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Why David Cameron writing for MoneySavingExpert is not ‘bonkers’, ‘biased’ or ‘showing your true colours’

Why David Cameron writing for MoneySavingExpert is not  “bonkers”, “biased” or “showing your true colours

Why David Cameron writing for MoneySavingExpert is not “bonkers”, “biased” or “showing your true colours

According to some on Twitter today I’ve been "duped". That’s because David Cameron has written a guest piece for the site called ‘We will give pensioners security and dignity’. He asked if he could do it and we said, "why not?" After all, part of what MoneySavingExpert.com is about is providing a forum for people to engage in the big discussions and debates on consumer finance policy. 

Yet predictably there was the classic backlash. Here’s just a selection of some of the (nicer) anti-comments. I’ve picked the twitter ones as they’re shorter. Of course there were many who were supportive and found it interesting too…

  • @newviv: "@MartinSLewis I don’t approve of @David_Cameron using your website as a political platform."
  • @mheave: "@MartinSLewis @David_Cameron shame on you Martin. This man is vile, pernicious and plain evil to those struggling you try to help #irony."
  • @BillyWits: "Political spinning. You’ve been used Martin, the [obscenity deleted] has used you as you are perceived as trusted."
  • @harriet1dog: "I thought your site was meant to be impartial not a party political broadcast, is it Nigel Farage next week?"
  • @exnhsnurse1: "DC blog is party political broadcast. You are being used because you are a trusted source of financial advice."
  • @meljhenderson: "I can’t believe you’ve let him use this great website as a political platform. #disgraceful"
  • @mathewtedwards: "I think this is a BIG mistake! My constructive criticism would be to politely tell @David_Cameron you have reconsidered."

Yet many people when I responded were unaware of the wider context, some hadn’t actually read the blog, just responded to the fact Cameron was writing. This isn’t new, it isn’t biased, we have regularly offered oppportunities for senior politicians of all parties to write guest pieces for the site. (The only reason Ed Milliband hasn’t appeared is because we asked his team for a piece on energy and he didn’t seem keen; we have also asked for his comments on this issue today.)  

Here’s a list of just some of our past guest bloggers below. We’re also open to more guest pieces from senior politicians of all major parties (and it’d be nice to some get from SNP or Plaid Cymru too), as well as regulators and policymakers.

So, we haven’t been duped, what we have done, like many national newspapers also do, is provided a forum for important individuals who can change policy to try and justify their position, explain what they are planning to do and provided, within our own forum, a place for people to discuss it and give feedback about those issues. 

I consider that to be an important part of engagement with the political process within our MoneySaving community, which has 15 million monthly users. 

We are incredibly careful not to indicate in any way what our position is on these subjects. These are for the politicians to engage in. I think it is a perfectly decent way to behave – after all most national newspapers which do it tend to be biased towards an agenda. 

Our site’s stance is strictly apolitical. We do it as a form of engagement. We have even in the past done the MSE Leaders debate, where we asked all the parties for their views on key matters to consumers. 

So for those having a go, I think perhaps you needed to have done your research first.

MoneySaving health warning…

MoneySaving health warning…

You get 20% off at your favourite shop. It's so easy, you feel like doing it again. Before you know it, you're hooked and every element of your financial life is being attacked to cut costs

It starts with something soft. You get 20% off at your favourite shop. It’s so easy, you feel like doing it again, this time perhaps a code-stack or a bit of extreme couponing. Before you know it, you’re hooked and every element of your financial life is being attacked to cut costs – mortgage, credit card, PPI reclaims and more.

I’m afraid recently we’ve had a couple of emails from victims of such a habit, and I felt it was only responsible to publish them to alert others of the potential problem…

Dear MoneySavingExpert,
I am a total convert having taken time to do a financial review. Thanks to your wonderful recommendations and codes, in the last two months I have:

I have also been inspired to change the way I use my money and am encouraging my family and friends to do the same. 

Thank you for the fantastic job you do.

Kind regards,
Gill Acham

And it’s not just women who can catch this bug, the very next day after Gill emailed, we got this – the contagion is spreading…

Hi MoneySavingExpert.com team,
 
Just a huge thank you to you and the team!

