The Money Lion | » news All the latest finance, business, money and legal news Fri, 01 Mar 2023 11:41:22 +0000 en hourly 1 The Money Lion | Are We Heading For ‘Brexit’? Thu, 31 Jan 2024 13:42:32 +0000 Anthony Zool For the first time the prospect of Great Britain leaving the European Union is on the table. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum after the next election.

Image by The Prime Minister's Office

A bit of the old ‘in-out’

The promised referendum will only have one question – should Britain be in the EU or not? There is no question of other issues such as monetary union being discussed. Cameron has said that he will be campaigning to stay, but that he will also be seeking a ‘repatriation of powers’.


There has been criticism of the decision to announce a possible referendum for creating uncertainty. The consequences of Britain possibly leaving are at present unknown, however critics of the referendum plan say that uncertainty could discourage investment in Britain and delay economic recovery.

One of the consequences of uncertainty over Britain’s future in the EU could be an increase in the cost of government borrowing. This would be as a result of the bond market reacting negatively.

Majority would quit

A recent poll found that a clear majority of British voters would vote to leave the European Union. The referendum would happen in 2017, but if it were to happen now 34% would definitely ask to leave, along with a further 22% who probably would. The total amount who would definitely vote to remain is just 30%.

Support for remaining in the EU is in short supply across supporters of all political parties. The most pro-European are the Liberal Democrats, however even four out of ten amongst them would vote to leave. By promising a referendum despite thinking Britain should stay, it is possible Cameron is hoping for an electoral boost due to the popularity of this policy with both Conservative and Labour supporters, and to neutralise the threat posed by UKIP.

A lot could change by 2017, with both the ‘in’ and the ‘out’ camps having a chance to argue the case. The benefits of EU membership are likely to get more coverage as part of this discussion, as well as the possible risks and benefits of leaving.

Do you think Great Britain should leave the EU? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.


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The Money Lion | Ulster Bank to Close 20 Branches - UPDATED 17/1/13 Tue, 15 Jan 2024 08:00:50 +0000 Jamie Meikle In some more bad news for the banking industry on the Emerald Isle, Ulster Bank have announced they are to close around 20 (correction - the number is now 22) branches/sub-offices island wide.

Image created using a photo by "Images_of_Money" found on flickr


As the 3rd largest bank in Ireland, Ulster Bank currently operate 146 branches south of the border and 90 in Northern Ireland. The decision has come as part of the company’s recent review of their branch network. The Irish Bank Officials’ Association has indicated that the ROI and NI will see roughly half of the closures each.

In 2011, the bank was forced to write off £1bn in bad loans, mostly involving property. Last January it announced plans to shed 950 jobs over the course of 2012 - 350 in Northern Ireland and 600 in the Republic. However, the high profile IT problems experienced in the summer caused the redundancy plans to be delayed.

Ulster Bank did stress that they have no further plans for redundancies beyond the 950 announced last year.

No detail of the branch closures have been revealed yet. A spokesman for Ulster Bank explained:

“We continue to keep our branch network under review to ensure that we are operating in the correct locations for our customers,” said a statement from the bank.

“As part of this review we will be closing in the region of 20 branches and sub offices on the island of Ireland in 2013. We expect to be in a position to provide further details in the next few weeks and will communicate directly with our customers and employees at that time.”

Ulster Bank is likely very keen to see many customers begin using internet and mobile banking in the UK and Ireland.

In November the National Irish Bank closed all of its branches and rebranded to Danske Bank (the name of its Danish owners), switching entirely to servicing customers via post offices, internet banking and phone banking.

Over the course of 2012 several other major banks announced branch closures on the island. In July TSB Permanent announced it was planning to close 19 of its 92 branches with around 250 job losses. Allied Irish Banks has already closed 51 of its 267 branches with another 16 set to close over the coming months.

This all comes on top of a raft of closures of small banks which folded during the financial crisis.

It looks like many Irish customers will have to get used to the idea of either doing their banking at the post office or using phone or internet banking.

Are you planning to start doing your banking online or over the phone? If so feel free to let us know your feelings about it.


UPDATE 17/1/13 - Branches/sub-offices to be closed - 22 in total:

The Republic of Ireland closures:

Belturbet (Co Cavan), Castlepollard (Co Westmeath); Glenamaddy (Co Galway), Killeshandra (Co Cavan) and Kilnaleck (Co Cavan), together with the following sub-offices: Carrigallen (Co Cavan), Delvin (Co Westmeath), Kilcormac (Co Offaly), Kilkelly (Co Mayo), Rathangan (Co Kildare) and Swanlinbar (Co Cavan).

