Archive for the ‘bad government’ Category

Two Worlds, Bankers and Services

December 9, 2009

The impression of a yawning gulf between two worlds was hammered home today.

On the one side we have reckless gamblers, known as bankers, again raking in cash and handsomely rewarding themselves, on the other there is a threat of extremely severe cuts in local services.

Add that to the high levels of unemployment and the collapsing infrastructure of the nation and I can only repeat again that we are in serious danger of becoming the new serfs to the new feudal lords.

This morning’s Financial Times carries a long report (Do-it-yourself warning as state cuts back) of forecasts by the most senior Local Authority professionals. So serious is the matter that we have a joint report from the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, and the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accounting.

 They expect a cut in local services by one third over the three years 2011, 12 and 13. With Alistair Darling forecasting government cuts of over an eighth one might wonder how George Osborne is going to ensure ‘we are all in this together’! If he becomes Chancellor…

 The idea of bankers paying their fair share – any share – of the ‘fine mess they’ve gotten us into’ recedes more every day. They complain that they would not be able to hold onto the best staff otherwise. To which the question must be ‘Best for what?’.

 “But there is undoubtedly going to be a need for individuals and families and communities to do more for themselves, along with the voluntary sector, rather than looking to the state as the provider of first resort,” comment our doughty professionals.

 Bankers, of course, faced no such restrictions to save their bonuses. And, to make that possible,  we are seeing the price we will have to pay for a very long time. Who says ‘the prices is worth it?’ Not those doing the paying.

 For me this raises a very important question. Who is all this for?

 We are dazzled with figures about how we must trade, we must find the cheapest labour, we must become efficient. But must we?

 It certainly makes company balance sheets look better. But who is that for? Not for you and me. Does it matter how cheaply goods are imported if we are out of work and unable to buy them? If just having our refuse collected costs an arm and a leg – or if it is not going to be collected at all?

 It raises many questions about how we organise our world; and many questions about what is important to us as people. Over the coming years those questions will be major discussion points.

 We are offered figures which show green shoots of hope. Today’s double whammy from national and local government leave me feeling distinctly in depression.

Joseph Harris – Debt Control Man
 http://controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk
 Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms

Speedy Members of Parliament

November 3, 2009

I said yesterday I would write to give some self-therapy. And this is it and is, as stated, about MPs.

Now I have no idea what MPs think. In their favour I do know they are asked to deal with a large voter caseload in their constituencies, play a part in the proceedings of the House, both on the floor and in all the other deliberations and hearings, attend to their constituency organisations, give talks and speeches and specialise in various areas.

For some reason they also expect to be able to live a private life ;-).

But I do expect them to give some sort of response to contact either from constituents or on their specialisation’s. And by that I mean even an acknowledgement would be nice.

Andy Love replied a fortnight ago, but only to say he had written to various of the people I had criticised. Karen Buck has taken action to defend debtors in a number of ways, and quite bravely in political terms. But answer to me came there none.

Alistair Darling – well he might be busy, but he has a staff that deal with such things; but no answer from him. George Osborne you might have thought ready to jump at the chance to find a stick to beat this government with – but no response to me.

My biggest disappointment is the man who I have great respect for his clarity and understanding of the financial mess; the man in Parliament who was explaining how Brown policies were heading us over the cliff edge. And doing that before it was mentioned by any but a few others. So what happened Vince Cable? Not even an ‘I’ll get back to you’.

Well, there, I’ve told on them all in the big kids playground. Next blog I start to describe its contents. And on second glance there could be a big surprise for me and for you.

And rather a good one.

If I can getaway with quoting a song that is before even my time:

The sun has got his hat on
So shout hip, hip, hooray…

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man
Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

Lending Code secrecy ‘is a disgrace’

October 12, 2009

I have just released this press release; as you see it is a matter of some seriousness

The new Lending Code, which replaces the credit and financial difficulties sections of the defunct Banking Code, is due to come into effect on November 1. Some nineteen short days away.

There is to be no public sight of these changes, nor any consultation process before these changes come into effect.

