Who owns UK Debt?

money grabEach day the news usually has room for items on the financial crisis. We are all aware of the fact that the national debt is a source of concern and that the government is actively finding cuts to the structural deficit in the hope that it will eventually result in a reduction of the national debt. 

The debt, of course, is owed by us, the taxpayer to the tune of £16,000 per taxpayer and that figure increases by £2,000 per year in interest payments alone. That is without any further increased borrowings on the part of the Government. The debt stands at £1,000 billion and is 1/3 of our GDP. Interestingly, though not to make light of the problem, the US owe a figure that is 100% of their GDP and Japan 202% of theirs.

So who owns our debt? 33% is owned by foreign investors ( approx £400bn).  Next is the Bank of England with 29% (approx £386bn) , 25% is owed to private insurance companies and pension funds ( £335bn) and the remainder owed to Banks, Building Societies and other financial institutions. Whilst quite interesting none of this information does us any good other than to arm us with the facts which should underpin our deep concern over the need to reduce borrowings and pay off the debt. It does pose the question - "How did we get into this position?" The truth is we were led by the nose by politicians purporting to be "prudent" but in effect engaging in spending programmes that we could not afford, even at the time, let alone sustaining them in the long run. 

Government's always point the finger elsewhere and yet we see the same people responsible for the situation still occupying positions of power and influence. When are we going to learn that we have to look for a more honest way of government which does not attempt to buy votes with short term policies but seek a way of governing that has a vision and policies which tackle issues that will not be resolved in the life of their parliament, or perhaps the following one. That, requires political courage, so don't hold your breath!

Letter to the Chancellor- Reply From The Chancellor's Office

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At last we have had a reply from the Chancellor's Office regarding Child Trust Funds. It did take a reminder before it arrived ! However, as we might have anticipated it is not what we wanted to hear as you can see from the letter. Have you got any commnets you would like to make?. After all, we don't want to leave it at that do we?












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This is the start of a regular invitation to Silverlinkers to send me a letter addressed to anybody they wish tackling any issue that is important to them. The letter will be published and sent by the Editor to the person concerned. The reply will be

published in due course. As you can see I have begun with my own letter to the Chancellor. Please submit yours.

The Rt Hon George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer
HM Treasury
1 Horse Guards Road

Dear Chancellor

Child Trust Funds v Junior ISAs

We wish to bring to your attention the growing concern amongst parents and grandparents over your policy on ISAs. At the Silverlinksnetwork we are well aware that the policy of Child Trust Funds ( CTFs) was introduced by the previous Government and that CTFs have now been replaced by the new Junior ISAs. However, your Treasury maintains its position that those people holding a CTF cannot move the money to a more appropriate Junior ISA.

You will be aware that as a defunct savings fund the CTF does not command any interest amongst investment managers and it is fair to say that the poor returns that these funds currently attract can only be set to get worse. Those of us that set up funds for our children or grandchildren in accordance with Government advice now find ourselves down a blind alley. It seems to us that there is no good reason for your continuing to prevent the movement of funds out CTFs into Junior ISAs affording us the same degree of flexibility that we get in our own ISA savings funds.

We would request that the Teasury conducts a review of this matter and we would welcome your comments, particularly as to the reason why no action will be taken if that is your decision. 


We will look forward to hearing from you in due course.




Consumer Rights

mf6AI0QUPDATE Some time ago I read an article that has been a very useful source of reference and contained information about my rights which has saved me money over the years. I was reminded of it when I read a similar article the other day and felt I should share it. Since writing this piece I have been in dispute with a very well-known high street retailer over a mid priced washing machine that I bought 2 1/2 years ago. It stopped working, so I contacted them and was immediately referred to the fact that it was out of guarantee. I discussed the issue of consumer rights and was politely told that they would pay half the cost of the repair as a gesture of goodwill but that I had got the Consumer Rights Act wrong.. They gave me the contact numbers of Indesit and I was told that I should contact them. I got the repair done and then went back to the store with the receipt and report of what the engineer had done. Again the same dance ensued but it became clear that I was not going away so easily. The section manager disappeared to copy the paper work and came back to say that they would refund the whole bill again merely as a gesture of goodwill.

It is interesting because although I hadn't said so I was prepared not to accept the half paymeny they had suggested but instead go to the small claims court to test the arguments I have set out below. I can only assume, not that I was wrong, but they have been trained to fob you off as best they can as most customers will accept a donation. I can't blame them because if everybody realised their right it would cost them quite a lot. The most important thing is to speak quietly and not to lose your temper.

