JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Myself and my colleagues will continue to do all we can to help you look after your financial interests – after all, it’s in our DNA
I hope I am not mistaken, but I see light at the end of a very long tunnel. Although we’ve been here before – most notably last summer – it looks as if the UK is at last emerging from the horror that has been coronavirus. Hallelujah.
Huge swathes of the country have now been free from Covid deaths since the beginning of last month, infection rates are at their lowest since the pandemic began, and the slick nationwide vaccination programme has been extended to the over-40s.
So far, 48million jabs have been given. All hugely welcome trends although, of course, there is no room for complacency. Economically, the country is rousing from its long sleep with figures to be released this week from the Bank of England indicating that the economy could grow by more than seven per cent this year.
Happy to help: In terms of wealth creation, we will continue to help you secure financial security
Growth that will be fuelled to a large degree by the spending of money many households have been able to squirrel away during lockdown.
Never has the expression ‘joys of spring’ seemed so appropriate. Never have the emerging bluebells in Holt Copse near where I live brought me so much joy.
Never have I looked forward so much to going out to a restaurant as I will be doing tomorrow night (outside, of course).
Yet the fact that its speciality is Indian street food will remind me that while we have managed to suppress the virus in the UK, it is still wreaking devastation in other parts of the world as the upsetting pictures from India remind us on a daily basis.
Coronavirus will only truly meet its match when vaccinations worldwide are the norm and not the preserve of developed nations. Against this more positive backdrop, we on Personal Finance (and Wealth for that matter) will continue to do all we can to help you best look after your financial interests – after all, it’s in our DNA. There will be no let-up just because the ‘feelgood’ factor is back.
Looking back over the past 13 months, we’ve highlighted a number of financial ‘issues’ that have concerned readers.
Some of these we return to today and will continue to highlight in the weeks and months ahead.
One is the worrying decline in access to cash on the high street, a problem accentuated by lockdown and a topic we have covered as part of our brilliant longstanding ‘keep our cash’ campaign. We have received widespread praise for our coverage and will not let up until a solution is found to fill the cash vacuum left by closed bank branches and cash machines.
You only need to read Rachel Rickard Straus’s report above to understand how access to cash can rejuvenate a local community.
On York’s Bishy Road it has been the installation of a free-to-use cash machine that has provided the catalyst for rejuvenation, but it could equally be a shared bank branch or wider availability of cashback at local stores (ideas that are currently being trialled and we are four square behind).
Financial fraud has also thrived under lockdown. It’s a crime we’ve highlighted on numerous occasions over the past year – and we’ve had notable successes in getting financial justice for some victims.
Yet it’s blindingly obvious that the protection available to victims is both hotchpotch and inadequate.
As the head of money at consumer group Which? writes on page 131, access to redress is a lottery with some banks playing hard-ball while others are more customer-centric.
The code governing how banks treat victims of scams needs an urgent makeover so that fairness rules. Along with Which?, we will continue to press for this.
Finally, in terms of wealth creation, we will continue to help you secure financial security in retirement through the advice given in our ground-breaking Wealth section.
As we report on page 99, some readers have profited magnificently from some of the sage advice given last year in the market maelstrom caused by the pandemic and the first lockdown.
So, keep reading our Personal Finance and Wealth sections. Enjoy tomorrow’s Bank Holiday. Time to have a spring in your step.