  • Today I’ve just ordered a £400 VAX carpet cleaner for £140! (see Vax deals)
  • Earlier this year I made a claim using one of your templates and I received £199.95 compensation from Lufthansa for a late evening flight, three years ago, which was cancelled due to a mechanical problem until the following day. At the time Lufthansa had already paid for the overnight hotel and evening meal (see Flight delay reclaiming)
  • I received payment for wrongly sold Identity Protection Insurance (see CPP reclaiming – though this is now closed)
  • I have changed my gas/electricity deal and saved a substantial sum annually (see Cheap energy club)
  • I have followed your advice re home buildings and contents insurance premiums and what used to be a fairly high four-figure sum (which I had been paying for year-on-year and remaining loyal to the company, the name of which I will not mention) is now down to less than £500 all-in and actually includes some better cover/clauses. (See Cheap home insurance)

Keep up the good work. I’m happy and some of my favourite charities are also happy as I have been able to donate a little more than I normally would have.

Kind regards,
Tony

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Beware universities mis-selling courses on open days

Beware universities mis-selling courses on open days

Beware universities mis-selling courses on open days

It’s university application time. Hundreds of thousands of potential students across the country are deciding on their top pick institutions and courses. Many will have been on open days and been impressed by the facilities of the high powered institutions that could change their lives.

I’m a huge fan of university education – I think for many (though not all) it can broaden your financial, cultural, and general world outlook. Yet I want to sound a note of caution: how good a reflection of university life is the open day?

A few years ago I went with my little sister to an open day when she was choosing a course. It was a grand university and we got there for a talk on the international relations course. The man who walked in was an eminent professor who is often interviewed by world media – and within the sector, he is rather well-known.

He waxed regally about himself, the subject and the course for about 25 minutes. All looked good; I could see impressed young faces all around me (and some older ones too – many university applicants are mature students these days). 

Then it came to the question and answer session. One bright potential student put their hand up and asked: "How many contact hours do you have with undergraduates?" 

There was a pause, the professor hesitated, then said; "Actually, I don’t teach undergraduates, I only deal with research students." 

So the young questioner clarified; "In other words, we will never see you at all?"

"Correct," said the professor. 

That was it. If it hadn’t been for that bright student, no one would have realised that what they were being sold – the dream of getting (someone who considered himself to be) one of the world’s great minds on the subject – wasn’t a reality on this course. It got worse as people started to ask about practical issues such as whether or not it was possible to take a sandwich course and go to study abroad? The professor didn’t know. This continued, in fact he knew little about the practical details at all – no surprise as he didn’t have much involvement with them.

You could argue it was just ‘spin’, using one of their big names to draw people in, but there are many walks of life where we’d have called this mis-selling.  

I made a complaint to the university about this – and it agreed to look at its practices (which is why I’ve not named it). 

The appropriate halfway house would’ve been to couple him with another academic who was in charge of the course – so you had one to ‘sell’ the subject and the other to ‘sell’ the course.

These days, with the nominal cost of university at £9,000 per year per course (I say nominal because it is actually what you repay not what you’re charged that counts – see Student Loan Mythbuster), universities can’t allow themselves to behave in this old school paternalistic way.

We now have a much more consumer-driven university landscape and it’s important that universities understand that the way they portray themselves, like any other environment trying to attract business, needs to be ethical, clean, clear and above board.

Related Past Blogs:

Foodbank financial triage – an update

Foodbank financial triage – an update

Foodbank financial triage – an update

In August I blogged that I was going to fund a radical pilot scheme to get financial triage into foodbanks with the Trussell Trust.

The idea is that when people are asking for food, it’s a great time to try and help them manage their money and see what help is available – so hopefully the trip to a foodbank (to which people are often referred by a health or social agency) will be a one off.

For full details on the scheme and my involvement read my I’m excited to be involved in financial triage at foodbanks blog post.

The Trussell Trust has just sent its first progress report to me, so I thought I’d share it, as I know many of you were interested.

"Six food banks have been lined up to participate in the pilot. They are:

  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Stroud
  • Coventry
  • Cardiff
  • Durham
  • Dundee

Plus Tower Hamlets which we will wind into the pilot as they have already implemented a programme which is still running. No money will go to them directly, however we will include their results.

