEO UK Retail, Wealth & Ulster of RBS Retail Banking

 As the Vickers Report on reform to Britain's banking sector was published today, it seemed like a good time to share two letters that were waiting for me this weekend when I managed to get into the studio...
For context, you might want to scroll back to see the letters I sent to Mervyn King and Brian Hartzer on 18th March. This is the web page mentioned in the reply from the Bank of England - well worth a look and if you feel like offering your opinions on any of the proposals, you have till 14th April to do so.
The Vickers Report is an interim one and Paul Mason has an interesting take on it. The final report, due in September, will be considered by a cabinet committee chaired by George Osborne and any changes are unlikely to take place until 2012. Some Lib Dems say that without complete separation, history will repeat itself and Alistair Darling thinks it is a good first step but hasn't yet gone far enough; before I know what I think, I'll have to go away and read it. It's telling that having just switched on Newsnight, none of the high street banks are able/willing/prepared to attend to defend themselves and discuss the report.

I was disappointed by Brian Hartzer's letter; the suggestion that because other banks award extortionate bonuses and shareholders say it's OK, RBS will carry on doing so does not strike me as a good enough defence for greed. To see the how RBS works out the remuneration of it's Directors, don't go to the link in the letter - it doesn't work. For starters try this instead and I'll see what else I can find before I write back to him about moving my account.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Letter No 18: Blood money

There are many reasons why the Coalitions reform plans are bad for the NHS, which I touched on in late January with a crossword letter. This time I wanted to question Dave Nick and Andrew about one specific proposal which particularly bothers me, namely the repellant idea of privatisation of blood donations. To me (and many of the people with whom I've talked) it feels very wrong for a private company to profit from such an amazing act of altruism as giving blood. Do you believe you can put a price on giving blood to save lives? 

Or maybe you are starting to see the impact of pressure to 'save' money, which amounts to cuts to the NHS, which wasn't what we were promised. Remember when Dave said "I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS"? 
If you feel as I do why not add your name to any or all of the following and ask your friends and families to join in the fight to keep our NHS public :

Added 06.04.11: Apologies to JIM Dobbin MP for calling him Frank in the letter to Dave and Nick (I assume that as he has probably talked with Health Minister Anne Milton about Jim's concerns, Andrew will know whom I meant). Here's a link to the Daily Mail article on the debate at Westminster Hall that Jim Dobbin and Anne Milton took part in.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Letter No 17: Gambling on a Budget for Growth

Is Oliver Letwin this year's April fool? Labour is suggesting so and the Coalition PR team will have gone into overdrive this morning to play down what might prove to be a truthful careless slip.

As I shared with Dave and Nick this week, it was worth spending a bit more time considering the Budget and the overview given by five economists in The Guardian on 23rd March was a good place to start. With fuel prices continuing to rise, the cut to Winter Fuel Allowance will make many pensioners very anxious. According to The Independent, for many "cash is so tight that it can come down to a straight choice between heating and eating". This strikes me as shameful in a country as wealthy as ours. Good job then that there are charities out there like Elizabeth Finn Care. April is Benefits Awareness Month and today they launch a campaign to make people aware of what they are entitled to. For further information go to

P.S. By the way, I'm making progress on the bank front - it's not as onerous as you'd think to move your account...