Northern Ireland closures:

Carryduff near Belfast, Dromore in Co. Tyrone, Harryville near Ballymena, Jordanstown near Belfast, Knock near Belfast, Longstone Street in Lisburn, and Shaftesbury Square in Belfast City; together with the following sub-offices: Ardglass in Co. Down, Moy in Co Armagh. Rosslea in Co. Fermanagh and Saintfield in Co Down.


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The Money Lion | My first time - buying a house Mon, 07 Jan 2024 16:05:05 +0000 Jakub Michalski

Image by Moyan Brenn

Recent reports from the Guardian state that house prices in the UK remained at the same level throughout 2012. It is also predicted that there won’t be much change in 2013. One change however, is that home buyers should find it much easier to be approved for a mortgage this year, as many banks reportedly plan to increase their loan availability.

Buying a house is one of the biggest purchases in life and asking the right questions can save you a lot of money in the future. Read on to discover what essential information you’ll need before making this important decision.

What’s the real cost of buying?

Choosing the right mortgage is extremely important. Ask your bank if they offer any competitive deals if you pay a bigger deposit. Choose your saving account wisely to maximise interest, as saving for a little bit longer will pay off in the future in lower interest.

Calculate the real cost of buying a house by taking some other fees into consideration. Many mortgage providers will ask you to pay an arrangement fee which can cost you up to £1,000. Your lender will also charge you the valuation fee. The total cost will also be influenced by the legal fee or any surveys you decide to undertake.

Think ahead about gas and electricity prices, getting the best tariff and possible wall and loft insulation. Remember to put aside some cash for any emergency DIY works the house might require, and don’t forget that it also needs to be furnished once you move in.

Take your time

After finding the right property and making an offer, it could take several months before the whole transaction is complete and the property is legally yours. It is however advised that you take as much time as possible to make this important decision. Make sure you research the neighbourhood, check what people say about it on the Internet, or how far the nearest school is. To get a real feel of the area, visit at different times of day, have a look at local pubs and shops  and consider staying in a local B&B for a night.

Say hello to your closest neighbours and ask what they like about living in the area. It will also give you a chance to get an impression of who they are and how well they maintain their house. If you particularly like an area, it may be worth writing a letter to explain that you’re looking to buy in the neighbourhood. Someone considering selling their house might contact you and it will not only help get ahead of others, but will also saving you on the agency fee.

Things to look for

Going from one viewing to another can be both exciting and exhausting, but it’s important you think about some of the obvious things to avoid when buying a house. Taking a house survey can cost you a lot of money and often it’s not necessary, especially when you have a closer look. Start by searching for any signs of mould on the walls and inside the cupboards. Look around for cracks or any stains on walls. Open and then close all the doors and windows and check if they are draft proof, as you might feel it on your energy bill. Check if the heating works properly and inspect the plumbing, as well as the outside of the building, including the roof. And the last thing… check if your phone has a signal.

What other advice would you give to a first time buyer?


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The Money Lion | The Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards 2012 are Open for Entries Thu, 29 Nov 2023 16:11:38 +0000 Jamie Meikle Now in its 19th year, the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards has become one of the most highly anticipated events in Ireland’s business calendar. Earlier this month, the bank started taking entries for the 2012 awards.

Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards logoThe awards recognise the business successes of companies from all over Ireland irrespective of their offering, size or sector. Last year over 350 businesses entered the awards hoping  to possibly come out as provincial or even national winners in their respective categories.

The awards from Ulster Bank’s business division are particularly popular among start-ups. The chance to get some PR coverage from the media partners of the awards, the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Independent, have proved major draws for publicity hungry young businesses.

Speaking at the Awards launch, Ulster Banks’s Director of Corporate Banking, Ian Jordan, said “Almost nine out of 10 companies we surveyed told us that they enter awards for the PR and profile. For start-up companies the awareness of their business and its achievements that winning awards can bring is crucial.”

Last year medical device manufacturers TG Eakin scooped the top prize of Overall Business Achievers Award Winner 2011.

The 2012 winner of the overall award will be in store for a very tantalising prize package including:

  • A €50,000 publishing bursary with the Irish Independent.
  • Business mentoring from Enterprise Ireland.
  • A full service communications workshop given by leading PR, Marketing, Sales and Communications specialists.

