Letters: Coalition must tackle the lenders

These letters appear in the Monday 29th July edition of the Independent

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The Coalition should not leave our struggling churches to vainly tackle Britain’s payday lenders. In the US such firms are either banned outright or held – as in other advanced nations – to a usury limit (usually 40 per cent) instead  of our free-for-all.

Citizens Advice protests that the off-shoots of these international outfits which operate here ensnare teenagers, the mentally disabled and applicants who were clearly drunk.

They drain money from low-income communities, menace struggling borrowers and leech funds from personal bank accounts using a “continuous payment authority”.

Vulnerable people are even hounded for loans they have not taken out and lenders are known to take more than they are owed and to refuse to refund their helpless victims. The debt charity calls for high-street banks to offer “micro-loans” and this is surely a safer option than having the churches breenge in where angels rightly fear to tread.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews

Your leading article “The Church should keep to matters spiritual” (27 July) was shocking. The fact that interest rates of payday lenders spiral to 4,000 per cent and one third of borrowers end up in worse financial straits apparently is no business of the Church of England. But if the CofE cannot comment on social matters such as this who can?

There have been so many criticisms of Wonga. Abusive tweets to Stella Creasey MP from a Wonga employee, Wonga taking money from accounts of over 350 people who weren’t their customers, albeit accidentally (BBC Watchdog), usurious interest charges (in their Independent advertisement Wonga said, ‘We don’t charge thousands of per cent interest. Ever’ and yet their website shows representative APR of 5,853 per cent), the Children’s Society talking of vulnerable families being driven “into the arms of legal loan sharks”.

I do hope that Archbishop Welby can use the influence and facilities of the Church of England to kickstart credit unions into competing with Wonga and its like. With interest rates of 5,853 per cent, it certainly shouldn’t be difficult to undercut them.

Robin Anderson, Bath

“The Church should keep to matters spiritual” – what a load of codswallop. Next you’ll be telling us newspapers should keep to just reporting news.

Carl Sims, London SW19

If the Archbishop of Canterbury puts Wonga out of business, will the Church of England take over the sponsorship of Newcastle United?

Frank Hubert, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Our expectations of the NHS are out of date

With regard to the NHS, what is required above everything else is a fundamental change of attitude on the part of the electorate (Letters, 22 July). What needs to be preserved is not “the NHS” as an institution, but the principle underlying its creation: that no one should lack essential healthcare through absence of financial means. The particular model for giving practical effect to this principle, which was brilliantly devised in 1944, is now demonstrably obsolete as a result of demographic changes, vast improvements in the standard of living and expectations of the majority of the population,  and stunning – and in some cases stunningly expensive – medical advances.

A radically different model for delivering essential healthcare is now required. This will involve, among other things, identifying what is to be regarded as essential care and finding an acceptable way of funding the provision of this care through a combination of general taxation and private funding. Those who would describe this as creeping privatisation or breaking up the NHS by stealth need to recognise that the financing of essential healthcare through taxation alone is no longer a viable option.

Given the present state of public finances, it seems inconceivable that politicians of any party will be prepared to commit themselves to raising an extra £30bn in taxation annually by 2020 to meet increased expenditure on the NHS, and past experience suggests that this figure will prove to be a conservative one. In the absence of the injection of private funding, the NHS will not in any event survive in an acceptable form.

Rodney Stewart Smith

London NW1

The latest crisis affecting A&E departments is inevitable given the increased demands of the public on healthcare resources and the static levels of funding available. Isn’t it time the Government started to downgrade the public’s expectations of what the NHS can deliver?

Dr Jonathan Cullis

Coombe Bissett, Wiltshire

Our expectations of the NHS are out of date

The problem with the NHS was made clear by a comedian on the Light Programme on BBC radio shortly after its inception in 1947, and nothing much has changed. He spoke of two ladies who used to meet every Thursday in the doctors’ surgery. One Thursday, one of the ladies did not attend, and the following week, the other asked where she had been. “Oh!” She said, “I didn’t feel very well.”

