Thursday, 29 July 2010

Till debt us do part

When no one, but no one, has measured the full socio-economic impact of the "cashless society", never mind its correlation to the global uptake of credit, don't even think about pigeon-holing an anguished suicide like Darrel's, or the tradegy of Jennifer Taylor, or that of Mark McDonald or most recently Andrew Case

These families are suffering the ultimate in needless, personal tragedy and we should be champing at the bit to end the quagmire of financial services which create the barbaric conditions for this to happen.

Over 4 million households were struggling to pay their mortgages in 2008 and the CAB is on track to handle some 2 million new debt cases this year alone. That's quite literally millions of us who are as much human, loved and special as Darrel, Jennifer, Mark and Andrew are to their families.

Reading Darryl's lenders' names - Lombard, GE Money, Black Horse and Private and Commercial Finance Group - their assurances of a robust credit analysis process and responsible lending do not wash. Responsible to whom?

In this era of transparency, financial services have an immediate and pressing lesson to learn. Let's not wait for someone we care about to feel overcome. The shift from conspicuous consumerism to an age of austerity has no need to take lives and we as consumers have every right to determine that.

Savings Lifeline

Save our Savers is an outstanding initiative which goes far deeper than consideing the interests of current savers alone. Even if you are tackling debts right now, Save Our Savers will have future proofing advice and campaigns to protect your longer term interests because saving is not just about a wealthy minority. Quite the opposite in fact.

An ethic that most of our hard working grandparents had, in today's society saving is often characterised by those who have cautiously set aside for retirement only to see the value of their efforts decimated by the credit culture. How can it be right for your nan to be paid interest below the rate of inflation when payday loans come in at 2500%, for instance?

Like Zero-credit, Save our Savers seeks substantial reform towards far greater consumer focus in financial services. We are not all property and investment tycoons - most of us just want to tuck a few hundred quid away every year towards a rainy day and our ever increasing life expectancy, but we can't - or if we have, it ain't ever enough.

Who needs small print rate changes and shopping around for the best deal on a product as basic as butter? When half of us own less than 9% of UK total wealth it is not only clear that averages, which are based on midpoints or medians, are meaningless, but that there are quite literally millions of us who are anything but wealthy.

We are critical mass, so, together, let's fight for an end to buy now, pay when its too later. The e-book, 7 views of Saving in the UK, is available for free download and has excellent contributions from Consumer Focus and Age UK among others. Essential reading, we say!

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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

an era of mindful spending

Reading William Higham's excellent book The Next Big Thing has been ideal for catching up with all that has happened in the commercial research world, whilst I was teaching. Bought on a whim (William was the ultimate trendsetter at University in the 80s), I cannot thank him enough for bringing me and indeed Zero-credit up to speed. Trend marketing is an incredibly powerful tool and much of what's on the agenda seems to be echoed in this very interesting video about "The New Consumer" from Euro RSCG Worldwide - oh and although Marain Salzman doesn't mention it here, a sample of 700 was taken in the UK for this study too.

Food Smiles

Local Food News


http://vimeo.com/3347532

Removed from the impulse of bag a bargain shelves, which squeeze the producer, make savings on food miles by surfing for a local supplier. Not only is the food far tastier, healthier and fresher, but as Anthony rightly points out it's often far cheaper too.

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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

What Zero-credit Ltd will do...

As has been the aim of the Zero-credit project, Zero-credit Ltd will seek to end debt stigma as a cooperative owned by individuals with experience of debt. We intend to trade in participatory research and development related to tackling social and financial exclusion.

Profits will create employment and training opportunities within the company as well as financing charitable and community projects, which fit the mission. In the first instance, Zero-credit will bid for grants and contracts related to social and financial exclusion. Thereafter, a second phase launch will invite businesses and organisations to subscribe to premium information services as well as offering incentives for bespoke commissions.

It's been a little bit manic trying to get the legal structures we were hoping for and there's a tad more to do on membership criteria, but we promise you more, very, very soon ;-)

Monday, 26 July 2010

A Great Hulliday

It was supposed to be a break from Zero-credit before full on creating and building the business, but Hull just has so much to offer it deserves to be shared. Public art like this toad, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Philip Larkin's death:

Photo

A brand new creative arts space at Fruit:

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Evocative skylines:

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Streets that remind you of cosmopolitan and continental Europe:

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And some corking free museums like Wilberforce House!

