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

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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

    Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS)

    £20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

    Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

    £550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

    Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

    £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition