Monday, 30 April 2007
Thursday, 26 April 2007
Looks like the bridge of the Star Ship "Enterprise" ... beam me up Scotty!!
Labour Councillor Mike Roberts launches into another diatribe, as interesting as his wardrobe. The faces of fellow councillors say it all.
But it is not all dull - there is always someone that can see the light hearted side of some serious issues
... and the rest of us try to look as if we understand what is going on!!
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
At around 3.30pm on Saturday, April 21, a 78-year-old woman was at home at an address in Jenkins Place, Peabody Road, Farnborough, when a man rang the buzzer to her flat and claimed he had a parcel for her. The victim let him in and a man and woman entered the house.
Once inside they began to talk to the victim about collecting money for charity. They said that they had been raising money and were giving it away and the man asked the victim if she had any change for a £10 note. She got up to find her purse. As she looked for her purse, it was thrown at her by the man.
The man and woman then left. The victim then noticed that £200 in cash was missing from her purse.
Officers have descriptions of the two people they would like to speak to.
The man is described as:
In his mid 20s to early 30s
Of a big build
Between 5ft 8ins to 6ft
Light brown short hair
Wearing a light coloured top and dark trousers
The woman is described as:
Aged in her late teens to early 20s
Between 5ft and 5ft 6ins
Slim to medium build
Dark brown hair in a pony tail
Wearing a white top, three quarter length trousers and light trainers
At around 3.30pm on Thursday, April 19, a 77-year-old woman was at home at an address in Matthews Close, Farnborough, when a man knocked at her door and claimed to be from the water board. He told her he needed to come inside to check her taps. She let him in and he asked to go to the kitchen while he left the front door open.
When the man had left the victim noticed that money and credit cards were missing.
The man who distracted the victim is described as:
Aged about 30
Brown hair with side parting
Smartly dressed and presentable in a navy blue shirt and brown tie
After the incident, a neighbour saw a total of three men leave the address and alerted the local warden who called the police.
Officers have descriptions of the other two men.
The first man is described as:
Aged 20 to 25
Red hair, long on top and short at the back
Wearing a white shirt and black trousers
The second man is described as:
Aged 20 to 25
Wearing a blue shirt
PC Nick Horsey said: “These incidents are examples of this sort of cowardly and sickening crime where offenders deliberately target vulnerable and elderly people.
“I would urge residents to be vigilant and look out for suspicious people in their community. If you see someone acting suspiciously, call the police immediately. How would you like it if your parents or grandparents became a victim of this sort of crime? If you have any information that you feel may help our enquires, please get in touch and help us prevent more people falling victim to these sorts of criminals.”
Officers are offering the following Safer Homes advice to avoid becoming a victim of this sort of crime: Burglars can fool you into thinking they are genuine callers. Don't be the one who invites them in. If in doubt, keep them out!
• Stop – are you expecting anyone to call on you? Do you know the person at the door? Don’t be misled by what appear to be genuine reasons for calling on you.
• Check – A genuine caller will carry identification and will be happy to wait outside while you check it. Remember to source your own number for the company they are claiming to be from, don’t accept a number from the caller.
• Chain – fit a door chain or spy hole so that you can speak to callers or check who they are without opening the door fully.
If you turn anyone away from your home because they could not provide you with a genuine reason for being there, or you are suspicious of callers in your area, contact the police.
You can contact your local police station on 0845 045 45 45. In an emergency always dial 999. Anyone with any information regarding these incidents should contact PC Horsey or PC Dennis in the Priority Crime Unit at Aldershot police station on 0845 045 45 45 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
The new embroidery machine is great and will enable us to embroider the clothing we sell so much quicker. I just need to come up with a new tag line "we stitch up your logo - not you" or "if you want a stitch in time - call after 9"
Tuesday, 24 April 2007
Friday, 20 April 2007
Simple things are what we want. Fools -- court jesters -- have always been seen as simple creatures on the surface, but with a hidden cunning. Motley Fools would do well to learn from this. Simple financial products are the best.
So I could easily fill this list with the most basic of products. I don't want to do that though, because it's boring, so here are some of the more interesting ones that even Fools should consider.
1. Cash ISAs
If you have savings and you still don't have a cash ISA, there's a good chance you're not optimising your finances. You can save up to £3,000 a year in a cash ISA, and this will go up to £3,600 from April next year.
Any interest you earn is tax-free. With a decent savings account you might get around 6% at present, but after tax this means 4.8% for a basic-rate taxpayer and 3.6% for a higher-rate payer. However, you can get cash ISAs paying around 5.5%. With no tax deducted, you'll have more pounds at the end of the year.