For this year’s awards Ulster Bank has made some significant changes. Two new categories have been added: Woman Led Business and Best Established SME. Also the Agriculture, Food and Drink categories has been split into two separate awards.

The full list of categories for this year is:

  • Woman Led Business Award
  • Best Business Start Up Award
  • Innovation and Emerging Technology Award
  • Best Established SME Award
  • Food and Drink Award
  • Social Enterprise Award
  • International Business Award
  • Agri-Business Award

The businesses will be judged on several different criteria:

  • Business milestones and achievements
  • Business Strategy
  • Financial Performance
  • Developments of innovative products/services
  • Importance of the business to the local area
  • The leadership and vision of the entrepreneur

The awards are run with the support of a variety of influential organisations including: The Prince’s Trust, InterTradeIreland, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Independent, Invest Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph and Small Business Can.

Ulster Bank will be accepting entries to the 2012 awards until 28th February 2012. If you want more information or are looking to enter the awards go to the official Business Achievers Award site.

Have you or are you planning to enter the awards this year? If so we’d love to hear about your business, just leave a comment below.


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The Money Lion | Can Secession Succeed? Thu, 22 Nov 2023 09:42:28 +0000 Anthony Zool The issue of regions looking for independence from their current nation states is in the news at the moment. From certain US states to Scotland and Catalonia the case is being made that they would be better to go it alone, but just how would this work out in practice, and how likely is it that these splits could actually go ahead?

Following the election of president Barack Obama  for a second term in the White House those unhappy with the result have been calling for secession. Petitions asking to leave the USA on the White House’s ‘We The People’ website have been filed by people from all 50 states in the union. The petitions from seven of the states have gained enough signatures to warrant a response from the Government.

The general consensus is that states cannot secede, but even if they could they would face considerable problems. One factor that has been pointed out by many commentators is that six out of the seven states petitioning for secession receive more in federal funding than they pay in tax . Alabama receives $1.71 from Washington for every dollar it sends, Louisiana $1.45 - the only exception is oil rich Texas.

Scotland, like Texas is blessed with ‘black gold’ and this is often cited as reason why it would be economically viable as its own nation. Unlike Texas however there is a process under way  that could credibly lead to Scotland becoming an independent country.

There will be a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. This is actually earlier than Scottish nationalists had wanted, the reason for this being that polling is indicating that the vote would not be successful for them and that they would have liked more time to make the case for independence. Certainly there are some questions that remain to be answered.

The plan is that an independent Scotland would continue to use the pound as its currency. If this was the case then it would not have any control over the monetary policy being set by London. Another area of confusion is EU membership.

Whether or not an independent Scotland would automatically have member status in the European Union is something that has yet to be answered. There has been an assumption that it would qualify, but there have been those that have challenged this, the latest of whom is Hugo Swire MP of the Foreign Office.

EU membership of a hypothetical future nation state is also an issue for Catalonia. The northern Spanish region is set to vote on independence, and like Scotland there are many issues still to be resolved.

Catalonia is the most economically successful part of Spain, but there are fear that an independent Catalonia would be less attractive to multinationals. This would particularly be the case if they had to re-apply for EU membership.


CC 'Alan Bell' (Flickr)



















If you have a view on any of the issues discussed here, why not share it in the comment section?


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The Money Lion | One-in-ten UK high street shops lying empty Mon, 19 Nov 2023 13:07:51 +0000 Jamie Meikle In more gloomy news for high street retailers it’s been revealed that more than one in ten town centre shops are lying empty.

A shop holding a closing down sale

Image by "James Bowe" via flickr

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which has been gathering data on empty shops in town centres since July 2011, announced that the latest vacancy rate of 11.3% was the highest they’ve seen.

There is rather significant variation throughout different regions of the UK. Northern Ireland is in the worst condition with 20% of its town centre shops empty, Wales came next with 15.1%. Greater London fared much better with only 7.6% sitting empty.

A large portion of the rise in vacancy has been attributed to the failure of a host of major retailers such as Comet, JJB Sports, Clinton Cards, Blacks Leisure, Game and Peacocks.

The depressing news comes hot on the heals figures showing that high street footfall fell significantly in the last quarter when compared with the same period last year. The figures showed a 3.9% drop during the August to October period.