How many times have you bought a new house appliance or electrical equipment and been advised to buy the product insurance alongside to protect you from the possibility of failure after the usual one year guarantee has past. I never do because I know my rights and that the one year guarantee is something of a sleight of hand. It is easy to be fobbed off by High St stores who will deny you your legal rights to have faulty goods repaired beyond that one year period. In a recent piece of research of 60 stores and outlets who were contacted about faulty goods just out of their guarantee period only staff in 16 of them accepted that they still had a responsibility to resolve the problem.

The truth is that the Sale of Goods Act 1979 gives consumers limited protection for up to six years after purchase, regardless of store or manufacturers warranties. The Act says that goods must be of satisfactory quality , fit for purpose and meet its description.That means that if it develops a fault at a time in its life when this should not happen then your are entitled to expect the retailer to resolve the problem by either a no-cost repair or replacement. The caveat to this is that the failure must not have occurred as a result of misuse. Essentially you ask yourself the question - Is it reasonable for me to expect a longer working life for this piece of equipment? The general rule is that most hardy manufactured products can be expected to last for 6 years. Furthermore the retailer has to effect a solution in a reasonable length of time and without undue inconvenience.

However, most stores will deny your rights partly because they are unaware of them and partly because they do not wish to enter into time consuming and possibly costly negotiations. Nevertheless you maybe asked to prove that failure of the product was due to inherant manufacturing fault. This is not quite so easy if faced with a persistent denial. My first approach has been one of reasonableness. If that fails then some kind of report from a recognised engineer usually dies the trick. I would always put my course of action together with associated costs that I might incur in writing to the company.

I had one such case with Curry's a while ago when my camera stopped working after almost 2 years. It was one year out of its store guarantee period. Sure enough the shop assistance gave me the line " it is out of its guarantee and there is nothing we can do" I very politely pointed out the error of his ways and escalated the complaint to regional/national levels. In the end I sent the camera back to Cannon who sent me a letter confirming that it was a manufacturing fault. To be fair to Curry's they agreed to supply me with a new camera which was a very satisfactory solution. The message is "Be polite but insistent upon your rights and never bother with product insurance"

As a postscript I heard on Radio 4 this week that very few people relealise that you have the same protection for lost and stolen goods when using your Visa Debit Card as you do with your Visa Credit Card. Apparently, many staff working for banks that issue your card, also do not realise that you have the cover. This only applies to Visa cards not others.


You've been scammed

coins The BBC's current programme on scams is a useful reminder to all of us of just how vulnerable we are to the increasing array of scams, usually initiated via the telephone. One of the cases featured this morning has left me livid at the shear injustice. Business people were contacted and persuaded to change their analogue telephone system for a digital one. The company clearly stated at the time they were connected to BT and that customers would be refunded the money they pay for the new system through government grants. Neither of these facts were true.

When signing the agreement, which was effectively a lease agreement they were not given copies even when they asked for them, instead being fobbed off with the promise of a soon to be forthcoming comprehensive folder of agreements etc. The fact is that they were tying themselves into 7 year highly expensive agreements with leasing companies for the equipment. The reason why they were  not given copies of those agreements was because they were taken away and changed without their knowledge, often from 1year term to a 7 year term. New agreements had forged signatures.

The perpetrators of this scam were jailed for fraud and despite the watertight evidence which secured the conviction the victims are still responsible for the costs of the forged agreement to the leasing companies. If this is the case then it is clearly wrong and the law should be changed.

This brings me to one vital point about transacting business on the phone. I have had a number of forays from scammers both by e.mail and telephone. Fortunately I have not been caught - yet. There is one rule I stick by. I will never transact any business over the phone if I did not initiate the call. Sometimes this means I lose out on some good deals. For example I had a call from the AA, or at least an AA representative who had all my details; membership no, address etc. He was making me aware of promotions the AA had on offer at the time and one product in particular was of interest to me. However, we got to the point where he asked me for my card details to pay for it. I think that call was genuine but I stuck to my rule of not transacting the business from a call that I did not initiate. I said I would phone him back via the AA. I was told that was not possible, clearly he was being paid on commission by a company retained by the AA to sell their products. My immediate thought was that the AA should not put their members in this position as the next call could be fraudulent. I made the point to the AA but received no intelligible response. Maybe, if I had the power of similar minded customers alongside me I could have an effect.

Have you had similar situations that you would like to share?

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