We have lined up and have spoken to all initial Partners: CAP, Turn2us, CMA, Money Advice Trust, CAB.

Following all press including Martin‘s interview, the Trussell Trust received 57 enquiries from potential partners wishing to participate in the pilot. Whilst the above listed have been chosen to participate, the others are being managed until such a time it is appropriate to proceed with them.

Computers have been organised for all trial Partners (at nil cost to the project, sourced through Avios air miles promotion by being their charity partner).

David has visited Northern Ireland where he has put the wheels in motion as follows:

  • Set up and agree terms for NI ( Northern Ireland) using Advice NI.
  • Advertised for a Project Coordinator. Interviews will be held on 13th October."

So we’re about to be up and running. It’s great to see so many people engaging with this.

I’m excited to be involved in a radical financial triage foodbanks programme

I’m excited to be involved in a radical financial triage at foodbanks programme

I’m excited to be involved in a radical financial triage at foodbanks programme

A radical experiment is about to start involving the Trussell Trust and I’m delighted to be playing a part. Rather than regurgitating, here is the charity’s press release which tells you all…

"FOODBANKS TO LAUNCH RADICAL ‘FINANCIAL TRIAGE’ PROGRAMME"

Foodbank charity the Trussell Trust is to launch pilot funded by a 6-figure personal donation from Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis.

This pioneering idea is a response to the alarming increase in people being referred to foodbanks in severe financial difficulty. The scheme could revolutionise how the UK’s leading foodbank charity works and will see foodbanks partner with debt and money-management charities to provide instant financial help to people in foodbanks at the point of crisis.

The pilot is announced as new research shows that more than one in ten UK families have taken out a pay day loan to make ends meet in the last year (12%) and a quarter (24%) of UK families have fallen into debt to be able to provide for the family. Over 900,000 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013/14 financial year, 163% more than the previous year.

David McAuley, Trussell Trust Chief Executive says: "It’s deeply concerning that the basics of dignified life in modern Britain – food, heat and electricity – can fall out of reach for so many. High prices, static incomes, problems with benefits and harsh welfare sanctioning are forcing people into extreme financial difficulty.

"When you’re facing stark choices between eviction or feeding the family, debt and high interest loans can seem to offer a short term solution, the reality is that this often forces finances to spiral out of control.

"By introducing a ‘financial triage’ service in foodbanks, where clients are able to connect with free financial and debt advice, people will be given professional help to manage tight finances, avoid pay day lenders and structure debt to prevent the situation from getting worse and to help people break out of crisis much faster."

Martin Lewis’ donation, to be supplemented by additional funds from the Trussell Trust, will enable the charity to develop the first stage of a transformative ‘more than food’ approach to foodbanks, where foodbanks in the pilot project become a ‘hub’ of local service provision.

People in need will be able to access a range of support including emergency food, debt advice and money management all in one location, removing access barriers and cutting down waiting times.

Connecting people with financial support at the point of crisis will also help reduce the workloads of already over-stretched debt and money-management charities by helping to decrease the number of people developing complex and entrenched financial problems.

Despite the evidence of economic recovery, the benefits are not yet filtering down to people living on the breadline. Life is not likely to get easier for the poorest anytime soon which is why finding innovative ways to help people living on low-incomes is urgent.

Martin Lewis says: "The hope is that this scheme will provide a financial equivalent of ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’. I’ve been campaigning for financial education in schools for years, finally that starts on the curriculum in September, but that still leaves great swathes of our society, especially some of the most needy struggling with even the basics of money management.

"Those who go to foodbanks are already open to asking for help. They’ve rightly prioritised the urgent need to feed themselves and their children. Yet if we can intervene at that point to start to get their financial lives back on track, by approachable, non-judgemental help, it will hopefully cut down the number of return visits."

The Trussell Trust runs a network of over 400 foodbanks across the UK that give emergency food and support to people in crisis and, if the pilot is successful, this could be rolled out across the UK in 2015/16.

The pilot scheme will initially be launched in six Trussell Trust foodbanks in different regions of the UK, aiming to improve the financial standing of foodbank users and to improve their household budgetary skills. The scheme will partner with national UK debt charities to offer professional debt counselling services for up to 20 hours a week per centre in each region.

The pilot will start in September 2014.

Related past blogs