Tag Archives: family finances

Cheques please. Why parents need to speak up against banks

 HOW many cheques do you write a month? One? None? You’re probably not a parent or a pensioner then.

It may have skipped your notice but the banks are trying to get rid of cheques, claiming they are “in terminal decline” and no longer as popular as they used to be; ie, something we actually like, that they can cut to make more money.

The UK Payments Council, whose board reads like a who’s who of the major banks, and works with credit card firms and organisations like BACS, announced in 2009 that cheques would no longer be used by October 2018, as long as ‘viable alternatives’ had been developed. [I thought you could only have one alternative]

The Treasury Select Committee, made up of MPs, has been debating the issue by focussing on pensioners, who they claim are “less at ease with the latest technology,” according to committee chairman Andrew Tyrie. “Many charities, small business and vulnerable people – including pensioners – depend on cheques.

“Their needs must be considered. They should not be forced into shredding their cheque books.”

Actually, I think you’ll find that parents are an overlooked group that want to keep cheques too.

Bloke and I probably write ten cheques a month between us. We also do online banking as we’re lucky enough to have home computers, which I’m pretty sure many people can’t afford.

We write cheques for school dinners, school trips, school book orders, childcare fees, and never-ending subs for Cubs, for rugby, for cricket, football, drama, exams . . . I could go on.

I can’t bear this crass generalisation that the only people who use cheques are technophobes. Why can’t we have both? What happened to consumer choice? I like cheques.

It’s not just the kids’ stuff. We write cheques for local services, for window cleaners, electricians, osteopaths, our own fees for sport and the allotment. I even receive cheques for my business as a freelance.

Tyrie added that he was “shocked” that the UK Payments Council had not conducted a rigorous cost benefit analysis of its plan and called on it to “go away and do some number crunching.”

The UK Payments Council says on its website an idea for something to replace the cheque is: “a paper-initiated payment instrument.”

Er, a cheque then. Oh, and they might encourage payments via mobile phones.

What is the genuine alternative? That I give my seven-year-old a wodge of cash to take to Cubs? That people keep more cash at home to pay people?

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said: “Scrapping cheques without there being a suitable replacement is not acceptable.”

John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The FSB has voiced its concern for some time that small businesses would suffer as a result of the cheque being phased out, and so it is welcome news that the Treasury Select Committee has reopened the debate.”

If you want to keep cheques, write to the Treasury Select Committee at 7 Milbank, London SW1P 3JA by May 6.Petition your MP. Harass your bank. Imagine what is it costing to even debate abolishing cheques?

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Oh, any by the way, cheque guarantee cards go for good at the end of June.

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Getting all political on your ass

HOW much more can any of us tighten our belts? There can’t be any parent who hasn’t had to watch the pennies in the past few years of redundancies and recession.
Yet the way the government speaks you’d think we were all rolling in it. Today’s Big Announcement didn’t help.  All this drip, drip of guesswork about what’s getting the axe became real, through the snappily-titled Comprehensive Spending Review.
Don’t be conned by stories about single mums on benefits. Or tales of unemployed families who have lots of children. This is propaganda. Its purpose is to make people who work and pay taxes and scrimp and save have someone easy to blame.
Osborne, the multi-millionaire Chancellor is saying: “We have to see this through.” Cameron talks of “Being in this together.” Nah, I don’t buy it. This is about Jim and Jo Average having to bail out the coalition while demonising anyone who claims from the state.
That includes the stay-at-home mum whose husband earns just enough for her to swap the 9-5 for finger-painting and cupcake-making.
They could claw back billions by closing tax loopholes and making the banks, the real culprits for the deficit, pay more. Public spending did not cause this mess, banking did. When they all crashed, thousands became unemployed, less people paid taxes, everyone stopped spending.
This is politics.
The truth is that YOU have to see it through, fellow parents. Those who know you can’t make ends meet without working every hour you can logistically manage. Those on just about an average wage with kids in average schools driving average cars.
And you’re right, it’s not your fault, but it’s not the fault of everyone claiming benefits either. Yes, certainly something needs to be done about benefit cheats – not all people on benefits.
Take a trip down to your local magistrates’ court and you’ll have your eyes opened to the reality of benefit fraud, unemployment and alcoholism. There you’ll see the Shameless generation: people repeatedly getting fined for fraud, paying £2 a month instalments from the benefit they still get, then being back in court for missing the payments.
This is nothing new though, it’s been happening for centuries. It’s just people are less embarrassed to admit to it.
Would you rather pay £1 extra tax each month towards a single parent with children under 5 whose partner has left them to start a shiny new family, or to the lazy 20-something mummy’s boy sitting in his bedroom on his Xbox expecting his first job to pay him £30k?
How can you attack the welfare state simply because you have a sense of it “not being fair?” There are single parents of school-aged children who get their mortgage interest paid for by the state as long as they DON’T get a job. They know that getting a part-time job to fit around the school hours will simply not provide the same income that being job-less will. That’s not fair, but if you just stop paying it tomorrow, aren’t you then just forcing the children out of their homes and the parents into even more of a poverty trap? It’s an impossible situation.
So what do the poor Averages do? They’ve been on the same salary for years, as bosses insist ad nauseam  that times are too tight for an annual rise, whilst squirrelling away their own massive share options in their wives’ names.
How many parents can really still say their love their job and feel secure that they’ll keep it? How many more are exhausted, just doing whatever they can to pay for the pared-down weekly shop, stopping their kids’ out-of-school activities, selling anything they can on eBay to pay for Christmas?
Is it fair that they are the ones who will see reductions in tax credits, family allowance and pension contributions?
And don’t see this rant as a sign that I’m just some raving Leftie. I don’t believe there are any politicians, of any party, who really know what the hell to do, except for finding someone to blame.

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