Colin Hunt, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

A solution to the housing crisis

In some physically small tax  havens, the housing market is  split in two: there is an open  market of houses that anyone  can buy; and there is a closed  market where only local people  can buy. Such arrangements respond to the pressure created when rich foreigners are allowed to buy into a very small housing stock. This model could and should be applied to London which is where our most serious housing problems are to be found, partly because London is a tax haven.

The simplest method would be to use the existing distribution of ownership as a base. Properties currently owned by people without UK passports or companies registered outside the UK would remain in the open market. All other properties would fall into a closed market where only UK passport holders and UK companies (paying UK taxes) could buy. At the same time, new developments would have to be designated as open or closed. If a very heavy tax was applied to planning permissions for new open market building, the money raised could be used to fund social housing.

Such a targeted approach might have more merits than Mr Osborne’s schemes which seem designed simply to create a pre-election housing bubble.

Trevor Pateman, Brighton

Obama could lead the way in Syria

“However remote, the only solution to [the Syrian] conflict... is diplomatic” (Leading article, 25 July). A diplomatic possibility seldom discussed is for Obama to be much more active, to take a lead in this ongoing disaster and call for direct talks involving himself, Putin, Assad, rebel leaders and others. If rebel leaders refused to attend someone could be nominated to represent their interests as best possible and talks should go ahead. Such is the power of the US that these talks could succeed. No harm would be done in the attempt, unlike the case with weapons transfers.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind calls this idea “fantasy” but I am sure he would agree that if Obama wanted it these talks could take place quite soon. Of course Obama shows no sign of moving in that direction but if our government used its considerable influence with the US, and stood up and called clearly for these talks to take place, he would have to listen.

Dr Brendan O’Brien  London N21

The hyphen is  alive and well

Will Dean’s sad report about the demise of the humble hyphen (22 July) prompts me to assure him that all is not lost. Over the past few years I have noticed a rash of newly formed hyphenated words. I nearly wrote “newly-formed” there, such is the infection. Technology is awash with coinages such as “add-ons”, and there is a whole raft of misplaced hyphens to be found in the press: “must-haves” may be fine grammatically (if not in any other way), but “things you must-have” is surely not, though I have seen several such aberrations recently. The humble hyphen is holding its own, by fair means or foul.

Linda Skilton, Forest Row, East Sussex

Faversham,  heart of darkness

It is entirely appropriate that Faversham is the setting of a crime series (report, 27 July), because it was in Faversham that the notorious murder of Thomas Arden took place in 1551. Arden, a former mayor of the town, was killed by his wife Alice and her lover, for which deed they paid the price. The story was immortalised in the Elizabethan domestic tragedy Arden of Faversham, a play published in 1592 and still performed today. Some people have attributed the play to Shakespeare and other dramatists of the time, but in fact the author remains unknown.

Andrew Belsey, Whitstable, Kent

Let’s see the real Jane Austen

It is regrettable that, while rightly honouring Jane Austen on our currency, the Bank of England should be promoting a design for the new £10 note derived essentially from the crudely saccharine portrait commissioned by the author’s descendants some 50 years after her death. This prettified the only properly authenticated image surviving from her own lifetime.

Much better to return to her sister Cassandra’s original – even  if it does seem to depict Jane as having just consumed a plate of sour plums.

Michael Biddiss, Alton, Hampshire

Foreign workers

The latest attempt to steal Ukip’s thunder by the Tories is interesting (“Firms have a ‘social duty’ to hire British workers, says Conservative minister Matthew Hancock”, 26 July). Does that dictum also apply to English football clubs? Should they be obliged to employ local footballers and managers too?

John Edgar, Cupar, Fife

Olympic legacy

Surely if they were such an inspiration to take up sport, we would not be asking the question “A year on from London 2012, what is the real legacy of the Olympics?” (26 July). No one would have the time!

John Wyllie, Carlisle

Geller’s powers

Why should the man who used his psychic powers to foil Egyptian radar in the raid on Entebbe need high-tech security at his Berkshire home? (“Did Uri Geller really win the battle of Entebbe for Israel?”, 26 July).

Robert Edwards

Hornchurch, Essex