Thursday, 30 June 2011

Pennies from heaven

While one random act of kindness can supposedly change the world, I am delighted to report three random acts of kindness have amounted to a much needed holiday for our family.
When Christmas  2008 came only eight weeks after the Grand Opening, every penny I received in gifts from my family went towards heat, light, food and fuel. We had weekly benefits of £300 a week and nothing to spare for presents let alone luxuries. Our life remained like this for many months leaving me trapped in my beautiful,  but expensive to heat, country home with creditors shouting abuse at my door, debt collection agencies constantly telephoning, baliff visits looming  and no idea where the tunnel was let alone where the light at the end of it might be.
A year later when Christmas came around again we had lost our home but had managed to secure a roof over our head in the form of a drafty, leaky old farmhouse which had stood empty for nearly a year. By this time my husband was working at M & S but we had to use the Christmas money sent to us as gifts to finance the purchase of presents for our children and grandchildren.

This year was completely different.
With rental income from lodgers bridging the gap between torturously cold and bearably comfortable, I felt able, for the first time in three years, to spend the three hundred pounds my father sent us, on a luxury. So, on New Year’s Eve, I paid £321 for five return flights to Spain thanks to my Dad and his wife’s generousity.
Three years ago, within days of discovering our predicament, my father- in -law urged me to take my children away from the continual harassment and verbal abuse which went hand in hand with the demise of our business by moving to his apartment on the Costa del Sol. Not wishing to hide from our financial responsibilites I decided to stay and face the consequences so declined his kind offer to use his well appointed Spanish home complete with car and a full larder. Three years on he was only too happy to make the same offer again but this time for ten days in July.

Hearing the prohibitively expensive transfers from the airport were going to cost nearly as much as our flights, some Spanish resident ex-patriot friends of my father in law, whom we have never meet, offered to bring two cars to Malaga airport to collect us at a fraction of the cost of the commercial transfers available.
Because of these three independent acts of kindness, I, my husband and my children will fly to Spain for a ten day holiday of sun, sand and sea for which we have not paid one penny.  For me, this is a clear indication the “everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines”.

I do not doubt ex Lloyds Chief Executive Eric Daniel’s holiday plans, along with a fair few other HBOS and Lloyd’s executives, will have used tax-payer paid bonuses to finance much more extravagant and exotic summer breaks for their families than mine. I cannot, however, believe it possible for any of them to be looking forward to their vacation more than I am.

This feeling is priceless.

Beat and retreat

During the past two years it has been difficult to remember happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but instead emerges from the recognition and appreciation what we do but these days, when anyone asks why I remained at my husband's side in the light of such adverse circumstances, I always say with conviction, “Because I am not prepared to lose any more than I already have”.Fully aware my life is far from perfect, I am regularly able to rejoice in the knowledge that, despite the constant prevailing and ill wind from HBOS I have succeeded in keeping my family together but it does not allow me to ignore ever emerging evidence of greed, irresponsible behaviour and double standards employed by Lloyds and HBOS

Annoyed it has proved necessary for Steve Baker to campaign for a parliamentary bill to force banks to prepare accounts reflecting a true and accurate illustration of their previous years trading, which have on occasion been as much twenty five million adrift, I have been nothing short of incensed to discover, despite insisting to me they never write off debt, HBOS have been doing precisiely this for the last two years for debts in Ireland amounting  to 7.2 billion. Yet still Eric Daniels, who has recently declared his remaining Irish loan book 54% impaired, has continued to see fit to ignore my personally addressed letters to him asking for debt forgiveness and instead, sanctioned Merrils Ede to crank up their persecution of me. While I am left crushed under a residential shortfall of £217,000, Eric Daniels has, in contrast, cunningly escaped from under Lloyds and HBOS’s own 289 billion shortfall, happily clutching his 1.45 million pound reward for failure on the back of scurrolous accounts and his “very good year” remark.

If HBOS had not forced the sale on our 16th century tithe barn during our period of crisis in 2008, we too could have had a retirement to look forward to. Assuming we  sold up when my husband reached age 65 (twenty years hence), its anticipated value would be 3.2 million assuming an average annual compound growth of 7% and a current value of £800,000.  Even with a £795,000 mortgage to deduct and £27,000 of arrears we too could have been looking forward to a substantial lump sum to support us in our old dotage.

Some people may well be enjoying the benefit of HBOS and Lloyds “pray and delay” or “extend and pretend” policies while others appear to have experienced the relief of a “forgive and forget” write offs. For me however, it remains HBOS’s policy only to “beat and retreat” behind their Rottweilers at Merrils Ede Solicitors

And 

At present I am at a complete loss to fathom how I can ever change this.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Good News Day

In 1814 Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said, “Never awake me when you have good news to announce, because with good news nothing presses; but when you have bad news, arouse me immediately for then there is not an instant to be lost.” Nearly two hundred years on I can whole heartedly relate to these words because for the past two and a half years I have awoken, every morning, with a sense of urgency in the knowledge there is not an instant to be lost when it comes to battling the banks for my family’s future.