It all seems to add up to worrying times for high street retailers who have been facing tough times with the recession and ever increasing competition from online retailers. Of course, the Christmas shopping period is now well underway and should give many retailers a very welcome respite from the doom and gloom of the latest figures.

What do you think can be done to help high street retailers? Leave a comment and let us know.


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The Money Lion | China’s New Guard Takes Power Fri, 16 Nov 2023 11:08:02 +0000 Rhea Carrera  

There’s a new team in Chinese government, but will they be able to solve some of the endemic problems that have been plaguing China’s rise to the economic top?

Xi Jinping was announced as the new Communist party secretary on the 15th of this month, and it looks like he already has some fairly radical ideas for China’s direction.

As he said while introducing the new standing committee in the Great Hall:

“Our Party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the Party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities and bureaucratism caused by some Party officials. We must make every effort to solve these problems. The whole Party must stay on full alert.”

Image via James D Schwartz

Both him and his appointed members of the Politburo Standing Committee are certainly a change from the old party warhorses that previously made up its ranks.

For example, compare Li Keqiang to some of the exiting political luminaries; this second in command has a handle on English, a law degree, a doctorate in economics from Peking University.

An uphill struggle

It’s extremely clear that despite the new Committee being pretty liberal compared to its past, Chinese politics remain fairly conservative. From local levels to the higher ranks in government, advancement within the Communist Party has traditionally depended on following the party line and not making waves.

Therefore, any economic reforms pushed through will have to cut through decades of carefully constructed internal political alliances, corruption and an intricate bureaucratic structure.

Top of the industrial pile

If China wants to remain at the top of the manufacturing stakes the government will probably eventually need to change the way it looks at economics.

After all, the novelty of inexpensive Chinese-made products will eventually lose its sheen if the products being created are not up to the quality of competitor countries due to lacking industrial standards. High-level shipbuilding for Western companies, for instance, will often be completed in South Korea at a higher price rather than go to the trouble of replacing Chinese-made ships more often.

Spotlight on workers’ rights

Chinese factory conditions have started to come under scrutiny more and more as workers’ rights advocates have been taking hold of the Internet to disseminate news.

China still has a huge workforce of skilled and unskilled labour to draw from, and plenty of funding for growth from its current manufacturing sector, and improving the way companies work within the Chinese borders has the potential to result in far more sustained growth, which will be important for supporting the most populous nation in the world.

Do you think the new Committee will have any lasting effect on China, or will it be more of the same? Let me know what you think.


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The Money Lion | Well dressed fatcats spending money stalking deer Thu, 01 Nov 2023 11:26:41 +0000 Al Phillips  

While we have been lambasting the City and the astronomical bonuses paid to executives, the one good thing is at least they’re spending it – in Scotland.

Over the last year many deer stalking estates have seen a 20% rise in business, with two thirds of that business coming from outside Scotland. This year the cost risen has by 5%, and over the last five years it has increased by 21 per cent.

Savills, the firm that manages half-a-million acres of sporting land in Scotland, said that on one estate the price fort a stag had increased to £400. Scotland is famous for stag stalking, but there is growing popularity in hind stalking, which is around half the price. Hind stalking is often let as a day’s activity, making it more attractive as there is no need for accommodation, whereas a stag stalk is usually only let on a weekly basis.

Image: jack_spellingbacon, via Flickr

A day’s stalking can cost around £200 and there is a growing popularity in one-day shoots, where as you can spend up to a week on a stag shoot.
It is still predominantly a male sport, but there are more women getting involved accounting for around 10% of bookings in 2011.

Dram good news

Scotland is seeing a surge in its traditional industries, especially in Scotch whisky. In October 2012 the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) reported that in the 12 months to June 2012 the value of exports increased by 12% to £4.2 billion from £3.8 billion.

It has also played a major role in the Scottish tourist industry with distillery tours and visitor centres raking in more than £30 million. The USA is still the biggest market for Scotch with exports valued at £304 million, an increase of 13% from £277 million.
A recent EU/India Free Trade Agreement will boost the industry significantly as it will start to reduce the 150% import tariff on spirits, and emerging markets in Central and South America, Asia and Eastern Europe are adding hundreds of millions of pounds in export value.

Weaving a successful year

The resurgence in the popularity of Harris tweed has helped the industry record its best year of production in 15 years.

At one point the industry was in dire straits, but in the last four years around 40 weavers have joined the work force, and over the last decade stars such as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kylie Minogue have brought the fabric into the fashionable limelight.