2. Shares ISAs
If you want to invest in shares, doing so using a share ISA wrapper is the most tax-efficient way to do it. You can invest up to £7,000 a year. (This goes up to £7,200 from April next year.) No matter how big your pot grows, you won't pay any capital gains tax either, which is usually 40%, nor will you pay any income tax.
> Learn more about cash and share ISAs: read ISAs And Investment Funds.
3. Index trackers
The phrase 'index trackers' fills me with a warm glow. I like these things. They are so average. And when it comes to investing in the stock market, average is good!
Index trackers follow the stock market. They are very cheap, because there are no fund managers. Instead, computers buy the shares for you.
Over the long term, shares have performed better than cash that's earning interest. Consider the stock market's performance over the past 130 years. In the 131 rolling five-year periods from 1869 to 2004, shares have beaten cash 76% of the time. Over the same period there are 126 rolling ten-year periods. Out of these, a whopping 93% of the time shares have beaten cash.
Furthermore, index trackers beat funds managed by humans an incredible 8 or 9 times out of ten. Stupid humans!
> Read more about the performance of shares vs. cash in This Is A Tracker's Market, and read about index trackers in Introducing The Index Tracker.
4. Exchange Traded Funds
If I try to explain how these work it'll come across as very complicated. Because it is. But the important bits are simple. Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are all index trackers. Whoopee! However, instead of giving your money to a fund, ETFs are listed on the stock market, so you buy them directly, just like shares. They easily work out as cheaply as index trackers, and often even cheaper. Plus, you can avoid paying stamp duty on shares when you buy.
> Read more on Exchange Traded Funds in our Fool School guide.
5. Lifetime balance-transfer credit cards
I'm very wary about suggesting that a credit card is a top financial product. Credit cards cause so much debt misery through misuse and nasty small print. They are not good products for so many millions. However, used wisely they can be a good friend.
A lifetime balance-transfer card is a great way for many people to borrow. Constantly switching your debts between 0% cards is seen as the cheapest way to borrow, and usually this is correct. However, that's a lot of hassle, so, instead of constantly applying for credit cards, you could just get one with an excellent rate of interest. We wrote about these cards in detail recently in Pay Off Debts At 3.9% A Year.
But please, use your credit cards with caution! Heed the warnings in: Seven Reasons To Fear Credit Cards and Seven More Reasons To Fear Credit Cards.
6. Family income benefit
If you have a partner or children who depend on you, you'll probably want some sort of protection in place if you were to die early. Most people usually get some form of life insurance.
Life insurance pays out a lump sum when you die. However, will your dependants need a whopping great lump sum? In fact, will they even know how to invest it so that it lasts as long as it's needed?
One alternative is family income benefit (FIB). This pays out an agreed, tax-free monthly income to your dependants for a fixed period of time. What's more, it's usually a great deal cheaper than life insurance! So, when you're getting a quote for life insurance, consider family income benefit instead.
> Read more about life insurance and family income benefit.
7. Healthcare cash plans
Rather than buying full blown medical insurance (otherwise known as 'health insurance'), you can meet the cost of everyday healthcare expenses with a much cheaper product: the healthcare cash plan.
Comprehensive medical insurance policies can add more and more cover, as new procedures and cures are discovered. However, this also means higher premiums. On the other hand, healthcare cash plans keep your cover to the basics, such as physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment, sight tests, dietary advice and even cover for some critical illnesses.
We really should have written about these plans in more detail, but it seems to have slipped the net recently. I'll try to write an article on them soon.
> Compare medical insurance prices through The Fool.
8. Current account mortgages
The Fool has often suggested you keep things simple by buying all your products separately. By doing this, in almost every case, you will save money. However, the current account mortgage can be a useful exception. These mortgages tie together your current account, savings, personal borrowings and your mortgage. Effectively, you have a current account with one massive, mortgage-sized overdraft.
Sounds frightening, doesn't it? But consider that, with these accounts, every time money goes in it pays off some of your mortgage. Instead of earning interest in your current and savings accounts, you reduce the amount of interest you're paying. This usually works out well.
If, for example, you were previously earning a good 6% interest in your savings account, after tax this would be 4.8% for basic-rate taxpayers and 3.6% for higher-rate taxpayers. However, if you're paying mortgage interest of around 6%, you will reduce your mortgage at this rate and there's no tax to pay, leaving you better off.
'Offset' mortgages are similar. You can read about both current account mortgages and offset mortgages in our mortgage guide.