During the last three months, if I have not been engaged in combat with HBOS and Lloyds, fulfilling the needs of my children, arranging a fundraising Ball or playing Mrs Mop to my lodgers, my focus has been on writing my blog.  My blog has become my platform and even a point of reference when trying to explain my position to others. Most of all, however, blogging has provided a vehicle by which to record the frustrations of not being heard in the hope that one day I will be.

This weekend, at last, I received not only good news, but evidence I have indeed been been heard and not just on one occasion.  

·        The Financial Ombudsman’s Service confirmed they are happy to receive additional evidence of the ongoing harassment I am still subject to from Merrils Ede solicitors. They have also informed me they anticipate their investigation will take at least eight weeks. This is very encouraging news because, not only does it give me written evidence they are taking my complaint seriously but it also offers my family and I some much needed sanctuary during this summer’s school holidays.

·        My legal friend JS tells me Merrils Ede’s refusal to supply me with the promised internal investigation report into my original complaint about them, warrants a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. This news is also refreshing because in the past I have been unable to illustrate Merrils Ede’s vindictive attitude and incompetent nature  and because of this have been left completely exposed to their continued harassment.

·        The Office of Fair Trading at Cardiff County Hall has not only replied to my letter of 2009 and apologised profusely for their delay, but expressed grave concern Merrils Ede are, as I informed them, collecting debts without a consumer credit licence as well as flaunting many debt collecting guidelines. Armed with the evidence I have provided them, they plan to investigate Merrils Edes and report their findings to the Law Society. Words do not explain how relieved I am to be finally gathering some officialdom in my arsenal against HBOS and their henchwoman.

However, while every one of these instances has strengthened my resolve to return to the fight fortified, nothing has lifted my spirits more than the email I received this weekend from journalist, broadcaster and reporter Ian Fraser. In it was the link to his latest blog which was, for the most part, about my continued persecution at the hands of Lloyds and HBOS. He urged Chief Executive Antonio Horta Osorio to address “the sins of the past” if he is to live up to his comment “bring out your dead” as the pre-requisite to the massive clean up operation he plans to implement at Lloyds and HBOS.   I cannot thank Ian enough for illustrating my circumstances and can only hope through his words I may finally be heard.

For me, this weekend has most definitely been one which has been packed with good news and if Napoleon Bonaparte believed this warrants a lie in, who am I to argue? Here’s hoping Ian Fraser feels he’s earned a lie in too.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Unequal Opportunities

Having just read Ian Fraser’s blog of 25 June 2011 about my ongoing unpalatable predicament, I was astonished to discover the persecution I have suffered at the hands of HBOS over the last two and a half years has less to do with my husband having borrowed too much and a lot to do with the fact our £217,000 disputed shortfall is insufficient to qualify for forgiveness.  Having told me at least ten times they will never write off shortfalls it appears HBOS are more than happy to do exactly this, but only for a select few and only if your face fits.

One way one can qualify for debt forgiveness from HBOS is to borrow, like Sir David Murray of Murray International Holdings, 759 million.  In these circumstances, like Sir David, I may well have qualified for a shortfall write off 150 million when my husband’s property business took a nose dive due to the economic recession and the demise of his bank Heritable. I may also have been able to keep my home into the bargain.  Alternatively I could have secured debt forgiveness from HBOS if, instead of my children’s home being at risk, I was a struggling “buy to let” borrower in Ireland with a shortfall.  However, being a fifty three year old mother of three young children with a husband suffering from unresolved grief and depression, I am told it is out of the question. In fact it is regularly intimated by Merrils Ede solicitors that I am delusional to keep asking. For me the line from HBOS has always been to stop asking for a write off that they are never going to grant and, pay up.

I have spent the last three years overwrought with fear for my family’s future while continually being hounded and ridiculed by Lloyds, HBOS and their appointed debt collection henchwoman at Merrils Ede solicitors. They continue to harass us for money they know we simply do not have and yet now, thanks to Ian Fraser’s blog naming a few of the tycoons who have enjoyed substantial shortfall write offs, I have realized I am actually up against a well established two tier system of favoritism for the select few.

Sir David Murray said “The one thing you can’t buy at a time like this is experience” as he looked ahead with bullish confidence.  I beg to differ.  I suspect the one thing I couldn’t buy at the time was a face which would fit. Because of this, while Sir Murray looks to a future with HBOS’s help, I, with the help of my husband and three children, packed up our home into a friend’s horse box  when HBOS forced a sale on my house and left every chance of economic recovery for my family behind.

