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Correspondent’s Week

Like most PF writers, I have been busy writing about student finances this week. With an 18-year-old daughter myself, this has taken over my private life, too.

Laura gets her A-level results, which are disastrous. Fortunately, her psychology teacher refuses to believe she has done so badly. On checking the figures, she finds Laura’s C result should have been an A, along with her sociology.

This morning, Laura asks me to double-check her A level French marks, too. Her D result is really a high C. Now she is trying to get two examining boards to admit their mistakes- and for Ucas to amend its records.

Talking of mistakes, my main task today is completing our lead story for our weekly section – rip-off bank charges. We ask readers for their experiences with the major banks who are coining 1,200 profit a second.

No wonder. One pensioner has been charged 1,000 for straying 146 in the red and she cannot get straight again because they keep hitting her with 30 penalties. A 20-year-old student hoping to go to uni is charged 140 for a 38p overdraft. Had he been at uni already, they would have given him a 1,000 interest-free overdraft. Talk about double standards.

Laura’s upset changes our weekend plans. Having lost her preferred place at Sussex, she has offers from Kent and Reading instead. Unfortunately, both the M2 and M20 are blocked by traffic jams, adding hours to our journey to Canterbury.

A dead August makes it tough for Steve Hawkes to fill the daily business page but I use a report on new pension business to contribute a cashpoint urging readers to use post-A- day flexibility to top up their pension with any spare savings.

A dawn start today. Laura is being taken to Alton Towers by friends but I have to get her up. Easier said than done where teenagers are concerned.

Another very slow August day and our money proofs are even slower coming. Oddest story around is a survey which claims that six in 10 would-be homebuyers would buy abroad instead if they are priced out of Britain. But being able to commute to work would be a big consideration. And where would they commute from? France, Spain, Italy and Bulgaria. Don’t they teach geography at school any more?

My letters and phone calls from readers are more exciting than the news agencies today. One black reader tries to open an account with Lloyds TSB. They do not like his passport, call the police and he spends six hours in a cell. Yes, it was a mistake and, no, he did not get an apology.

Another receives a letter from his bank giving him 30 days to close his account because they did not like his “unusual” transactions. Yes, he was Asian and, no, he was not a terrorist. “Just a misun- derstanding”, says HSBC.

On Thursday, Stuart Glendinning of Moneysupermarket pops in to tell me that best buy tables are a waste of space. Yes, there are loans available at less than 6 per cent but few borrowers are getting them. Lenders are much more choosy now. You might get a secured loan at 8 per cent but, unsecured, you are looking at 18-28 per cent. Sadly, that has always been so for many of my readers.

Footnote: I have just been invited to join a luxury cruise for a few days – with Saga. Better buy some Grecian 2000.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: or telephone: 020 7970 4776


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