9. Income protection insurance
We criticise payment protection insurance again and again, and we're not massive fans of critical illness insurance either, but there is an alternative that is suitable for many people (depending on circumstances). This is income protection insurance. It is designed to pay out whatever the reason that you're unable to continue working.
I compared income protection insurance with payment protection insurance in Two Ways To Shotgun Your Debts And Income.
> Read more in our insurance guide about income protection insurance and critical illness insurance.
10. The boring stuff
Those nine products were all quite exciting and novel, but exciting is not usually a word you associate with good financial products. Generally, the more boring and simple the better. So, for number ten, here's a short list of some of the boring products that are effective for most people:
A current account paying a competitive rate of interest. Today, the rate should be more than 5.25% on the first couple of thousand pounds. Or, for people living in, or close, to their overdrafts, a current account with an interest-free overdraft, or, at worst, try a account that charges low interest when you're in overdraft.
An instant access savings account paying a good rate of interest. Again, look for more than 5.25% and probably over 6%.
An unsecured personal loan with a fixed rate of interest. These are particularly good for people with no discipline, because, unlike credit cards, you can't easily borrow more with them. A good rate at present is around 6-8%.
As I said in The Worst Ten Financial Products, in simple terms there are two mortgage products: expensive mortgages, where you pay the lender's standard variable rate (SVR), and the other kind: The Deal. Ensure you have some kind of deal with your mortgage company.
If you find your products don't cut the mayonnaise, you should move to get a better deal. Comparing online is the easiest way.
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
There are loads of terrible financial products out there.
But that's not the biggest problem. The problem is that most of these products are useful for a small number of people and so regulators are happy to let them continue. If a product helps just a small number of people, its existence is justified.
However, if a product is very profitable it'll often be sold aggressively, and not just to the handful of people who would benefit most. That's why I'm not saying that the products listed here are unsuitable for everyone, but I certainly think that they are not suitable for the majority of Fools.
Anyway, here they are: the ten worst products in no particular order:
1. 'Guaranteed' Equity Bonds
I could have chosen a few different types of bonds to criticise, but Guaranteed Equity Bonds (GEBs) make the most frequent annoying appearances in my email inbox.
The idea is that your investment is tied to the performance of the stock market. After a fixed period, usually five years, you get your money back plus any increase in the market. Sometimes they'll even offer, say, an extra 10% of the increase. If the stock market has fallen at the end of the period, you still get all your initial investment back. That's the guarantee.
On the surface this sounds great, but in reality it's pretty shabby. Firstly, with GEBs you get any capital gains from the market and sometimes even more, but you don't get the dividend income. Each year, many listed companies pay out a dividend, which can be reinvested. Compounded over five years this could quite easily mean a gain of 20% or more. With Guaranteed Equity Bonds, you get none of this.
Secondly, your money is locked in for the whole period, so you don't have the flexibility you get with other investments.
Thirdly, guaranteeing that you get your money back is not much of a protection. Over the five years your money will have been eroded significantly by inflation, meaning, in real terms, you will get less money back than you put in. If you need a real guarantee, you should put some or all of your money in a decent savings account instead, which should keep you ahead of inflation and keep your money flexible.
Fourthly, negative five-year returns are very infrequent. 123 of the 131 rolling five-year periods from 1869 to 2004 have provided investors with a positive result. So why not stick with a simple, tax-efficient shares ISA?
> Read our guide: ISA And Investment Funds.
2. The payment protection racket
We've been banging on about payment protection insurance (PPI) for years so, if this is the first you've heard of it, where have you been?
PPI protects your loan, mortgage or credit-card repayments against sickness, injury or unemployment. It sounds good in theory, but these policies are so littered with exclusions as to make them worthless to many people. Plus, if you buy your insurance from your lender, it's vastly over-priced.
> Read more in Fool Fights Rip-Off Insurance.
3. Poor store cards
Store cards are another unFoolish product, if used badly. It's all very well if you sign up to get the initial discount, but consider why retailers offer this to you? It's because they know that many shoppers will leave the balance on there for more than a month, so they can charge interest at incredibly high rates, often around 25%. If you get a store card for the introductory discount, pay it off straight away and never use it again.
4. Not-so-secure loans
Every time I've looked at a case to see whether someone should get a secured loan, I have always found a cheaper, better alternative. These loans are supposed to be good for people with high incomes, because it allows them to borrow more than £25,000, which you can't do with unsecured loans. However, a Fool has to ask himself if borrowing that money will really make him happier. Often the answer will be no.
That's why many people say that these loans are more suitable for poorer or more indebted people, as it can be seen as a way to consolidate debts. However, Fool research has found that, five times out of six, people taking out these loans go on to rack up more debt.