They say God has no favorites but it is clear HBOS most certainly does.  




Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Emperor's New Clothes

On occasion I am asked why I exchanged a lucrative career in the Financial Services Industry for the life of a housewife and mother. I am uncomfortable when I am faced with no alternative but to explain as failure on any level does not sit well with me. Admitting that my health failed, albeit in a non life threatening way, when undiagnosed Hypothyroidism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, twice weekly migraines, high blood pressure and Alopecia Totalis finally caught up with me at the age of forty is no exception. 

In 1998, on my GP's instructions, I walked away from a job which provided substantial returns in exchange for an unsustainable pace and instead I chose to spend the past twelve years living an "alternative" lifestyle in an effort to accommodate my physical shortcomings by way of a less stressful life. As a result my hair grew back, my blood pressure settled, I no longer fell asleep the moment I sat down and I was much happier knowing I had time to surcombe to bouts of ill health when they occurred.

In October 2008 this changed.

Forced by circumstance to once again endure unhealthily high levels of stress when I become a one woman debt fighting machine immediately highlighted my inadequacies. Within a matter of days it plunged me back into a regime of daily migraine, sudden weight loss, insomnia, panic attacks and chronic Alopecia. Managing these health issues while simultaneously trying acquire up to date knowledge of the financial services industry guidelines and regulations has made it all the more arduous to access my own rusty knowledge of the industry let alone retain it but despite the shackles of these infuriating limitations, I  remained committed to saving my family from the ongoing persecution of HBOS. To this end I have been exploring the world of finance via archived newspaper articles. During my research I came across the words of ex- HBOS risk management executive and whistleblower Paul Moore and was nothing short of astounded to discover just what HBOS had been up to.

Having already lost his job as a result of his attempts to warn the HBOS board their lending strategy was critically flawed, Mr Moore bravely ignored a gagging order to expose the relentlessly irresponsible behavior of his HBOS colleagues.  His revelations provided me with an extremely enlightening insight into how my husband was able secure the levels of borrowing he did and also explained the short-term financial motivation behind the board's endorsement of these economically dangerous lending policies. Coupled with the shockingly inadequate aspects of corporate and regulatory governance which permitted an HBOS sales culture specifically designed to harvest short term gain regardless of the cost to customers and shareholders to go unchecked, it became clear from what Moore was saying, it was not just our home and our financial future which had been steered towards the rocks by HBOS, but that of the economy as a whole.

Convinced even non bankers with no risk management expertise would recognize the pitfalls of lending “money to people who have no jobs, no provable income and no assets” Paul Moore firmly believes the current financial crisis has come about as a direct result of "an Emperor’s New Clothes attitude within HBOS”. He says anyone “not blinded by money, power and pride felt unable to speak up for fear of stepping out of line with the rest of the lemmings who were busy organizing themselves to run over the cliff edge” behind their sweet talking CEO. 

This was a complete revelation to me.

However, despite this newly acquired insight and amid widespread reports Lloyds/HBOS' new CEO Antonio Horta Osorio plans for "a new beginning", I am still left completely unable to comprehend why HBOS, now publicly exposed for their recklessness and under official investigation, has seen fit to instruct both their collections and their legal departments to hound my family for a £217,000 shortfall which they created, risking further scrutiny and investigation and yet more bad press.

An ancient Arabian proverb suggests, "There are many ways to recognize foolish behavior, anger without cause; speech without profit; change without progress; inquiry without object" and because HBOS and their henchmen continue to employ each and every one of these traits to hound and harass their victims for no logical reason, I can only conclude they remain committed to seeking counsel from fools in preference to heeding the wise words of their former head of corporate risk management, Paul Moore. 

This does not bode at all well for any of us.


Loveless letters

Another letter from Merrils Ede solicitors has landed on my doorstep and my stomach does an involuntary flip when I spot the corporate frank declaring its origins. Even though I know this letter has arrived as a result of one I sent to them last week, it still sends my adrenalin rushing into overdrive as I prepare myself for yet another round of vindictive abuse from this HBOS appointed henchwoman and her colleagues.

Today these Rottweilers have written to refuse an answer to my enquiry as to whether the Bank of Scotland has instructed them to issue bankruptcy proceedings “without further notice”  as intimated in their last letter. Although I explained I require this information for my Ombudsman complaint,  I have been denied the answer, yet again, on the grounds my request is merely repetitive delaying tactics.   I believe this accusation can only be a Freudian slip on the part of Merrils Ede as it is they who are employing delaying tactics when it comes to making it clear to HBOS we are genuinely without funds. Why resolve this unpleasant situation for me when, by dragging their feet and making repeated demands for money they know we have not got, gives them an infinite number of opportunities to milk their extremely lucrative HBOS cash cow to the tune of £180 per letter?

