Monday, 27 January 2014

Changing How Britain Banks

We all know something needs to be done to regain the high street banks credibility, and to restore some of the public's trust. Banking services must face reform in order to shape a new, more stable economy in Britain.

Its dubious whether or not David Cameron and the Conservatives will implement any significant changes changes, so far they're focuses have been lobbying with the EU to keep ridiculously high bonuses for bankers, to the displeasure of more or less every other person, ever. At the moment they seem to offer little policy in order to fix the broken system, and I personally wouldn't be surprised if they subtly dismiss any legislation on banking reform in order to stay in the good books with their 'big business' allies who help with party funding.

In his speech on banking reform, Labour leader Ed Miliband said that “Under a Labour government, you will no longer be serving the banks. Instead, the banks will be serving you.” Everyone can agree, that this is ultimately the most important change we must achieve from reform, however the method Ed Miliband believes is the best to adopt to achieve this is much more controversial. Mr Miliband wishes to split the big five banks up, forcing them to sell off a number of their branches, and to put in place a cap on market share, in order to create a more competitive market. After the announcement share prices in several banks fell, all be it marginally, but if that is the kind of reaction shareholders have merely after Labour's proposal of the policy, surely that proves it would not fare well for our weak economic recovery if a Labour government implemented this policy, thus scaring the banks and their shareholders further. In addition to this, its also doubtful what affect two new banks would have in the industry.

I take my inspiration for what I would change in the banking system, from Dave Fishwick, from the TV series and book 'Bank Of Dave' After a long struggle Dave set up his own little community bank in his home town of Burnley. He wanted to take on the big banks, taking it back down to a basic, human level, where loans where given to people not on their credit score, but on a personal level. His shop was plain and cheap, and he wasn't greedy. He wanted to help people who needed loans, and whom he could trust. The people and businesses got the money they needed, he made some money off their loans, and then he reinvested it into the local economy. Simple. 

It would be naive for me to propose that every town in the country should get a little community bank like Dave's. That just wouldn't work in the 21st century. Neither would I expect for the owner of any bank to forget about making profit, and to work purely in the interest of their community (as Dave did, giving all profit to local charities). However I do think it would be possible to introduce several small, regional new banks who offer a philosophy more comparable to Dave's, in the sense that it serves the best interest of the local economy, offering simple, understandable loans to small business on a personal level. 

These banks wouldn't drag all the business away from the big banks, they wouldn't be able to. But due their refreshing, and different approach they would still have relevance, and a role to play in the industry. Not only this but they would set a standard of expectation amongst customers that the big banks would be forced to meet. Thus we would see an increase in overall customer satisfaction with banks, and maybe restore some of their credibility.

I don't know a lot about banking, but it seems to me, that although the size of such a project would be vast, and it would require state funding and private investment, it could help in forming a more diverse, mixed banking industry, where the mainstream banks are checked by the standards set by the smaller localised banks, who only offer the simplest banking services on a lower scale. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Britain's Struggling Youth

Young people are already at a disadvantage to their parents. Supposedly, today's youngsters are going to be the first generation in a century to be worse off than their parents, AND we're going to be working longer. So shouldn't the government be giving young people a leg-up to try and prevent this from happening? Increasing numbers of youngsters being diagnosed with depression, U25s facing benefit cuts while rich pensioners get free TV licences, tuition fees rocketing to unreasonable rates.. Oh maybe not then.

As a group of society, young people get neglected by all the main political parties the majority of the time, mainly because few people our age vote, so we aren't considered an important group to attract. Unfortunately, it would seem this is a vicious circle, if the parties don't give us policies of relevance to us to vote for, what will encourage a higher turnout of young people at elections? Political parties need to come to the realisation that they need to offer young people something, to get them involved, and to make politics relevant. In my opinion, people should be exposed to politics at secondary school, and they should be taught during PSHE what it is, how it works, and most importantly, how vital it is. Only then will young people become aware of politics, and start engaging on a larger scale.

Being neglected in policy isn't the only issue imposed on young people by politicians, another major one is the education system. I'm currently in year 12 at sixth form studying my AS levels. A levels are brilliant for academics, who want to go on to university. However, for people who aren't as academic, the alternatives are dire. Most end up taking A level courses disrespected by Russell Group universities, thus ending up at bad, ex-polytechnic universities that don't appeal to employers. This is due to an abolishment of apprenticeship schemes, and polytechnic colleges, as well as an increasing pressure from the government over the years for people to get a degree. This has resulted in alternative B-tech courses becoming frowned upon and misunderstood. Currently too many people are taking doss degrees, and struggling to get a job while worrying about a student debt that's, well, big.

I think the whole system has to change, and we ought to take inspiration from our German neighbours. In Germany half of youngsters aged 15-16 are in vocational training or apprentice schemes. Apprentices spend more time receiving on-the-job training than in school, and after a few years are almost guaranteed a job. We ought to encourage the private-sector into developing hundreds more apprenticeship schemes, and not just the traditional type. There needs to be apprenticeships in computing, food production, business, engineering, and manufacturing that can give students the security of either a job or a good reference come the end up of the course. The system also ought to let people work their way up to the top, despite the educational path they choose to take, giving people who aren't the most academic an incentive to work hard knowing they will be rewarded.

The youth can't just be forgotten about. Young people need to be assisted in preparing for a much tougher future. If Britain wants to remain a major economic power, we must train our next generation of workers sufficiently to compete in a more hostile job market, give financial backing to those who require it; for instance paying the fees for talented students from less-privileged backgrounds at top universities, (even reintroducing Thatcher's Assisted Places Scheme) and building more homes while giving generous (but cautious) loans to young people trying to get on the property ladder through schemes like Help To Buy.

Not much to do then.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Welcome To My Blog

Evan Williams and My Writing Philosophy

“News in general doesn't matter most of the time, and most people would be far better off if they spent their time consuming less news and more ideas that have more lasting import... Even if it’s fiction, it’s probably better most of the time”

These are the words of Evan Williams founder of Blogger, and co-founder of Twitter. Who believes that ideas are what people ought to be mass-consuming. Evan founded the website Medium, a platform that aims to supply ordinary people, and journalists alike with the voice to share their opinions, ideas and stories. 

 Nowadays, 24/7 news feeds us with a flow of information about corrupt politicians, economic catastrophe, and celebrity deaths. This cycle fails to inspire the majority of its readers into coming up with ideas and thoughts on how to solve the dilemmas we are presented with, or supplying the foundations to enhance further innovation. Most people read the news and then feel satisfied with just 'knowing'.

I don't think that knowing is that important. Its the thinking. What the media needs to do more of is supply the reader with more thought-provoking material that gets debate going and people really thinking. By sharing ideas and experiences, others are encouraged to think and develop ideas of their own. This engagement with each others ideas would benefit society massively, and could even help form a better educated, more productive one. 

The Relevance This Has To My Blog

What does this mean? Well my aim for this blog is to write as little fact on the news as possible. I want this blog to become a space for me to analyse things, comment on things, express my views and maybe even to write about some of my experiences. I'd like to set the ball rolling with some of my ideas and thoughts, and see if I can encourage some form of debate on a range of topics.