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Making the Plebs Pay: a Round-Up

It was earlier this year that financial and banking CEOs – smarting from the costs for mis-selling compensation and other unplanned expenditures – proposed ending ‘free banking’ through measures such as charging for maintaining current accounts (even those in credit) or expanding surcharges for withdrawing money from auto-tellers; a proposal which quickly elicited derision from the executive director of Which?.

Others pointed to the principle of a banking industry which had been bailed-out to the sum of billions now seeking to make good its losses as well as the myth of the myth of free banking: notably the awareness of punitive charges for unauthorized overdraughts. The Consumer Finance Association estimated that a not uncommon £5 surcharge per day on an unauthorized overdraught of £200 could amount to a whopping APR of in excess of 90,000%, and extended this criticism to the increasingly popular payday loans; which a [still] trusting public was found to believe was geared to their benefit, as opposed to the obsfucation and misleading information which policy setters and watchdog groups found in promotional literature.

American readers will be able to correct me, but I recall that a majority of ATMs there impose a surcharge for withdrawals. In this country, anecdotal reports have for a long time suggested a skewing of such charges in less affluent areas, and a recent study carried out by the Liverpool Echo pointed to just that with just 17% in affluent Woolton imposing a surcharge contrasted with 46% in deprived areas such as Toxteth.

My own observations bear this out. I assume part of the reason is the unequal distribution of actual bank premises, with stand-alone ATMs being more likely to be installed in convenience stores or sub Post Offices. Adding insult to injury, residents of deprived areas are more likely to have only paltry sums in their accounts to withdraw at any one time, making a surcharge of £2 all the more significant.

Then there is a proposal from the Department of Work and Pensions to monitor online jobsearches on their antiquated and unlovely website with cookies (presumably demanding pre-registration before the search function is accessible). Just as even the Daily Telegraph poured scorn on George Osbourne’s call for desperate jobseekers to give-up some – only some, mind you – of their employment rights, so does the same paper of this proposal from Iain Duncan-Smith.

Finally, there is an aging population which will have to be cared for – however that may be – by an increasingly disproportionately small younger and tax-paying population.  A report this week in the Herald stated that the over-65s in Scotland now outnumber the under-14s.  Although I hope I would not conform to the question begging put forward by the director of Saga, Ros Altmann on CiF, I am always minded of a recent interview on Reporting Scotland.

A 60s something pensioner was asked if she thought all the benefits which she did and does receive – creation of NHS, free university education, generous pension, winter fuel allowance, free bus pass – means she should agree to something being withdrawn so the current generation should not be hit harder and harder with taxes. Maybe she personally should, at least, give-up the bus pass or fuel allowance which she manifestly did not require.

Laughter was the only response… but, I’ve worked all my life (and others are not also working to support her upcoming two or three decades of retirement?), I deserve it, I want it. This is pretty much a direct quote.

This is how Holden Caulfield must now be.