No doubt Merrils Ede are further frustrated by the fact the Ombudsman has now taken my case and in so doing rendered my file non income producing for them. However, what I find frustrating is, because of a legislative loop-hole, Merrils Edes are unanswerable to anyone for their blatant flaunting of FSA, Office of Fair Trading and government guidelines because they are solicitors. The Solicitors Regulatory Association agrees what they are doing is unpleasant but not illegal and so, in the name of HBOS, they have carte blanche to employ whatever tactics they wish without fear of losing their licence to practice. Little wonder they are happy to say on their website they collect money for their clients irrespective of whether the individuals are “can’t pays” or "won't pays”.

I understand Confucius said, “To see what is right, and not do it is want of courage or of principle.”  And it seems to me the Bank of Scotland has decided to set its stall out with people who have neither. All I can hope for is my courage and principles, along with the Ombudsman sense of what is right, will ultimately win the day.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Perceptions

Whilst I am unsurprised by Rupert Jones’s article in the Guardian stating FSA figures show property repossessions are on the increase, I am amazed twenty two people, who appear not to have been repossessed themselves, have commented so emotively on the subject. Even more remarkable is the fact only one person from the twenty two who had something to say laid any blame at the door of the banks.

If this cross section is anything to go by, the Guardian reading public feel the government and the banks have a lot to answer for but  ultimately it is the individual who is to blame if their houses are repossessed. The commenting public simply believe “chickens have come home to roost” for the irresponsible mortgagees who have over stretched themselves by purchasing houses they could not afford.  In more than one case these errant and homeless individuals are condemned for making a fuss over something which is not even a “life or death” matter and accused of having used yet more taxpayer’s money for personal “bailouts” of futile self created situations.

Financial self interest is well represented in these comments while only minimal amounts of sympathy, very little understanding and virtually no empathy are evident. Bearing in mind it is well documented most repossession cases come about as a direct result of loss of income, I find it extremely unpalatable to discover so many people feel at liberty to cast the first stone. I can only conclude this is because they feel secure in their belief losing a home through repossession is not something which happens to people like them.  I can only wonder if opinions might alter if they were aware of the following;

·        HBOS excluded me from all conversations about arrears on my jointly mortgaged home on the grounds that I am a married woman.

·        HBOS went to court to obtain a possession order for my home based on a report from an HBOS appointed debt counsellor with whom neither my husband nor I have ever had a consultation.

·        HBOS refused to discuss reduced payments or any other options when I discovered our arrears and instead applied for possession through the courts four weeks later.

·        HBOS refused to allow me to agree a three year tenancy for my house with a revenue stream which covered my mortgage interest.  This option was available six months prior to them forcing the sale of my home.

·        HBOS forced a sale on our family’s home of ten years while fully aware of my husband’s health, unresolved grief from the loss of both his brother and mother from Motor Neurone disease and subsequent failure of his business.

·        HBOS carried on with their plans to repossess in spite of knowing my husband was actively looking for employment since his business failed due to the economic recession and the demise of our business bank, Heritable.

·        HBOS turned a mortgage with ten months of arrears into a £217,000 shortfall.

·        HBOS seized a £150,000 share of the equity in my home they had no right to as they did not ensure I was advised to take independent legal advice from my husband when he raised capital against our home for business purposes.

·        HBOS destroyed any chance of capital recovery for us forever yet still feel they can make regular demands for repayment of a shortfall they created by their actions.

·        HBOS have continued to harass and victimised me for two and a half years over money they are fully aware we do not have.

I sit, as ever, in my kitchen wondering if the Guardian readership cross section is truly representative of the masses. If it is, what a shock the masses are going to receive if they, like me, fall foul of HBOS’s illogical, vindictive and discriminatory business practices. They say ones perception of any problem is determined entirely by where you are standing when you perceive it.  I hope those who have seen fit to sit in judgement of the less fortunate may see fit to review their stance when they learn of my experiences at the hands of HBOS,

but,

I won't be holding my breath.