Specialist author Joseph Harris – Debt Control Man – has been trying to get sight of these changes since June. He has been told they will not be released until they are in effect on November 1 by Paul Ross, the man who is writing the new document for the British Bankers Association, in an email.

“This is a clear case of dictatorial behaviour,” declares Mr Harris. “It is a disgrace that no one concerned with the field, nor any debtor – whether defaulting or not – has any idea how the changes will affect them.

“Vince Cable was wrong when he said Gordon Brown had changed from Stalin to Mr Bean. On the basis of this secrecy and undemocratic behaviour he remains Stalin.”

Phone calls and emails to the FSA and the OFT result in classic Civil Service dropping the query into the new virtual filing bin.

“Even though there are many rules to help debtors negotiate the treacherous waters of finding the best way for their needs, too many creditors and debt collectors – including the biggest companies – do their best to sidestep them.

“Lack of a clear knowledge of what is happening among debtors and their advisors leaves these worst companies a window of opportunity to harass and bully particularly the poorest and most vulnerable debtors,” adds Mr Harris, author of Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk/book-cydc/cydc_Book_intro.shtml .,

“It is also a tragedy that the opportunity to include the requests of the Treasury Select Committee in 2005 and of the Money Advice Liaison Group has been lost.”

While most of the Banking Code is being operated as statutory Code of Practice directly by the FSA, the credit and financial difficulties sections move to the The Office of Fair Trading to sit beside the OFT’s duties controlling issue of Consumer and Business Credit Licences.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man

Banking Code Changes Update

July 27, 2009

In trying to sort the changes out, particularly in how they affect defaulting debtors, I have been led a merry dance.

I think I have emailed or phoned or both, almost every player in this game of musical chairs.

Finally I remembered that the last time I needed to make sense of this area I got sense from the Banking Code Standards Board. So my thanks to them once again.

I have since spoken to others to try to get detail of how exactly the changes will take effect from November 1. That is pretty close for all those who will be affected, especially the helping organsiations like the CABs and Law Centres.

It seems that while most of the Banking Code disappears into the winding corridors of the Financial Services Authority, the parts dealing with lending move to the Office of Fair Trading – except they don’t.

The wording of the new Lending Code [possibly that is the title] is to be managed by the British Banking Association, which has always done it, and it will be monitored by the Standards Board, which has always done that!

And the OFT will, er, enforce fair treatment, and it has always done that!

So welcome to the new-old, different and unchanged system.

Well the changes have to be re-written, but it seems there will be little time for picking up any errors in wording or possible interpretation. And I understand nothing new will go in before 2011.

Not the advice of the Treasury Committee of 2005, nor that from the Money Advice Trust on behalf of MALG in 2007 – nor anyting else.

Well nothing of help to debtors, anyway.

Let you know what more comes to light.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

New Banking Code?

June 24, 2009

I assumed that the take over of the Banking Code by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) is going to make a much more useful regime, from the point of view of the debtor.

Now I am far less certain.

Catching up on material like the comments to the last review of the code, and comments on the FSA proposals, I find that the FSA proposals appear to change from the rule approach to a ‘principles-based’ one.

Now your guess is as good as mine as to what that means. Next month the FSA is to publish its proposals – for adoption in November. Do keep an eye open for these proposals.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureaux (CAB), for example, expresses great concern about the proposed changed of style and the fact that the enforcement will be even less than the limp penalties under the British Banking Association (BBA) regime.

CAB points out that the very ones who are most likely to suffer are the vulnerable, the very ones that any system of regulation is most vital to. And, boy!, what grand quagmires lie ahead for interpretation of principles.

The ordinary debtor already faces a seriously uphill struggle. The information most needed is obscure, the area is one they are not familiar with, and they face trained and professional takers backed by massive organisations who wear their legal departments like the six guns of a ‘black hat’ in western films.

The FSA, the FOS and the OFT are all supposed to be making that ‘playing field’ more level and refereed. With this change in prospect my fear is that the field will turn into a blood bath of the innocent. Just like Peterloo.

