The City Diary

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Ombudsman takes little pity on the fools soon parted with their money

Spare a thought for the Financial Ombudsman – you don't hear that too often – which has to deal with its fair share of idiotic claims. Take the 20-year-old computer studies student who racked up a grand's worth of debt after developing an online gambling addiction. He claimed the credit card company was at fault for having given him a credit facility that was too high. Case dismissed.

Or how about the 20-year-old would-be fitness instructor who took up a loan company's £5,000 offer, bought a car and couldn't keep up the repayments. "Miss M" argued it should have been clear to the company that she wouldn't be able to manage the debt because she was unemployed, relying on benefits and expecting a baby. Case dismissed once again.

Games deficit

Yet more research, this time from the good people at Proudfoot Consulting, which is "a leading operational improvement consultancy". Diary isn't really certain what that means, but Proudfoot has at least come up with some interesting findings. Apparently, as much as £600m could be lost by UK plc due to low productivity while workers are on the internet trying to keep track of what's happening at the Beijing Olympics. Proudfoot claims the average worker will spend 10 minutes a day surfing the net to find out how the likes of cyclist Victoria Pendleton, pictured, and ancient swimmer Mark Foster are getting along.

A phrase tailor-made for all slowdowns

Credit crunch, the snappy phrase that along with words such as sub-prime has come to symbolise the economic sucker punch plastered on the face of Western markets over the past year, is often seen as a new expression. Not so. It was first invented by the Americans in the early 1990s, and referred to an episode known in the UK as the gentler credit squeeze, according to Cormac McKeown, senior editor at Collins English Dictionaries. McKeown is a fan of the phrase but can't stand the word bespoke, except in the context of tailoring. Suit yourself!

Summer's for strawberries, not BlackBerrys

A misleadingly entitled press release – "Shocking stats reveal that executives remain chained to desk during the summer family holiday" – has reached Diary's inbox. Disappointingly, this simply means that about four out of five people intend to keep in touch with the office while on their summer hols. Sarah Drew, general manager of, the senior executive recruitment site, offers some sage-like advice: "Our message is leave the phone off the hook and get stuck into those sandcastles."

Lock 'em up!

Say what you like about the Government, but you must admit the mandarins at the Department of Justice know their onions. According to Jack Straw's current consultation paper on Titan prisons, which if built will house up to 2,500 prisoners (see Mark Leftly's article on page 9), one of the "core principles" of the Government's jail estates strategy is "preventing escapes".

Get an earful of this

This might sound awful, but the man involved can see the funny side ... A British director of an international tech company was cleaning his ear with a cotton bud. Somehow, he forgot it was in there, picked up a phone and put it to that same ear. The result: a perforated eardrum and 30 per cent loss of hearing. Worse, the phone hadn't worked in years.

A great time to move house? You'd better believe it

A wonderful piece of denial hit our email inbox this week from the folks at, "the leading specialist home move service", which you have probably never heard of. Beleaguered homeowners, it seems, shouldn't be downhearted by figures from the Halifax showing that house prices have slumped by more than 10 per cent in a year. "... the pace of decline has slowed for the second consecutive month, offering some of the first signs of a gradual return to positive price growth," director Charles Wadsell tells us.

E=MC2: a winning formula for young Sir Alans?

forget business studies. A-level physics is what it takes to get a firm off the ground, says the Mind Your Own Business website. Get to grips with kinetic energy and gravitation, rather than Keynesian economics, advises Guy Kingston, boss of the online company: "Physics is about solving problems from first principles, and that is what you want to do in business. Even if you don't want to run your own company, A-level physics is a gateway to careers that make a substantial contribution to the wealth of Great Britain." But can you imagine the young Alan Sugar in a white coat? Money maker, yes. Einstein, no.