Keith Tondeur, national director of the money education charity Credit Action, said that for the people who contact them with serious debt problems, secured loans are suitable only 3% of the time. We're not talking about 3% of the population here, we're talking about just 3% of people on the edge of insolvency. That's no more than 60,000 people.
5. The No-deal mortgage
There are thousands of mortgage products out there, but in How Long Should You Fix Your Mortgage For? I suggested that there are basically two different types of mortgage: The Deal and The No-deal. It's a little simplistic, but a good guiding rule.
If you have a deal, such as a tracker or a fixed-rate mortgage, so that you're paying close to the Bank of England's Base Rate, then that's great. However, if your deal has expired and you're paying your mortgage company's standard variable rate (SVR) then you are paying way over the odds for your laziness, probably thousands more each year.
> Get yourself a Deal: compare mortgages.
6. Extended robberies
Extended warranties are a form of insurance that enables you to return goods that develop flaws within a fixed period, often three years. However, you usually get a free manufacturer's guarantee that lasts a year. Secondly, under the Sale of Goods Act you have some protection if there are problems with design, quality or reliability. Thirdly, you may be covered for accidental damage under your home contents insurance. Finally, the cost of the warranty can add well over 25% to the total cost!
If you save all the money you would have spent on warranties for your various products, you should have more than enough left over if the manufacturer's guarantee expires and you have to repair something or buy it again.
> Read When Electrical Goods Go Wrong.
7. Invest with lots of stupid humans!
We often talk about Stupid Humans versus The Computer when we compare the performance of 'managed funds' (which have fund managers choosing shares to invest your money in) with 'index trackers' (which automatically buy all the shares in an index, such as the FTSE 100 or FTSE All Share).
Managed funds were lucky to escape this list. Index trackers kick their butt most of the time, largely because they are so much cheaper. (Read more in Index Trackers vs Managed Fund?)
But there are funds out there which I think are worse than conventional managed funds. These are 'fund of funds', where a highly paid fund manager takes your money and invests in a selection of managed funds. The result will often be a pretty diversified investment, so you might as well as have just tracked the market, or tracked some overseas market via ETFs.
Instead, you have effectively tracked the market, but paid a lot more in management fees to various stupid humans, so your performance suffers significantly.
8. Crusty old current accounts
Most poor financial products are complex, but current accounts are as simple as it gets. Even so, much like mortgages, if you haven't switched in the past few years you're probably getting a shockingly bad rate of interest on your credit balances. You may be getting just 0.1% interest per year when you could be getting more than 6%. So stop dawdling and switch to a decent account.
> Compare current accounts.
9. Any product that is advertised on TV!
There are so many financial products that fit into this category that I think it's more helpful to write a general warning. The cynical truth is that any product that is heavily advertised usually makes a lot of money for the advertiser. If it's making the advertiser more money, it means that it is taking more money from you.
You have to ask yourself why the product has such a big advertising budget. There are 'loss leaders' of course, where a minor product is offered to hook you in, but the best financial products are almost never advertised. This is firstly because these products sell themselves (e.g. the best current accounts) and secondly because companies don't want you to buy the cheaper products, because it usually means more money for you and less for them. That's why you never see index trackers advertised all over the place!
10. Another general warning
The main rule is that if you don't understand a product, don't buy it. When I say understand the product, you should not only understand its benefits and be able to compare them with other sorts of products, but you should also understand how the seller makes its money from it.
Everything about it should be simple to understand. If it isn't, it's probably because clever mathematicians have devised it to make companies a fat pile of cash.
The number of bad products out there is frightening so, as the Romans said, 'caveat Fooli': 'let Fools beware'!
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
Friday, 13 April 2007
The Vulnerable Vehicle Scheme is designed to highlight when vehicles are left insecure and opportunities have been presented to thieves. Police officers, PCSOs and Rushmoor Borough Council community patrol officers who have spotted a vulnerable vehicle have taken a note of the vehicle information and letters have been sent to owners. The letters explain that they have left their vehicle insecure and they have presented an opportunity to criminals.
Since the end of February, 88 vulnerable vehicles were spotted and the list below details the reasons why these owners were written to:
PC Andy Jones said: "The 88 examples were noticed on routine patrols and were not the result of a targeted patrol specifically for vulnerable vehicles. This makes it even more alarming as I can only imagine how many could have been identified during a targeted patrol."
The 88 opportunities show the public present themselves to possible risks and that while the police can patrol and provide advice and run operations, the public also need to come on board and help reduce the chance of becoming a victim of this sort of crime by removing possible targets.”
