Them & Us

Wonga tosh

You couldn’t make it up, but Wonga did when the high interest rate payday lender sent threatening letters from non-existent legal firms to its customers. Wonga has coughed up £2.6 million to 45,000 customers as a result but it managed to avoid a fine because the ‘misconduct’ occurred before the new regulatory body – the Financial Conduct Authority – started.

Until the intervention of the Law Society, who pointed out that Wonga may have committed blackmail and deception, the police had taken no interest in pursuing the case.

Living wage

At its AGM, Tesco shareholders gave company chairman Richard Broadbent a grilling over its relatively poor trading performance. But the hardened chairman was left rocking on his heels when eleven year old Lucas Pinto asked whether Tesco would introduce the living wage for its staff by the time he was old enough to work!

Inequality Britain

The Office for National Statistics’ latest figures in income distribution show that the richest fifth of the population have gained in earnings over the years 2011-12 and 2012-13 while the poorest in society have seen their disposable income plummet.

The top 20% of households had a gross average income of £81,300 in 2012-13, almost 15 times greater than the poorest 20% who had an average income of only £5,500.

These figures cover only declared incomes and do not show the huge differences in wealth – property, shares and other assets – between the social classes.

Pool players

What predatory creatures live in a ‘dark pool’? High volume investment (read ‘toxic’) traders at Barclays LX off-exchange venue. Behind Barclays closed doors these wheeler dealers were able to trade large blocks of shares anonymously, with prices posted publicly only after deals were secured.

These dark pools operate without transparency or supervision and echo the dodgy practices which led to the 2007-08 financial crash. Barclays is now being sued by New York’s securities regulator for allegedly misleading institutional shareholders.

Gold diggers

Despite the enormous cost to the public purse and the abysmal quality of service provision from private companies, the Coalition government is pressing ahead with its privatisation agenda.

Next up for grabs is the probation service, worth an estimated £8 billion in contracts over the next decade. Companies with a notorious track record in running public services – Sodexo, Capita, Geo group, Amey etc – are all looking to cash in.

Notwithstanding trade union opposition, Justice Minister Chris Grayling is pushing this rip-off policy. This is despite preparations for the sell-off being hit by a massive IT failure in June when thousands of offenders’ case files were erased or lost.

Off message

Ofgem, the toothless industry regulator, is to investigate the energy market after it revealed that the ‘Big Six’ providers are scooping £101 profit a year from every household – an incredible 1,000% increase in only five years. Ofgem has neither powers to cut prices nor halt price increases.

The doubling of profits in one year is despite a fall of up to 38% in wholesale energy prices. The unashamed profiteering of the Big Six makes a mockery of Ed Miliband’s timid pledge of a future Labour government to freeze prices for 20 months.

What We Saw

DPAC and other activists attempting to save ILF by occupying grounds of Westminster Abbey

Activists campaigning against the Con-Dems’ axing of the Independent Living Fund for disabled people attempted to occupy the grounds of Westminster Abbey in central London last Saturday but were prevented by a large force of police. Scrapping ILF next June and transferring responsibilty for 18,000 recipients to cash-strapped councils will severely impact on the quality of life for severely disabled people.