Dr Who’s Matt Smith has helped spark an interest in Harris tweed fashion when a vintage jacket became part of the Time Lord’s look when Smith took-on the role two years ago.

Are there other parts of the UK enjoying a resurgence in traditional industries? Tell us about them in the comments below.


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The Money Lion | New pension auto-enrolment system gets mixed reaction Wed, 03 Oct 2023 16:10:02 +0000 Domenica Goduto  

Many people procrastinate about saving for their retirement, but as of 1st October 2012, when the government’s new auto-enrolment pension scheme got underway, we’re now obliged to at least consider the prospect.

Starting with the UK’s biggest firms (120,000 or more employees), the reforms will gradually be extended to all workplaces over the next five years or so, working their way down from the largest employers to the smallest. So far, feelings about the pensions plan seem to be mixed, with some debate over the extent to which the reforms will benefit Britain’s workers.

Sign reading "How well you retire depends on how well you plan today"

Image via Digital Sextant on Flickr

According to the plan, all employees in the country will automatically be enrolled in a pension scheme in their workplace – either their employer’s own existing pension plan, or one of the new schemes, such as the National Employment Savings Trust, which the government has put in place for employers without current provision.

Small steps

In order to ease everyone into the practice, contributions will begin at a very small level – just 0.8% of the employee’s own pensionable earnings, supplemented by a further 1% paid in by their employer and another 0.2% in tax relief.

Eventually, the goal is to see all workers paying in 4% of their salary to the pension pot, with employers contributing 3% and 1% in tax relief, for a total of 8% of each employee’s pensionable earnings. These contributions will be invested and then upon retirement, the employee can use the accumulated funds to purchase an annuity (or annual pension).

A helping hand

Currently only one in three workers in the private sector are signed up to a pension plan, a worrying statistic considering the extremely low level of income provided by the state pension in Britain. For this reason, many are inclined to view the auto-enrolment scheme as a good thing in that it encourages people to prioritise saving for their retirement.

By taking advantage of these workplace pension plans, workers also get to benefit from their employer’s contributions and the tax relief – both of which amount to “free money” going into their personal pension pot.

Ends might not meet

Other people are not so sure the reforms are enough to fix the situation. Many critics are concerned that the small amounts being paid in are not enough to provide a suitable pension, or that poor investment returns will harm the value of workers’ savings, but that people will fail to save in other ways because they incorrectly assume that these pension schemes will provide more than enough for their retirement.

There is also an option for workers to opt out of their employer’s pension plan, which many people in low-paid jobs (or industries such as hospitality, which tend to have a high staff turnover rate) may elect to do, fearing that they cannot afford to lose further deductions from their monthly wage.

What do you think about the new auto-enrolment pension scheme? Will it prove a good move for workers, or will its weaknesses outweigh any benefits?


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The Money Lion | FSA Calls Time on Wine Investments Wed, 29 Aug 2023 15:32:46 +0000 Anthony Zool Recently hyped as an ‘alternative investment’ wine based financial products have grown in popularity. Now, however, the Financial Services Authority have decided to intervene.

The problem that the FSA has with many wine investments is that they fall into the category of what have been dubbed “Unregulated Collective Investment Schemes”, UCIS for short. Investments of this type have begun to be linked to instances of miss-selling.

One of the primary goals of the FSA is to reduce the incidence of products being ‘miss-sold’ by financial advisors. Financial products such as pensions and payment protection insurance have been rocked by scandals around mis-selling in recent years.

The proposals by the FSA could be seen as potentially running the risk as being perceived as elitist.  Under the new rules it would be forbidden for financial advisors to sell wine-type investments to investors with either a £100 000 yearly investment budget or a total investment spread of over £250 000. A potential exception could be made for individuals with “extensive experience in investing”.

Whether the FSA proposals represent a paternalistic and patronising viewpoint of how ordinary people should manage their finances or whether these kind of protections are needed to prevent exploitation is possibly a matter of perspective. There will certainly be those who view the prospect of a potentially lucrative investment being denied to all but economic elite with a degree of suspicion.

Unregulated Collective Investment Schemes have become a significant market. In fact it is believed by analysts to be worth  some £2.5bn annually.

Are the FSA right to throw their weight around in this way? Should ordinary investors not be sold these kind of products, or should it just be a case of ‘buyer beware’? Chuck your two pence into the comment section below!


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