Wednesday, 11 April 2007
To date we have fortunately only had two in Empress ward in dwellings - still two too many!!
One on 2/4/07 Prospect road and one Burnsall Close on 4/4/07.
Also for residents to be sure that they lock doors and windows and take the keys out of the locks especially as the burglars have been known to put instruments in through the letterboxes; getting the keys and unlocking the doors then getting in the house and stealing bags/purses etc and ALSO then stealing the cars from the drives/ garages.
We have received a few calls from residents of Prospect Road who say they now enjoy the 'green' view of the allotments and playing fields (as opposed to a row of cars) and some have expressed gratitude to us for clearing the street to allow good access for deliveries and trades parking.
The ticket machines have assisted the process because there is a natural tendency to park where you don't have to pay or at the lowest cost (the car parks being cheaper than the roads) and machines make enforcement easier. To this end the objective of clearing the streets has been met, but the income has been slow (there is of course a certain contradiction in the desire for clear streets and the desire for income)
Demand for parking in Station Road P&D has increased steadily. We now have a significant concern that the 20% increase in Network Rail's charge (now £2.90 against our £2.40) will result in displacement to Prospect Road particularly in the better weather. Cllr Dibbs has discussed this with me and he is keen to retain the Prospect Road machines in order to address any such displacement (obviously we have no influence over Network Rail policy so we cannot control the extent of displacement)
The machine takings in the last 12 months are as follows:
FN1 Orchard Road - £73
FN2 Station Road - £3,977
FN3 Station Road - £5,702
FN4 Prospect Road - £77 (machine decommissioned after vandalism)
FN6 Prospect Road - £391
FN7 Cove Pavilion - £2,232
US1 Increase at Union St West - £6,672
Total - £19,475
1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.
2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?
3. Of all vegetables, only 2 can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only 2 perennial vegetables?
4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?
5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?
6. Only 3 words in standard English begin with the letters " dw" and they are all common words. Name two of them?
7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?
8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.
I will post the answers later!!! Anyone brave enough to try?
Gala Bingo has exchanged agreements for a bingo club on the first floor above the proposed new Sainsbury store in the £80 million Farnborough Town Centre scheme which Key Property Investments (KPI), the joint venture company between St Modwen Properties PLC and Salhia Real Estate Co., is poised to begin.
Subject to the completion of a development agreement with Rushmoor Borough Council, work on the construction of the scheme in which the 34,000 sq ft bingo club is an early phase, is expected to start shortly.
Simon Rutter of St Modwen said: "I am delighted that Gala Bingo has agreed to come to Farnborough. It will add variety to the retail and leisure offer in the new vibrant and lively town centre which has been planned for so long."
Steve McKenna, managing director of Gala Bingo said: "We are delighted to bring the Gala Bingo brand to Farnborough so that the local community can experience a fantastic night out."
Press release ends.
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
Three examples of these thefts are:
1. At around 11.45am on Monday, March 19, a bike was stolen from outside the BP petrol station on Prospect Road, Farnborough.
2. At around 3.45pm on Sunday, March 18, a bike was taken from a grassy area next to a playground in Totland Park, Totland Road, Farnborough.
3. Just after 5pm on Saturday, March 17, a bike was taken from the back garden of an address on Guildford Road West, Farnborough.
Crime Prevention Officer for Rushmoor, Graeme Barbour, said: “Several of the 12 bikes which were stolen were left unsecured outside shops, near playgrounds and on private property. Others were secured but were stolen nevertheless. There are simple precautions you can follow to protect your property and reduce the chance of you becoming a victim of this sort of crime. Don’t make your property an easy target for thieves.”
To avoid becoming a victim of this sort of crime, officers are offering the following advice:
1. Always lock you bicycle, even if you are only leaving it for a few minutes.
3. Invest in a good quality lock. Hardened steel D-shaped locks are recommended as the minimum standard.
5. Avoid leaving it in isolated places, leave your bike where a potential thief can easily be seen.
6. Security mark your frame and record you bike model, make and frame number. Take a clear photograph of your bike and make a written record of its description.
7. When you are at home, keep your bike and a secure garage or shed and keep the door locked. Keep your bike out of sight.
If anyone has any information about the theft of these bikes or would like more information on how to protect their property please call the nearest police station on 0845 045 45 45.
Saturday, 7 April 2007
I now have to live with my new nickname bestowed by my fellow pilots .... "The Line Dancer" this replaces my current nickname of "rainman" for insisting on flying in the rain one mad moment! For more pictures of our flying group see http://ukparamotors.spaces.live.com/