Monday, 20 June 2011

Father's Day

Yesterday I took my children to shop for Father’s Day gifts and guided them towards three suitable purchases within our budget.  Feeling no resentment towards the penny watching regime which has become second nature to us all, I took pride in making sure they understood the value of a thoughtful gift, however small.  We came away with a bargain priced family DVD, a bag of popcorn and a New Scientist magazine. I knew all these item prove more than acceptable to my husband who, since our financial demise, would not dream of buying anything for himself.  I delighted in the joy and the excitement on my children’s faces in their anticipation of the act of giving and the pleasure their gifts would bring to the recipient. 
As with any celebratory day in our household, the children were unable to contain themselves and arrived at our bedroom door bright and early.  I watched my husband carefully unwrap his gifts and discuss its merits with each child without any outward signs of his pleasure and while the children were unphased by his reserve, I struggled to suppress an overwhelming sense of grief for the absence of warmth in his actions towards us.  Oblivious to his inanimate facade, the children quickly moved onto other things secure in the familiarity of family life.  I, on the other hand, was left to talk myself out of the anti climax which always goes hand in hand with my husband’s lack of emotive reaction to anything.
I have attempted to rectify this obstacle in our relationship many times by.
· Explaining how difficult it is for me to live without engagement of this nature, His response has been either, it is just my perception and not at all how he is or I am an excessively needy person and this is a failing in me not him.

· Asking for a smile or a verbal response but in these instances I am told that either my questions are rhetorical and require no answer or he has no inclination to grin like a banshee at my behest.

· Trying to ignore this trait. However, I often feel resentful and deprived of what I perceive as his side of what should be two way communication within our marriage.

On days when I am sure I am deserving of a smile or some warmth, I grieve silently for the lack of it. These days, my face will often mirror the inanimate nature of his as we go about our lives in silence and, on occasion, when my grief turns to anger, I demand to know if he has heard me say how brightly the sun is shining or how well the children have settled at school but my outburst are not pleasant for either of us.
I know my husband does not refuse engagement with me out of malice but his ignorance of his actions and his refusal to consider the long term consequences of this lack of intimacy regularly renders my heart heavy and while I understand the impact of our ongoing precarious financial position has already taken its toll on the fragile ego of this shy and sensitive man, I can see behind his deadpan expression that the three year battering at the hands of our creditors has left him a legacy of shame for his part in it.
Sadly, despite my best efforts, it is on days like these I realise the task of rebuilding our marriage is likely to outstrip the difficulties I am currently experiencing trying to rebuild our lives financially and although I have always subscribed to the, "Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, either way you are right" fraternity, today, on our seventeenth Father Days together, 

I simply don’t know what to think or what to do.


Friday, 17 June 2011

Careful wishes

When my daughter contracted a very visible dose of chicken pox at the age of ten, my youngest son who was age eight at the time, declared if he too caught chicken pox he did not plan to have spots above his belly button.  Smiling indulgently at his fanciful notion I was amazed to discover he had acquired exactly what he wished for only three weeks later when my daughter counted two hundred and thirty chicken pox spots and announced there was not a single blemish above the waist. 

Recalling this remarkable outcome has served to remind me of the importance of formulating my objectives for my ongoing campaign and whilst I appreciate this clarity is imperative to my success, it has become increasingly difficult to achieve recently. Initially my only objective was sanctuary from the relentless creditor bombardment but, two years on, I am still on the receiving end of the HBOS big stick despite my best efforts. For this reason I am now  unsure whether just putting an end to the HBOS beatings would be sufficient recompense for the suffering I have endured but merely a very acceptable start.

During yet another intensive morning at the debt fighting coal face with my invaluable friend Chris, I said “once more unto the breach my friend” as we took up arms in the never ending Battle of the Banks. On this occasion Merrils Ede solicitors were firmly in our sights with yet more evidence, freshly retrieved from my doormat, of their taste for victimising me convinced me their unfaltering objective was to milk their lucrative Bank of Scotland Cash Cow for as much as they can get away with. Today's correspondence shares these findings with the Financial Ombudsman Service because I firmly believe my family’s well being has been irrelevant in their dealings with me and instead provides Merrils Ede endless opportunities to line their pockets.

Aware that although Merrils Ede are only the oppressors of today, I have not lost sight of the fact it isthe Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group on which I need to focus when crystallising my game plan. 

In an ideal world I would like the following,
  ·      Public exposure of Merrils Ede and the Bank of Scotland's penchant for not differentiating between can’t pay and won’t pay. 
·        Public exposure of Bank of Scotland's unashamed abdication from their responsibilities as lenders to keep me informed on the status of our mortgage because of my wifely status. 
·        Public exposure of Lloyds Bank for joining ranks with HBOS and condoning this behaviour by flitting between the role of persecutor and administrative incompetent for three whole years.

In addition I would like to think there would be some compensation from HBOS for, 

·        Escalating a problem to ten times its original size (see International Woman’s Day) 
·        Unnecessarily repossessing our home when an alternative could have saved it and our future equity. 
·        Blatantly flaunting discriminatory practises against married women.
·        Negligently omitting to advise me to take independent legal advice separately from my husband at outset. 
·        Causing three years of relentless pain and suffering at the hands of their henchmen while fully aware of our vulnerability and our financial plight. 