[Peterloo happened shortly after the Battle of Waterloo and named as a disgraceful mirror of that greatness. It happened on St Peter’s Field near Manchester in 1819. This peaceful meeting was demanding the reform of the parliamentary system – déjà vu!

The crowd of over 60,000 unarmed civilians was charged by cavalry. The whole history of the period was one of the two Britains; that of the industrial and agricultural owners and that of the ordinary people. At least Peterloo shamed the political leadership and reforms followed.

The great 1832 Reform Act was one and the introduction of a civilian police force another. The latter unarmed in response to the shame of Peterloo.]

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man

Bailiff Power: “We have the balance wrong”

June 13, 2009

Every time I think I have reached the bottom of this government’s inanities over bailiffs I am apprised of further actions which make sense only if these people are in the pay of the financial casino.

Thanks again to the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust I have learned of the Bill introduced by Karen Buck M.P., (Labour for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North), a few days ago under the ten minute rule. It has gone now to second reading which is a triumph for her preparation work which has taken a year.

[Most often ten minute rule Bills are killed at birth!]

In her introductory remarks Ms Buck offers these points which are worth some thought by us all: Bailiffs (Repeals and Amendment) is the title of the Bill and it “… make requirements in respect of the use of force and forcible entry by bailiffs; to make provision for the reference to court of certain cases involving vulnerable clients; and for connected purposes.”

“… Debt and debt recovery action have become a reality for ever larger numbers… the arrival of a bailiff is, for many of those people, the ultimate trauma and humiliation… people have had heart attacks when the bailiffs have arrived. The mental and physical stress… is one of the worst things that will ever happen to them in their life.”

She points out that not all bailiffs fail to be as helpful as possible. But “… many.. are desperate and vulnerable people, and many are also victims of error. … even the actions of bailiffs who behave entirely reasonably… are disproportionate and excessive.”

“… it has become clear to me that we have got the balance wrong,… we need to review… We must certainly not, in any circumstances, think of escalating the powers available to bailiffs, and the Government should rethink their approach to regulation.” [my emphasis]

“… In my local authority alone, and in respect of just… council tax… more than 13,000 cases ended up in the hands of bailiffs over a three-year period.”

“What does it mean… It means fear and trauma for people, particularly children. I have heard of moving cases… children have refused to leave the house or have insisted on having the lights out at home because they are so frightened of a bailiff… seizing their television or computer.”

“… also means an escalation of the original debt, which simply compounds the problems that caused the financial crisis in the first place.”

“For one single parent with three children, one… disabled… (a) parking fine, about which I was making representations, had escalated from an original £60 to £700 by the time the bailiffs arrived.” [my emphasis]

In another “… two sets of bailiffs (were) chasing the same debt. Payments had been made to and acknowledged by the council, but did not then appear on the system.” [my emphasis] This lady wrote “… each party refers me to the other, the fees are ever increasing and.. threatening the removal of goods for the same amount.”

The Bill’s aims “.. are threefold. The power of forcible entry into a person’s home and the power for bailiffs even to use force against debtors are far too extreme to be given to civilian enforcement officers. The balance has been tilted too far against the householder’s right to be secure from trespass into their home. ” [my emphasis]

“… overturns a long-standing common law tradition,… in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007… some p[owers] have not (yet) been brought into effect… such powers should be repealed.”

“… the power to enter domestic premises forcibly… for collection of criminal fines is already legal, and that too is creating appalling distress for many vulnerable households. Many… fines are levied on people on low incomes for offences such as the non-payment of TV licences, fare dodging and truancy.”

“… the issue here, too, is one of proportionality,… I also seek a statutory procedure requiring bailiffs to return cases involving vulnerable and impoverished debtors to the courts or the creditors, and powers to allow people subject to any bailiff action to apply to the courts for any bailiff warrant to be suspended… (this) is (currently) available only to people subject to county court bailiff warrants.”

“… case law, which holds that a distress warrant cannot be withdrawn once it has been issued. That directly contradicts the national standards for enforcement agents, which suggests a procedure enabling the bailiff to return cases of vulnerable fine defaulters to the court.”

