Mary Dejevsky (22 November) is quite right to link the failures at the Co-operative Bank to the culture of cronyism in British institutions. However another wider question is why more has not been done to oversee how businesses are run. The recent events yet again point to the catastrophic success of pressure groups seeking deregulation.
For many years the Financial Services Authority (FSA) was held up as a model of good practice. Other regulators were instructed by ministers and officials to follow the FSA’s “light touch” model. The original banking crisis showed what a failure this policy was, and yet five years on, as you have reported, many financial bodies still have directors who are highly paid, but not qualified for the job. Other regulators are being cut back drastically.
Of course these failures of oversight do not only apply to the financial sector. Customers of the power companies are suffering the effect of a weak regulator. Perhaps it is now time for politicians to ignore the cries of the deregulation movement and realise that good regulation is important, not only for the wellbeing of employees and customers but to protect investors such as the bondholders of the Co-operative Bank.
N Long, Bristol
Is it right to criticise the Co-op Bank for the appointment of Paul Flowers? Yes of course it is. He was a poor choice for many reasons; but was he a poor choice because he did not have a banking background?
A good chairman must be honourable, intelligent, independent and brave. They should be aloof from the detailed targets of the company, being principally interested in its rectitude. There is a long history of excellent chairmen drawn from, for example, senior military officers, university dons and retired police officers.
Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshire
Amid all the holier-than-thou comment about Paul Flowers, can we hear it again for the breathtaking incompetence of many senior bank executives from HBOS, Royal Bank of Scotland and others? They may have been better coached and so made a better fist of appearing before parliamentary committees, but the results of their “leadership” were disastrous.
At the same time, do we see any effort on the part of politicians and the financial authorities to root out ubiquitous drug and alcohol abuse in the City? It is so much easier to salve the conscience by scoring cheap points from the misery of one individual.
Glynne Williams, London E17
The recent travails of the Co-operative Bank have revealed at least two interesting facts. First, that neither the Prime Minister nor television newsreaders know the correct form of address for an ordained clergyman. It is Mr Flowers or The Reverend Paul Flowers, never Reverend Flowers.
Second, that the current, post-crash, arrangements for bank regulation are just as useless as those they replaced.
Edwin Smith, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
An ethical bank is not one that sacks a thousand staff whilst refurbishing our small-town Co-op/Britannia branch: new counter with glass protection, carpet, chairs, and uniforms for the staff, with those silly stick-out scarves for females. That’s bog-standard corporate stuff.
Profit before people. Dreadful.
Dennis Croughton, Wellington, Somerset
Monty Python fans ripped off by touts
This morning (Monday) I sat in a virtual queue to buy tickets for next year’s Monty Python event. Within half an hour of the tickets going on sale, they had sold out. At the very same time hundreds of tickets were already being offered on secondary resale sites at huge mark-ups, £25 tickets for over £100, the £95 ones for £300-£400.
It would seem that ticket touts and scalpers are still winning the game, and making huge profits at the expense of legitimate fans. This is not an isolated event. Every major concert has similar problems.
It is time the Government took a stand to protect ordinary fans from predatory ticket touts. Ban resale sites from allowing such huge mark-ups. Limiting the mark-up to perhaps 10 per cent would still allow legitimate ticket agencies to make a profit, while protecting those of us who want to go to that once-in-a-lifetime event without being ripped off.
Jo Selwood, Oxford
How chancellor can create more jobs
Away from the promising growth figures, there are a number of tax changes the Government should make at the Autumn Statement with the younger generations in mind (David Blanchflower, 25 November). I suspect there will be a further rise in personal allowances, with an announcement claiming that the aim will be to bring the allowance up to the minimum wage. The next election will be fought on the cost of living. By lifting the working poor out of tax the Tories are supporting the lower-paid bracket yet at the same time will also seem appealing to middle-class families.
We all know this is the correct thing to do economically and socially. It is wrong that a single person on the minimum wage who gets no benefits is paying tax on what most people think is a pittance. All parties want to reduce unemployment and making work more attractive than being on benefits must encourage more people into work.
However, in order to boost employment figures I would go a step further: I would remove National Insurance (NI) from anyone on the minimum wage and I would also work to have no employers’ NI contributions too. For the retail and hospitality industries, who between them employ 20 per cent of the UK workforce, most of which at the lower end, this would create many more jobs as wage costs would be reduced. This would be paid for by abandoning the many “back to work advisory programmes” which have cost billions and have done little to dent the unemployment queues.
Peter Burgess, Managing Director, Retail Human Resources plc, London W9
A calm debate about fracking
You ask Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party, her response to CPRE’s “coming out in favour of fracking” (The Big Questions, 22 November).
CPRE has not come out in favour of fracking. Our carefully framed policy guidance note states that we will not oppose fracking provided certain conditions are met, but that does not mean we support it. Our conditions include avoiding damage to the countryside, ensuring that water is used sustainably, and contributing to meeting the country’s climate change commitments, for instance by substituting for the use of unabated coal.
CPRE’s position on fracking has been developed through calm discussion by a group of members from our branches, covering all shades of opinion. Nationally, we need more information and a more intelligent debate, where a range of voices are heard. At present, both objective information and calm discussion are in short supply.
Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England, London SE1
What Mahler’s adagio means
While he’s wrong to say that the “famous adagio” of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony “merely introduces” the finale, Michael Gold (letter, 25 November) is surely right to stress its place in an unfolding, dynamic whole as key to appreciating it. Far from being wondrously apposite as Andreas Whittam Smith suggests (22 November), the Death in Venice connection is seriously misleading.
Mahler titled the movement “adagietto”, not “adagio”; and while his tempo-indication “sehr langsam” (“Very slow”) suggests that “adagietto” here means “little adagio” rather than the usual “slightly faster than adagio”, there’s strong evidence that the music began life as a vocally influenced love-song to Mahler’s wife, speaking perhaps partly of feeling-laden withdrawal, but absolutely not of lugubrious life-renunciation. Those conductors do best who keep a pulse going: Barbirolli’s famous recording comes in in under 10 minutes.
Michael Ayton, Durham
Church of humanism?
I loved Chris Beney’s suggestion (Letter, 25 November) that the CofE move with the times and ditch its indigestible supernatural beliefs, while maintaining its ethical and moral thrust.
The problem is that its members could no longer call themselves Christians, as they would no longer be followers of Jesus, and would need a new name to describe themselves. How about Humanists?
Ian Quayle, Fownhope, Herefordshire
Forgotten Oscar for a black woman
I was surprised to see that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (25 November) is the latest to perpetuate the myth that “Halle Berry is still the only black woman ever to get an Oscar”.
Has she never seen Gone with the Wind? Hattie McDaniel deservedly won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Mammy back in 1939.
Elizabeth Edwards, Moulton, Lincolnshire