WITH the Bank of England increasing interest rates by a paltry 0.25%, when even a bank overdraft incurs an AER of 40%, will this even register on the radar of ordinary folk concerned by pandemic?

How can it register when pensioners have been “granted” a pension increase of 3.5% next April, with inflation of 5-6% mooted shortly? We who have one of the most paltry pension levels in Western economies have already been left behind, going backwards in the sixth-biggest economy in the world.

However, in the season of loan shark Ebenezer Scrooge, others’ plight is even worse than pensioners. Young family. Benefits or poverty-level wages already reduced with Universal Credit cuts, a revamped system designed to cut the benefits budget. The pressure of Christmas brings an unbearable burden on poor families seeking the best experience for their children. The temptation to borrow to finance it is enormous. What are the options?

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For many, even an expensive bank overdraft is unobtainable. Meanwhile, banks have abrogated delivery of short-term loans to the rip-off “grey” market; presumably they can’t be bothered, “profit not help” their mantra. Google brings up a short-term loan deal. A claimed APR for a deal of a whopping 49%. Yet the representative example to borrow £1200 for 90 days reveals an extortionate AER of 124% (variable) – yes, 124%. Interest is charged at 0.34% per day. Total amount to repay is £1567. And this is from a lender effectively taking advantage of the disadvantaged poor tempted by society pressures to provide for their family that which their more affluent friends take for granted.

The appalling contract conditions are now hidden in plain sight, no shame attached to advertising them; those who are desperate effectively blind to the impending financial disaster of such a punitive loan.

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Hasn’t successive governments’ failure to contain such financial usury merely elevated the loan sharks from the secretive tenement back closes to the full glare of high street and internet “respectability?” Successive governments, allegedly charged to protect us, have done nothing to protect our citizens from the ravages of debt to these nouveau loan sharks, ripping us off with outrageous interest rates, consigning us to a life of desperate financial strictures and penury; assaulted by government-accepted greed of 21st-century loan shark Ebenezer Scrooges.

But it’s the rest of us who ultimately pay the price for such greed. It’s our social workers who have to pick up the pieces. Who have to deal with the families fractured by impossible debt, the children abused by poverty. It’s us who have to suffer the high degree of crime caused by this usury; theft by those attempting to overcome it, and financing a burgeoning drug problem in the futile attempt of the afflicted to get high to ameliorate it.

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Isn’t it high time responsible government ended those loans with such extortionate interest rates, and regulate to required mainstream banks to provide proper financial service to all, regardless of social standing; taking the loan sharks out of the picture? Or

is giving loan sharks public respectability a greater priority than reducing the crime their greed creates?

Jim Taylor

IT is time the Scottish Government showed Westminster who’s in charge in Scotland! I think that as soon as the English government starts issuing funds directly to places like Aberdeen or Annan, the Scottish Government should immediately reduce funding for these areas by a reciprocal amount. This would discourage Westminster from continuing with this policy and also discourage Unionist-controlled areas like my own from going above our government’s heads and applying to Westminster for funds!

Steve Cunningham