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We had a great all inclusive credit free deal at The Royal Hotel - less than £160 for two for two nights - which runs until 20th September. 

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Friday, 23 July 2010

Foxtrot Oscar

Media_httpwebangliaac_gvvps
http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/

I have just come off the phone to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association. In fact I have just emailed them all the links I am about to share with you.

You see, I wanted to check out a recent follower @UK_debt_advice - user name Resolve UK - because the claim that the MOD and the SSAFA trust a commercial debt advisor demands investigation. I found a number of associated urls:

http://www.military-debt-advice.co.uk/military-debt-advice.shtml

http://www.ukdebtadvisers.co.uk/

http://www.resolveuk.com/military-debt-advice.shtml

http://solvingdebtproblems.co.uk/

There were no reciprocated links from any apparently trusting bodies, which include the police force apparently (there is more than one as I recall).

Anyway, the SSAFA told me in no uncertain terms that they did not have a special relationship of "trust" with any commercial debt counsellor and that they should be contacting their solicitor forthwith.

Disgusted at what I spotted as a possible trend, I dug a little further (not sure if these are the same lot yet) and found: http://www.militarydebt.co.uk/services/ aka  http://www.nationalmoneyhelpline.co.uk and who tweet as: http://twitter.com/moneyhelpline without so much as a #ff or #charitytuesday for the charity they claim to support.

As Wilfred Owen might very well say:

Was it for this the clay grew tall?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

School's out forever!

In an age where internet safety is a moveable feast, I have been fiercely protective of the school where I teach. Today is a little different. It is the end of an era. 

 

Littleover Community School Headteacher, David Nichols, is retiring today. He touches down by helicopter some time mid morning and no doubt the Facebook page pleading with him not to leave will be full of comments and memories from today. He is a truly remarkable man, Littleover a truly remarkable school – I do not know of many others who should have given me the opportunity to teach whilst working on Zero-credit. For those who can be bothered to trawl through Ofsted reports and results, achievement is apparent in the resolute refusal to compromise on quality or to kowtow to the latest qualification to fix results. Graded outstanding, Littleover Community School is on every level the real deal and Michael Gove would do well to recognise this, for David's successor, Ash Venkatesh will undoubtedly continue Littleover's formidable tradition.

 

Headteachers make all the difference to a school, enabling or disabling effective teachers to work. There are very few inadequate teachers in my experience, no matter what BBC Panorama or Chris Woodhead says. There is, however, a prolific tendency for government to intervene in an attempt to quantify that which surpasses all measure – the desire and capacity of an individual to change lives for the better – resulting in many who bow to such pressures. For this reason I feel a little guilty to be so enthused about leaving the profession, when there is so much outstanding work which goes unrecognised or unrewarded. I should like to give thanks to those who have developed and nurtured my practice, with their vigilence and constistent presence in and around school and my classroom: Bernadette Przybek, Headteacher at King's Heath Boys School; Ingrid Abrahams, Deputy Headteacher at Great Barr School; Tony Downey, Headteacher at Robert Sutton Catholic School and Denise Gould, Assistant Headteacher at Abbot Beyne School. From these, David and Ash, I have learned immeasurably. Thank you.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Free films? That's Open Culture





Love film, but can't afford it? Look no further than Open Culture! Film buffs will be impressed that the entire collection of post-war Soviet director, Andrei Tarkovsky's feature films are available free online. Due credit to @RussellTanner for the tip off. 

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Thursday, 15 July 2010

Free e-learning

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6l8-1kHUsA?wmode=transparent]
via khanacademy.org
Salman Khan founded the Khan Academy with the goal of using technology to educate the world. So far he's doing a pretty good job with his massive digital credit free extravaganza!

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Home Swap Holidays

Media_httpwwwhomebase_kfacb

Couchsurfing is all well and good for the young free and single, but with a family in tow, low cost travel needs to accommodate all. Home Base Holidays is a well established and comprehensive site where you may register your home for under £30 for the year. After that? Well it is a swap so there's no further charge. How's that for a great credit free!

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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Cooking Co-ops

Media_httpgraphics8ny_pajzy

Great article from The New York Times on cooking co-ops, rather like a work place Salad & Soup club, or good old fashioned Bring & Share.

The most obvious benefit is the absence of ready meals and take-aways, lowering expenditure and all those nasties we find in prepared foods...