“… disproportionate fines are being paid by benefit claimants and other low-income groups, intensifying the poverty that pushed many of them into debtY Finally, we need a statutory provision for bailiffs to accept ‘affordable payments’, with a definition of what that might mean in practice…”

“… I believe that they need greater protection, and above all, to be freed from the fear of the implementation of the excessively harsh powers held in reserve in the legislation.”

The Bill has six more stages; second and third reading in the Commons; first, second and third readings in the Lords; and signature by Her Majesty. It is only a pity that with this government tottering and the next election in any case but a year away the chances of it becoming law are slim.

But ‘good on yer’ Karen Black; you’re one we need back in the Commons. And keep it up Zacchaeus Trust; we need you.

Debt Control Man

Fit For The Twenty-First Century

May 23, 2009

 Can there any longer be any doubt that our political system in the UK is broke? Or that the world financial system is broke? Or our economy, or the way we allow companies to be our bosses? They say ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. But what we need to know now is what to do when it IS broke!

 One thing that is not broke, even if it is limping rather seriously, is our democracy here in the UK and those throughout the world. And in theory we run it all through democratic process. I mean, well, we DO – don’t we?

😉

OK, take out those that are seriously adrift, like Zimbabwe in the hands of the most evil of people: Mugabe. And be a little kindly to the emerging ones like China.

We are left, frankly, with an awful lot of dross! Here in the UK we have our daily feast of a Parliament in crisis, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph (fully justifying the freedom of the press); and the media’s status as the fourth estate.

In America as well as here the sights of incompetent bankers being rewarded for their reckless and criminal gambling and of businesses that should have folded decades ago being massaged back to life in intensive care leaves one wondering where our leaders minds are.

We cry for heads to be put on pikes in traditional style and for the tumbrels to roll again.

But we have an opportunity. An opportunity that comes rarely. A chance to bring our democracy – not to some golden past that never existed – but further towards a golden future that urges us on in hope.

And democracy is about DEMOS, the Greek word for people or populace and now to represent democracy itself. We are Demos and the democracy is ours; as always the Greeks really did have a word for it.

I have been seriously distracted for some time; there are many things that I wish to put before you, about debt matters, about this list above, about a new approach to a constitution, about the need to completely rethink company law.

Much of this must be essays, and I will put those on my website, Control Your Debt Crisis ; but I will run a long series here as an introduction to those ideas. For a real discussion of all this I will set up a forum which will be readable to all, but will ask people to register to contribute [spam makes that necessary] in which I hope we will find lay people and experts discussing how to get from where we are to somewhere a lot better.

To a place, in fact, fit for the 21st Century.

Joseph Harris

Debt Control Man

Bailiffs get unreasonable powers

May 1, 2009

I had earlier had the view that bailiffs were well contained by sensible limits. Thanks to The Times online I find this is not now so.

You may at times have thought me unreasonably hostile to this government; however I further view this as a little snide piece from a business dominated group.

Thanks to the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust the new measures are being fought vigorously and Jack Straw has already taken some action to mitigate the legislation. However, some measures which need to be understood remain.

Councils are already making more use of bailiffs, says The Times, to collect Council Tax arrears. Our ‘People’s’ ministers were going to extend bailiffs’ powers so they can use force when to seize goods in cases of civil debts.

We are indebted to Zacchaeus and its new lawyer, Joanna Kennedy, for forcing a halt to this return to the bad old days. Kennedy’s and the trust’s aim remains to roll back the legislation – Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 – ‘ “…and although ministers have said that they will not enact them, they remain on the statute book. So the Government could change its mind at any time. We’d like the provision to allow the use of force and effect forcible entry removed entirely.” ‘

Here! Here! Bailiffs still have a right to use force over unpaid criminal fines under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, such as for non-payment of a TV licence or motoring offence. For the past 400 years until that Act, entry to a person’s home had to be peaceful.

What a disgusting piece of legislation from a disgusting Government.