Above all else, I truly and carefully wish for one thing above all else.  I wish with all my heart that through my writing, I might eventually be heard.  As wishing in this way worked for my son I am hoping, if I am very careful what I wish for, it might also work for me. In the meantime, like Henry the Fifth who tells his men as they go into battle to “set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide” I, with the help of my appointed Ombudswoman and trusty friend Chris, will battle on. 

Here's hoping careful wishes work.



Monday, 13 June 2011

Tenants and Tantrums

On Sunday evening Darryl packed his bags and left my home two full days after I told him to vacate and two full days after I told him the cost of the damaged he had caused. Thankfully, as a licensee rather than a tenant with rights, I am at liberty to ask him to leave at any time.   I can only assume he has spent the interim at his parents licking the wounded pride of a homeless thirty five year old businessman who refused to live respectfully in my shared household.

Daryl did not show his face when he skulked away into the night with his dirty possessions and I was not unhappy about this at all.   I have not lost sleep over the somewhat ghastly realisation of what having Daryl living under my roof entailed but, none the less, it hasn’t been one of the highlights of my room letting endeavours. Business minded to the end, I emailed him the following day to request his bank details to enable me to send a partial rent refund direct to his account. This seemingly innocuous action on my part appears to have dispensed with Daryl’s normal inclination to silence in regard to money matters and triggered a torrent of indignation. Daryl may well have got a kick from my firm words of reprimand in the past but he definitely does not like the fact I have snaffled his deposit as recompense for the damaged he has caused.

I am able to make this statement with absolute certainty because he has emailed me, at length, five times today on this subject alone.  It appears he cannot believe steam cleaning curry and excrement out of carpets in two rooms, acid cleaning the flagstone floor, replacing a rug on which he has split every manner of food, and purchasing new bed linen due to the unmentionable stains of his self gratification would add up to a little in excess of £400.

Daryl tells me he really needs this money to re-establish himself elsewhere. He says, unlike me, he has no family or friends in the area on which to rely and nor does he have sufficient funds to be able to afford to forfeit money in this manner. He insists I should immediately return his deposit to him, in full, because he cannot manage if I don’t.  Conceding he did damage the carpets he continues his monologue by offering to pay all reasonable bills (subject to quotes) from next month’s pay packet if I will just refund his deposit in full now.

What Darryl forgets is he has already shown me, for three whole months, how easily lies trip off his tongue if there is any chance of currying favour. Every syllable he has ever uttered has illustrated how much he values his own importance above all else and every month his reluctance to part with any money, even if it is due to me in rent, has declared his already declared his lack of integrity loud and clear.

Darryl is blissfully unaware I am not just a landlady and mother of five but a one woman debt fighting machine living in a rented house for which I am answerable to our landlords for any damage.  Little does he know I battle the wrath of the banks daily while preparing to take on HBOS and Lloyds TSB in the Courts.  He is ignorant of the fact that for three years I have continued to live with this pressure day in day out for the love of my children and to save my family’s future.  Sadly for Darryl he will have no idea his tantrums and threats are falling on deaf and pre-occupied ears because my skin has grown inordinately thick with the relentless flailing of the debt collector’s whip.


God's banker

Finding myself in need of some respite from my role as Battler of the Banks, I embarked on some recreational research. In doing so I discovered Ian Fraser’s article of March 2009 about God’s Banker. Without reading any further I knew immediately this piece was about Stephen Green, Chief Executive of HSBC.

Having asked the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in January 2009 to help me deal with our creditors I was still sinking under the weight of the abusive correspondence from HSBC. Despite a full CAB explanation of our circumstances, the correspondence from the debt collection agency appointed by HSBC was becoming increasingly threatening in its nature. In desperation I went into the local HSBC branch in June 2009 to explain our position only to be met with the staff’s expressions of hopelessness along with apathetic comments which got me nowhere. I arrived at my friend Chris's house in tears believing there was to be no end to HSBC’s demands and my plight was indeed as hopeless as intimated by the branch employees.

After issuing a few comforting words, my trusty friend and comrade at arms fired up her computer with the statement, “I think it’s time to write to the Chief Executive.” Moments later we were reading that HSBC’s man at the top was an ordained Anglican Priest who had spent a year working at a hostel for alcoholics and I allowed myself a flicker of hope. Believing I might be approaching a man of integrity, I wrote to Stephen Green asking for his compassion in the light of our irreversibly dire financial circumstances and asked if he could arrange for my husband’s debts with HSBC to be written off rather than relentlessly and heartlessly pursued. Mr Green did not disappoint.

