Simon Read: Leave our cheques alone, even if we don't use them
Banks are determined to ditch this expensive method of payment despite its popularity, but doing so could put older customers at risk
Sunday 12 September 2010
Almost 300,000 fewer cheques are written a day than a year ago, according to figures published this week by the Payments Council. That's a 10 per cent decline in a year, suggesting that plans by the banking industry to scrap cheques by 2018 are prescient. The council is certainly keen to trumpet the decline, using emotive words like "plummets" in its announcement.
Further, a straw poll among colleagues revealed that none of us has written a cheque for years. I rely on online banking and plastic for all payments, and am happy to do so. Yet cheques still have fierce support from many. Age charities, for instance, warn that doing away with cheques would penalise older people who struggle with the plastic cards which are the current alternatives pushed out by the banks. The problem for some older folk is partly the need to remember a four-digit PIN, but also that they've used cheques all their lives and don't see a need to change. In fact it's suggested that instead of turning to plastic cards they will revert to using cash, which could mean keeping more money at home, or with them. The net result of that, of course, would be that they would be come a more attractive target for sneak thieves and muggers.
For that reason it's essential that the banking industry doesn't rush to scrap the cheque system. It wants to do so because the administration involved with cheques is costly, as the pieces of paper need to be taken from shops to a bank branch, and on to the issuing bank and so on. Electronic payments can all be done at the touch of a button, saving millions of pounds in costs.
But the banks shouldn't be solely driven by cost savings. Giving customers what they want is important, and while there's still a sizable demand for cheques, the banks should meet it.
Trapped in the red
A shocking report from the Consumer Credit Counselling Service suggests a third of people struggling with debt can do nothing about their situation. The debt charity said that 30,446 of the 96,334 clients it helped in the first half of the year had no "appropriate" solution to their debts. The only course of action that could help was for them to earn more, which the charity acknowledged would be impossible for many.
The charity said problems were not because people have borrowed too much or have the lowest incomes, but simply because household expenditure exceeded their income by an average of £449 a month. In many cases that's because they have lost their job, had wages frozen or cut, or had an added expense, such as having a baby.
For whatever reason, it means there are tens of thousands more people living on a financial edge, with the danger of their debts getting out of control. It's time lenders helped out by freezing interest charges or offering payment holidays to struggling families. Helping people get through the tough times will help us all.
Let them cut costs
The hard times are also hitting those with savings. Almost a third of us have drawn on our savings or investments in the past year to supplement our income, says Schroders. The news prompted George Ladds, head of investment and pension research at Fair Investment Company to say: "When a financial situation has hit the point where savings are becoming part of everyday spending, something has to change." He advises struggling families "to tighten their belts and find ways to cut expenditure rather than continue to put such massive strains on their finances." That's good advice but, in case Ladds hasn't noticed, that's exactly what people have been doing these past two years or so.
Expose rogue landlords
Shelter has launched a campaign to crack down on rogue landlords. It says a million people have been hit by private tenancy scams in the past three years, such as "let and run", when a con artist breaks into an empty home and takes a deposit and rent from unsuspecting prospective tenants, who end up out of pocket and without a home.
Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief, says "We want to expose as many rogue operators and con artists as possible and would urge anyone who has fallen victim to this kind of scam to get in touch with us immediately." If you've been a victim, or know of anyone who has, go to shelter.org.uk/evictroguelandlords.
Betting on Barclays
The last word on Barclays' new boss Bob Diamond has to go to Viz comic. It advises: "Barclays: make more of your casino banking ethos by combining cash machines with fruit machines."
Julian Knight is away
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Green village to be bulldozed and mined for lignite in Germany's quest for non-nuclear fuel
- 2 HeForShe campaign: Iceland to follow up Emma Watson speech with UN women's rights conference – for men only
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 Teenagers irritable because early school hours mess with their biological clocks
- 5 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...
NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...
£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...
Day In a Page
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location