The Anonymous Widower

Does London Need Devo Max?

In the Standard today, Labour politician, Margaret Hodge is asking this question and says that London needs it.

She says this about housing.

The capital’s population will be twice Scotland’s by 2030. Yet we already desperately lack the homes and infrastructure we need to meet the needs of 8.5 million Londoners. Our housing crisis dwarfs that of other parts of the country. Some 800,000 new homes are needed by 2020. Yet in the year to May, only 16,800 were built. Despite London’s great successes, we are becoming ever more grotesquely unequal. Inner London is increasingly only accessible to the very rich.

I would agree with some of what she says and go further to say that all cities and conurbations should have more powers.

The trouble is that it would change the political map of the UK for ever and think of all those bench warmers in Westminster, who would be out of a job.

But I do think that competition between cities would create jobs and better places to live. Some provincial cities need a real kicking to bring them into the twentieth century.

It would also be very good for London, if when they wanted to build something like Crossrail 2, they didn’t have to go cap-in-hand to the Government and compete with other necessary projects elsewhere.

If say London financed Crossrail 2 from its own resources and population, would anybody outside the capital have a right to complain? I don’t think so!

September 18, 2014 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Could London’s Passenger Counting Technology Look For Non-Payers?

I took another trip on a crowded 141 bus today and it had the passenger counting technology on board.

Passengers were fascinated and obviously some were using it to determine whether to go upstairs.

It struck me that as those entering the bus have to touch-in, by correlating this with spaces, it might be possible to determine how many passengers hadn’t touched-in.

It wouldn’t actually identify them individually, but by simple arithmetic it could probably identify routes with the highest levels of non-payers.

So if a particular area on route XX showed a high-level of non-payers, that is obviously where you send your inspectors.

September 18, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Why Are Polling Stations Called Polling Places In Scotland?

As I watch the BBC News, I have noticed that polling stations, seem to be called polling places in Scotland.

It’s just like with what you call bus stands!

September 18, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

A Robust View On Homeopathy In The Times

Professor Michael Baum is an amazing doctor and surgeon, who I have had the pleasure of meeting.

In The Times today, he has a letter published about accreditation of homoeopaths to the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA).

He writes this memorable sentence.

From now on they will be able to check if their homoeopathic doctor is a fully trained quack or simply someone masquerading as a quack.

I do not believe in anything that can’t be scientifically proven by rigorous methods. The three at the top of my list are religion, homoeopathy and many of the zanier and animal-unfriendly aspects of Chinese medicine.

September 18, 2014 Posted by | Health, World | , , | Leave a comment

Have The New Car Tax Rules Killed The Congestion Charge/Parking Fiddle?

Some years ago, I was selling an old Ford Escort Estate that was definitely a runner with virtually a year’s car tax and MOT, on eBay.

I only wanted a few hundred and I thought I had a deal.

When the lady who’d bought it and I talked over the phone, she said that she’d give me cash and deal with all the handover paperwork to save me the hassle. I said no to the latter and she then said, that I could forget the sale.

So I then looked at her purchase history on eBay and found that she’d bought about twenty or so clean cars like the Escort. All seemed to have a reasonably long tax and MOT and cost just a few hundred pounds.

I e-mailed the DVLA, as I thought the whole thing stank. They informed me, that the car would be sold to someone, who needed to get around London without paying the congestion charge. All of the fines and charges would obviously go to the previous owner.

They asked if I could forward all of the details to them.

I never heard any more from the lady, but the DVLA informed me a couple of years later, that they had mounted a successful prosecution.

Having looked at the new car tax rules, I think that the days of this type of scam are dead.


September 18, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Before Overground – London Fields

A Station With an Excellent Bakery/Cafe – Rating 3/10

London Fields station is another station on the Lea Valley Lines with no decent access.


As I arrived a Japanese lady was struggling down the stairs with her three-year-old, a buggy and a scooter.

The reason she was coming was to visit the E5 bakehouse and cafe. It was so full, that I couldn’t get my intended cup of tea.

As you can see from the pictures, Network Rail have done a superb job in creating a series of small workshops in the railway arches.

It’s just a pity, that the access at the station wasn’t fixed at the same time.

As the station has only had a frequent service since 2005. was this one of those stations that British Rail hoped would quietly die?

September 18, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Before Overground – Stoke Newington

A Dreadful Station To Avoid – Rating 2/10

Stoke Newington station was built when people weren’t disabled, pushed buggies or grew elderly and it shows.

In my view it’s one of those stations, that with a creative surface makeover, lifts and perhaps a light-controlled crossing to access buses going north, could be turned into one of the better stations on the line. The station forecourt has what looks to be a decent cafe, so selective development around the station could probably improve matters.

September 18, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

There’s Work To Do On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

I went to Harringay Green Lanes station and then took a train on the Gospel Oak To Barking Line to South Tottenham.

There is work to do to get round the years of neglect.

The step-free access at Harringay Green Lanes is derisory and the station buildings aren’t the best, but it does look like something is happening at South Tottenham. This document from the the line’s User Group shows a discussion about what might be happening.

Work has already started on the bridge at South Tottenham to strengthen it for the future, but it looks like the one at Harringay Green Lanes is in no better condition.

September 18, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Managing Zopa As A High-Interest, Almost Instant-Access Deposit Account

The media is full of articles and comment moaning about the derisory rates that you can get on any savings. There is also the related moan, that if you sign up for some higher-interest account, your money is locked away for several years.

So what does the average man on the Dalston omnibus want from a savings product?