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these groups is that you don't need a lot of people to make it work - three or four households can cut your cooking time in half and your food bill by a great deal more!

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Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Mapping Arriva's "Big Society"

See the funny little rectangle that goes through Donisthorpe on the 9a route? Well, rumour has it that this is going to be cut from Sunday 18th July - more than 500 properties - many of them elderly owner occupiers - denied access to a bus service, despite Leicestershire County Council's policy to provide 95% of residents with a service within 800 metres of their home.

It's an interesting story, for nowhere on the Arriva website can you find confirmation of this. No, the communication is done by word of mouth, scaremongering pensioners and back-footing local residents' and community groups into asking what's going on. "Not enough passengers" is Arriva's reply, without a jot of evidence to support this claim. One soon to be 75 year old is having nightmares about the half mile uphill walk she faces at either end of her road. And all this less than 25 miles from two International Airports and three motorways...

It's an interesting point, because Arriva is the company which, shortly after I blogged about a 6 mile round trip costing £9.70 for an adult and a child last summer, Arriva took over that journey. The 55p child single for a two mile stretch promptly went up to £1.40 and yet, Arriva submitted the most cost effective tender for this subsidised service. A local firm lost the contract...

How many other funny little rectangles are being cut out nationally by a company which clearly bids aggressively for contracts it cannot afford to deliver? Where is the community involvement or "Big Society" in this? How the hell is anyone supposed to get to work, to go to college, the doctors' or do shopping so that our economy stands some chance of recovery?

DO leave a comment. It would be great to map precisely how many cuts are being implemented and to let Arriva know that customer dissatisfaction has well and truly arrived.

 

16.07.10 latest - Arriva publish a notice and comment

Keith Myatt communications manager of Arriva Midlands said: “Arriva Midlands monitors its services at regular intervals, during recent monitoring the need to revise the route and timetable of several local bus services has been highlighted to ensure reliability is maintained. Following consultation with Staffordshire County Council we’re pleased to introduce buses around Burton’s Queens Hospital Grounds.”

No data or contact details for Keith to explain how denying service to circa 500 households increases reliability for them, though, nor indeed why Staffs CC is consulted and Leics not...

Zero-credit #APD listed

Tweet #APD every #charitytuesday to help the "GOOD guys" Get Out Of Debt! These not for profit agencies, from the @Zerocredit_UK anti-poverty / debt Twitter list, campaign and / or provide free counselling. Links to all :-)

Monday, 5 July 2010

#Creditfree special: Food Waste

What a lovely site for eco and Zero-credit foodies alike - there's just so much you can do with your leftovers!

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Money Advice Map

Media_httpwwwmoneyadv_gwgvd

Enter your postcode into Credit Action's Money Advice Map and it will direct you to the nearest free and independent legal and financial advice centres, providing key information about their work, opening times etc..

What smarter way could there be to miss out the dodgy debt ads and find reliable local advice?

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Saturday, 3 July 2010

Community Land Trusts

Community Land Trusts Conference 2010

Here's what caught our eye in this excellent post from @SuButcher:

"A Community Land Trust is a corporate body set up by local people, with the objective of acquiring and managing assets for the benefit of the community, in perpetuity. They have been around in the US for years, and here too in organisations such as Almshouse Trusts. Using a shared equity model, it is theoretically possible for CLTs to provide affordable housing. Real schemes have been particularly successful in rural areas where local house prices can be as much as 20 time local income levels, thereby pricing local people out of the housing market."

So, if home ownership is currently out of your budget, keep your ear to the ground - The times, they are a changin'!

Watch the full episode. See more In Performance at The White House.

 

 

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Friday, 2 July 2010

All the fun of the eBook Fair

Media_httpworldebookf_ccajb

The World eBook Fair begins on Sunday 4th July this year and runs for a whole month! Three and half million books are available to download to your pc, laptop, netbook or hand held device. Great summer reads in credit free paradise and a slap in the face for the Digital Economy Bill too. Bring it on!

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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Big Issue Alternative Credit Scoring

Media_httpwwwbigissue_zthjg

Big Issue Invest runs an Alternative Credit Scoring Initiative that will add alternative data, such as rent payments, to traditional credit scoring models.

With the odds stacked against those with little or no credit rating by the mainstream credit checkers, this is a massive step forward for financial inclusion!

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