Quite incredibly the details of MoJ guidance to bailiffs on forcible entry appears to have been made a state secret!. These have been withheld “for reasons of the health and safety of bailiffs”. How, trust chairman Reverend Paul Nicolson, asks, “can we or the magistrates’ courts tell if bailiffs are keeping the rules if the rules are kept secret?”

Under a Freedom of Information request, a version of the guidance was released, with 15 of 30 pages redacted. An appeal to the Information Commissioner led to reissued guidance last autumn with different redactions — including some parts previously seen.

To put it mildly this is a business government. And a total betrayal of the founding of the Labour Party. That party was formed to fight the very excesses by business that Brown and his band are bringing back onto the statute book. It makes the Tories look positively socialist!

Explaining her new role Kennedy explains: “I had been a lawyer for 30 years and I enjoyed it, but increasingly I found the amorality of the commercial legal process frustrating and I wanted to do something a bit more worthwhile. A lot of it,” she added, “was making the rich richer and, as lawyers, becoming rich yourself.”

Welcome to the world of defending the under-privileged Joanna; more strength to your elbow and those of Rev Nicholson and Zacchaeus. We certainly need you.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man

Card Firms Giveth, Card Firms Taketh Away

November 28, 2008
How is it, that when I saw Peter Mandelson was involved, I started looking for the catch?
Our Business Secretary with Gareth Thomas, Consumer Affairs Minister, held a meeting with credit card companies [not sure who came, but I’m looking!] to get more time for debtors to organise their affairs. The target was described as ‘breathing space’. http://uk.reuters.com/article/personalFinanceNews
Now I am not even sure how that fits with the information that the reason for the meeting was to express concerns to the representatives about the high level of interest rates charged on credit and store cards.

And a joint statement declares: ‘…the … industry would report back in two weeks’ time [sic – note superfluous “…’ time…”] on a set of fair principles to help card borrowers to manage their debts… [my italics and my disgust!].

I’m not asking you to share my despairing feelings about the poor grammar from senior members of the government, but I am asking you to note how debtors will be hurt, not helped, by all this.

Bear in mind the Consumer Credit Licence, the Consumer Protection Regulations 2008 and the Banking Code all give much better protection than a set time. Not to mention the directives of the European Union Commission – of which Lord Mandelson was, until recently, a Commissioner. Is he with the people or with business?

AND let us be quite clear, this is an attempt to steal the right to represent oneself. An attempt to breach ancient British law.

The new dictatorial requirement will be that ‘…customers in difficulty would now get 30 days grace … IF [my emphasis] a debt advice agency was [not “is”, note] helping … a repayment plan…’. Further in this from this arrogant group ‘… could be [my emphasis] extended for a further 30 days subject to demonstratable progress being made…’.

My own experience is that I have negotiated for myself with 11 companies, and none of these negotiations were completed inside the incredibly restrictive 60 days of this great gift from the keen brain of the Lord Mandelson. In fact I have four negotiations which are taking over 18 months.

Who is to judge, in the terms of this carve-up, what is demonstrable progress. In negotiation one is in a starting position of disagreement, and the idea that one side or the other may be an arbitrator is nonsensical and dictatorial.

And, by the way, what about the role of the Financial Ombudsman Service which this undercuts in the most destructive way – certainly from a debtors’ point of view.

And the industry has ‘…agreed to look at [my italics] its practice of risk-based re-pricing…’. Readers of this blog will know I wrote a series of articles many weeks back on the disgusting level of interest rates. That the government has only just paid attention to we ordinary people who are truly hurting shows how little regard it has for us.

A government spokesman is reported to have said the government is ‘unhappy’ about ‘increases of up to 10 per cent OR MORE [my emphasis]’.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I want a government that is raging angry about such profiteering and instead of inviting the sector to make the debtor’s position worse is prepared to actually make them obey the existing regulations.

That the negotiations appear to be set on limiting our options, and not improving them is worrying to say the least.

Are we truly in the middle of the new Feudalism, my fellow serfs?

Joseph Harris

Debt Control Man

debtcontrolman.wordpress.com