1. A Very Low Chance Of Losing Their Money

You’ve worked hard for the money and you don’t want to lose it. One of my friends, a very sensible Irish doctor, put all his savings in an account with an Icelandic Bank. That broke one of the golden rules of saving by which I live – Never trust your money to anybody domiciled outside of where you live. Would I bank with Santander? Of course not!

2. The Best Possible Rate Of Return

Certainly better than you’d get from a reputable bank or building society.

Note the Rule of 72, which says that if you divide the interest rate you’re getting into 72, that gives you the years to double your money. So if you’re getting five percent, that will mean it doubles in 15 years. But two percent takes 36 years.

3. Instant Access Would Be Nice

Obviously, it would be nice to be able to remove your savings from the account without suffering any penalty or charges.

4. The Minimum Possible Level of Management And Paperwork

We all want to put our money, in a place with the convenience of the Bank Of Mattress.


So does a product exist that gives us all we need?

It is my view, that a peer-to-peer lending platform, and Zopa in particular, can be used as a high-interest instance-access deposit account.

In this discussion, I’m using Zopa as it is the peer-to-peer lender I know best. But the analysis could probably apply to your own favourite.

Zopa also has the following features.

1. Your Investment Is Probably Safe

I say probably, as occasionally, one of my loans has gone into default, but now Zopa  safeguards your money. Here’s what they say on the website.

Earn great returns on your savings with peace of mind. The Safeguard is a fund designed to step in and give you back all your money, plus interest, in the rare event a borrower cannot repay. Find out more about the Safeguard fund.

But even so, my losses on older loans before Safeguard have been about four percent of the total interest I have earned on my investment.

2. Automatic Reinvestment

If you should so choose, you can re-invest any money that is credited to your account because of interest earned or loans repaid.

I don’t use this feature, unless I’m going away for a few days and probably won’t be checking my Zopa account.

I normally re-invest any money returned manually, as I  might need to invest it in something else!

But the automatic reinvestment can be easily switched in and out.

3. You Are In Control

If you want to add more money to your Zopa pot, it is just a simple transfer.

If you want to remove some of the repayments or interest, it is just a simple transfer out and this has got faster recently.

The only restriction, is that transfers must be from and to a UK bank account.

4. You Are Not Part Of The Loan Management Process

On the other hand, you are not part of the loan management process and so you don’t get involved with any tedious paperwork or micro-management. As I have thousands of loans in Zopa, it’s a process I want no part of it.

As a software man of a certain experience, I would prefer to trust well-written software rather than my own judgement.

5. One Percent Fees To Savers

Click here to see what Zopa says about fees to savers.


My use of Zopa is to have a sizeable part of my assets there, balancing it with less risky assets like shares in BP or HSBC. I add money to Zopa, as and when I have spare funds available.  Usually, this is around the 12th of each month, as that is after all of my monthly bills have been paid.

Recently, I have needed extra funds for work on my house, so I’ve withdrawn money from Zopa at times, instead of re-investing it.

So to return to using Zopa as a high-interest instance-access deposit account.

1, Earnings From Zopa

I find that I’m earning about five percent before tax on money invested in Zopa.

But what is interesting is that for every £50,000 I have invested in Zopa, repayments, interests and capital repaid come to about £2,500 each month. This figure might be lower for someone investing now, as a lot of my loans are to sensible individuals for five years and weere made a couple of years ago.

2. Balancing Zopa With Your Bank Account

So this money can either be reinvested or if you need some extra funds repatriated to your bank account.

One thing that helps is that a large proportion of clients repay their loans on or about the first of the month. So a large amount of money is received in the first week or so of the month!

By careful budgeting and transferring money between Zopa and your bank account, you can maximise the amount of money, that is earning you more money in Zopa and keep your bank account in what you consider to be the black.

3. Matching Your Agreed Overdraft Limit To Zopa Monthly Cash Flow

I should say that my agreed overdraft limit on my current account, is sensibly matched with the amount of money, I could normally be able to repatriate from Zopa in a month.

This means that in a month with heavy expenditure, I don’t drop myself in it.

4. Flexibility

If say one month, your horse has just come in and you’ve won several thousand in the 4:15 at Kempton, you can leave the money to accumulate.

And if in another, your car needs repair, you can take out everything you can.

5. You Can Cash It All In

I often wonder what would have happened, when my wife got cancer, if we hadn’t had any money or two sons who could drop everything and help. It would have been difficult in the extreme.

But a Zopa fund could have been liquidated without penalty and used as income in the last months or years of my wife’s life.

You can sell on good loans, but I’d have just not bothered to reinvest any money and transferred it all out of Zopa.

6. You Can Start In A Small Way

Most investments require a large sum to get started, but you can flirt with Zopa to see if it for you for as little as ten pounds.

7. Transfers To And From Zopa Are Going To Get Faster

This is something that is happening and will improve all our lives in the future.

But it particularly helps with an investment like Zopa, where you’re effectively using it as a quick-access deposit account.


It wouldn’t be fair not to state the disadvantages.

1. You Can Earn More With Other Peer-to-Peer Sites

There are always other better ways of earning higher returns, but then they usually come with a higher risk profile.

2. It All Sounds Too Good To Be True

I am not a Financial Advisor, but a Control Engineer and a Mathematician. On the other hand, I’m investing my own money! And I’m also prepared to show my analyses to anybody who wants to see them!


It’s your money, so do the research and make your choice.

After all we all know the old joke about the best way to  make a small fortune! Give a large one to a financial advisor!

September 18, 2014 Posted by | Finance | , , | 6 Comments