In reply to my letter, the Head of HSBC Customer Relations advised me they would not only be writing off the £45,000 my husband owed them directly but they were also able to write off a further £15,000 of credit card debt which was under their management. They concluded with the words they “hoped their decision would bring me comfort and it would go some way towards allowing you and your family to make a fresh start without the worries of the past.” This time I was crying with relief.

Ian Fraser says, “At last an honest banker,” and quotes Stephen Green as saying,
“It is as if, too often, people had given up asking whether something was the right thing to do, and focused only on whether it was legal and complied with the rules. The industry needs to recover a sense of what is right and suitable as the key impulse for doing business” and while Ian founds his remarks “hugely refreshing” I found his actions hugely humane.

However, I find it hugely inhumane HBOS and Lloyds Banking Group still chose to operate in heartless contrast to the kind and logical words, and actions, of God's banker while two years on from the release of my husband’s obligations to HSBC I am still struggling to make any kind of “fresh start” because of their persecution of us.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

How much is enough?

Recently Ian Fraser, reporter and BBC journalist introduced me to William Hopper’s financial observation “The credit crunch is like an atomic bomb”.  My attention was immediately captured by his succinct explanation of how a shift in attitude over a four hundred year period has produced the unstable economy we have today.  In his article Hopper praises the legacy of the migrating East Anglian Puritans who, in the 1630s, moved to the USA with their “gift” of good management. This gift was an ethos grounded in the belief pursuit of an ideal society with a focus on the common good is paramount.

Hopper goes on to lament our current global trend which rewards hot-housed qualifications in favour of the hardworking endeavours of our economically sound ancestors.  In contrast to today’s executive, these fore bearers were prepared to work hard to make their way up the ladder of expertise to gain valuable shop floor experience before taking their place in the board room.

It appears the most significant shift in attitude came about in the 60s and 70s when managers became hired hands who no longer came up through the ranks but instead arrived with MBA’s from business schools who taught them to focus on deals and numbers. This new age administrative managerial authority entered the market place believing short term shareholder value was the executive’s number one goal and these values bred a culture which, at best, condoned individual self interest and in the case of the banks, whole heartedly embraced it. The move away from what was perceived as old fashioned Puritan ideologies led to “incompetence on an unprecedented scale that has extended over much of society” and is particularly rife in the banking industry today.

The worship of self interest was further fuelled by the expanding of a credit funded economy where ethical considerations within the banking fraternity were waived in favour of a promise of wealth creation for the masses. In reality this bubble of self-deception produced nothing of the sort and only widened the gap between rich and poor leaving the poor even poorer and high ranking banking executives with a taste for unprecidented riches. William Hopper says, “Banks that are seen as too big to fail are too big to regulate and therefore too big to live. I would add Lloyds and HBOS are also too big to know when they are flogging a dead horse or much less care about the impact their "double standard" acts of cruelty are having on my family.

No doubt it is also the reason HBOS were also too big to consider it worth their while to intervene and prevent the destruction of twenty two families lives when they learned, from the victims, long before the police made their arrests, of a long standing fraud which is now referred to as the HBOS Reading Scandal. I was once asked by a financially independent workaholic, “How much is enough?”It appears, for the powers that be within HBOS, the obscene multi million pound bonuses paid out year on year are still not enough to secure ethical policies, compassionate solutions and the forward thinking integrity of our Puritan forefathers. I can only wonder with trepidation, what it will actually take to affect the necessary shift in attitude when a credit crunch, which has been compared to an Atomic Bomb, has had little impact on how HBOS thinks and behaves.

It was Albert Einstein who once said "relativity applies to physics not ethics" and sadly  I can see this is precisely the case when it comes to the attitude of our casino  banksters who have without apology, brought this economy and my family to its knees.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Wisdom and Virtue

