Banks have always been one of the bedrocks of every town in the UK. Their value has been even more appreciated down here in the West Country where travelling distances between towns and their facilities and a high retirement population have made them all the more necessary and appreciated. It is dispiriting to see so many of them closing their doors for the last time, never to return.
The age of online banking is now very much part and parcel of everyday life, and even the banks cannot stand in the path of progress.
Computers are now the be all and end all. It is therefore chastening to see that nearly 4 million older people are now denied access to key benefits to which they should be entitled simply because they do not use computers. Age UK carried out a mystery shopper exercise with councils. Their survey reveals that more than 4 in 10 councils say that council tax reduction and housing benefits can only be claimed online. Age UK’s report is entitled “Everything is Online Nowadays”. The report reveals that most councils “push people towards claiming via the internet, even when it was clear that they were not themselves computer users”. The survey revealed that 1 in every 7 councils will only accept online claims. These councils did not offer any face-to-face service to aid anyone who has never used the internet.
Age UK want councils to ensure that each and every one of us is able to access the services offered by these councils. They say that the councils need to offer options which do not require connecting online. That will then enable people who should be entitled to vital benefits to continue claiming them. It would not surprise me if one of the major consumer groups (such as Which?) does not bring a Court action to declare that the increasing trend to offer only online services by councils especially for the elderly is discriminatory and possibly against the law.
It appears that the people at the top of the greasy pole in such organisations are unaware of or impervious to the plight of end-users. Indeed, the salaries they award themselves show very often just how out of touch they are. You will have seen recently that the Chief Executive of the firm running the Motability disabled car scheme claimed a salary in this last year of £1.7 million. In 2008 he paid himself £954,000, and his salary has had 78% growth since then to reach the current mammoth figure. No wonder MPs called such salaries “totally unacceptable”. The more grounded people at the top can be, the likelier it is that the roll-out of services will be accessible and fair to each and every one of us.
Finally, it is heartening to see that experts hope that polio can be wiped out by the end of the year. This is a highly infectious childhood disease once prevalent worldwide, but now eradicated in most countries thanks to the vaccination. In 1988 the number of those affected was around the 350,000, but in 2017 this had dropped to 22. It is wonderful to read of its imminent demise.
Bude & Holsworthy