In Britain, the coalition government is readying its “comprehensive spending review” later this month. Rather than get caught up in chasing which government departments or bodies will be cut, two of our reporters focused on a single council – in this case, the City of Birmingham, which happens to be the biggest local authority in Europe – and explored what it’s doing to prepare for the change ahead.
For a lot of people, the most visible sign of cuts in Britain will be at a local level, as services are pulled back and jobs are lost. In the leadup to the spending review details, lobbyists in London have been doing great business. Check out their tactics for survival – although if you’re worried about your government contract but haven’t done anything about it, you’re probably already too late.
We went behind the scenes of Dubai’s debt debacle last November and found a much more sober city-state starting to rebuild itself from the $59 billion hole that was dug by the whizz kids who had powered its transformation. Loans don’t come as easy — particularly the nod and the wink of association with the royal family isn’t cutting it like it used to.
Some people see a connection between the crisis and the fact that Dubai has also started to tighten up on its trade with Iran, in line with broader international sanctions, but we’re not so sure about that.
If the life settlements market seems ghoulish, here’s a British scandal which isn’t doing the image of the business any favours. It’s one of the worst the country’s seen.
Around 30,000 mainly elderly investors in the UK put their money into a company called Keydata, hoping to make a little extra cash to fund their own retirement with the promise of a healthy return.
Here in Europe, as spending cuts bite ever deeper, you might expect people to have taken to the streets in their thousands and be up in arms, in defence of the hard-won rights that this round of austerity is threatening. Some are, but not in anything like the numbers they have been in the past. With a Europe-wide day of action coming up on Sept 29 that may change…
But, so far at least, the most remarkable thing has been just how tame the strikes have been, how ineffective the unions look. Why is it that? Are Europe’s unions less powerful? Or less relevant? Sarah Morris in Spain and Gavin Jones in Italy found a host of reasons why young and old today are not rallying to the cause — and not just that they’re scared of losing their jobs.
We’re wondering who is.
We see bailed-out banks returning to profit at the same time as headlines about others still refusing to lend. The personal finance pages are bristling with stories about mortgage famine . Big businesses may have been overcharged for banks’ services in raising new equity capital; lending to smaller businesses is down, and the interest offered on savings is so derisory, would-be savers are being pushed into taking more risk to try to preserve their capital.
What are we missing? What is the magic ingredient that makes you as a customer happy with your bank? Or are we right in thinking “customer satisfaction” is a figment of executive imagination? Tell us your stories.