Although they say wisdom is knowing what to do next and virtue is doing it, I am hoping this week proves wisdom is also about knowing what not to do next.
During the last week I have made the decision not to do quite a lot.
  •  I refused to have another Friends meeting purely to update the committee on how things are progressing with the Summer Ball. I made this decision on the basis that, had some members of the committee been helping me in the first place, they would not be in need of updating.  The consequence of making this decision has been to acquire some much needed time to complete some vital Ball related tasks only a handful of us stalwarts are prepared to progress.
  • I declined our business banks proposal for us to enter an IVA to prevent the Bank of Scotland’s continued harassment. I did this on the basis I could not bring myself to do anything which would allow the Bank of Scotland’s heartless behaviour towards my family’s plight to go unnoticed. By making this decision I have, for the first time in three years, acquired a sense of dignity and purpose. By choosing to turn the tables on our oppressor it will be me taking the Bank of Scotland to task rather than them preying on my vulnerability.  
  • I did not accept the Inland Revenues Capital Gains Tax calculations for back taxes owed over the last ten years.  I asked them to recalculate in the hope they would see my point view because I could not believe reason would not ultimately win the day.  After a two year battle I am relieved to report this has been the case. Being successful in this instance has given me a confidence in my abilities I have never enjoyed before. I cannot help but regard this by product as an immensely silvery lining to a very dark cloud which has hung over me for some time.
  •  I have resisted, on behalf of my thirty year old daughter, the temptation to accept a job offer for less than the maximum advertised.  Knowing her prospective employers had advertised the pay at a higher amount, I could not see why my daughter should accept any less when she was offered the job.  By not jumping at their first proposal, my daughter secured a 6% pay increase as well as better hours from her new employers.
  •  I have also refused to listen to any more of my lodger Darryl’s self obsessed hard luck stories.  Logic dictates, as I have never had trouble finding tenants in the past, I should easily be able to improve on Darryl in the future. Within twenty four hours of making this decision I achieved my objective and have given Darryl his marching orders.  This means I will no longer have to root out stinking fish from Darryl’s kitchen cupboard, wash unmentionable stains from his bedding or witness his excrement deposits on my cream carpets.

I cannot think of a better way to end the week!


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Eighteenth century Irish statesman, author orator and political theorist Edmund Burke once said, "Bad things happen when good men do nothing" and I cannot help but wonder if over the last seventeen years of marriage my “doing nothing” was pivotal to our subsequent financial demise.  

When I retired from the financial services industry on grounds of ill health in 1998 I handed the bread-winning reins over to my husband, confident my financial reputation was safe in his hands.  At the time, I was half way through my pregnancy with our second child and suffering from exhaustion and chronic migraine brought on by over work, along with hypothyroidism and something which was later diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

At the age of forty and on the recommendation of my very supportive GP, I moved from a business life in the fast lane to one with my family and home at its center.  For the first two years we were supported by my accruals from the insurance industry and an income protection policy which paid out in the event of my ill health.  My husband was confident he could use the time provided by this short-term financial safety net to build a business using the capital we already had and in so doing take over the responsibility of providing for our family.  He showed me his figures for a ten year plan which involved selling our seven bedroom house together with my former matrimonial home to fund a “buy to let” portfolio which was to replace my income.  The balance from the sale was to provide seed money for a property development business he planned to run alongside the lettings business.  His research was extensive and his figures were both realistic and plausible. This supporting evidence, together with his track record for the successful refurbishment of two previous properties led me to believe I could relax into my role of housewife and mother for the first time in my adult life.  
  
Ten years on I was still basking in the knowledge my husband’s carefully constructed business plan had proved to be a successful one.  I was further encouraged to buy into the illusion of affluence when it was suggested we pay school fees well in advance so as to enjoy a discount. We enjoyed regular visits to our beautifully appointed apartment on the Costa Del Sol and commissioned a high quality finish for our sixteenth century grade two listed barn conversion which was to become our home. The sad and untimely demise my mother-in-law from Motor Neurone disease left my husband with additional capital of £200,000 in the summer of 2007 providing me with no reason to think we had any financial problems.

Within a year I discovered my husband was contemplating taking his own life with his shotgun and we were one million pounds in the red with not a single asset to our name.

When I exchanged my status as a business woman of integrity for the role of house wife and mother I had no reason to believe that, along with my financial integrity, I was giving up my right to make informed decisions about borrowings in my name.  Now, nearly three years on from the “Grand Opening,” I realize my husband made a permanently life changing decision when he risked my much valued reputation along without our home, our livelihood and our financial future and chose to withhold information from me about our joint borrowings. It is my belief he was suffering from mental health issues resulting from his unresolved grief following the long period of illness and the loss of two of his closest family members. Circumstances of which our lender and mortgage broker were both fully aware of at the time.

However, the Bank of Scotland had no such  excuse and they chose to remove my right to the information which could have saved my home and my financial reputation because I was married to the co- borrower. Instead, through unadulterated negligence, they joined forces with my unstable, grief stricken husband and set in motion a course of events which  I continue to pay the consequences of today.

Having made this enormous contribution to our financial demise the Bank of Scotland  now tell me it is I should who pick up the cost of their mistake. Before this act of gross negligence, I had a good reputation which was threatened by my husband’s bad judgement.  However, the ugly business practices of the Bank of Scotland have not only turned my family’s difficult circumstances into impossible ones, they have also relieved me of my financial reputation along with home and financial future and while it may well be true  bad things happen when good men do nothing, I have learned many things since finding myself in such unfortunate circumstances.  One of them is I am not, and never have been, comfortable with doing nothing.

These days I now find myself wondering what the going rate is for a reputation. To me it was priceless but it is almost certainly worth a lot more than a £217,000 shortfall.