David Cameron, Prime Minister, & Ross McEwan, RBS Chief Executive, discuss Woodstock NatWest

Is this good enough?  The RBS Chief, Ross McEwan, responded to David Cameron’s letter about the campaign we are all part of to save the Woodstock branch. If taken on face value you might think many of the queries have been remedied. Think again. These are the points I have asked Mr Cameron to go back and get confirmed:

“But please delve below the banking speak and go back to the man that is running the bank that we all own and ask for clarification on the following points: 

  • RM says: “we have reached an agreement with the local post office – which is only a short walk away – that currently allows our customers to take money out, check balances and pay bills free of charge”
  • Q: the implication is that a one-off agreement has been reached with this one PO. Is this correct? Because if it is NOT then “customers” does NOT include business customers. Are they no longer to be considered “customers” by RBS? In addition has the bank come to an agreement with the PO on how the elderly and disabled will be served, given that the access to the PO is extremely difficult?
  • “in the coming months we will increase that offering to allow customers to deposit cash and cheques as well”
  • Q: the implication is that this agreement is close to completion and will be available in the next few months, is this correct? If so could the detail of the agreement actually be outlined because none of the other main high street banks have achieved this function so far with the PO? Also can you confirm if your customers from the business community continue to be excluded from this?
  • “We also intend to keep the ATM in place at the branch”
  • Q: what does “intend” mean? Research by locals suggests that the ATM will be run by a third party: is this correct? Why would you suggest that the bank are keeping this function themselves? How long will this facility continue to be free if the bank does not own the ATM?

There are many more questions that remain unanswered, however, these questions sound huge alarm bells that the local community deserve to have truly transparent answers to, don’t you agree?”

What do you think? Are RBS being straight with the community about why they are leaving? is Ross McEwan being transparent in his response to our Prime Minister?

I know what I think and I know what I will continue to do: CAMPAIGN!

If you would like more information, a copy of the full letter exchange between them or simply to add your support email us at: campaign@community-buying.com

A night to celebrate all of our people

My amazing team, representing every amazing person that has ever worked for or with CBL, collecting the certificate for Micro Business Award finalists at the West Oxfordshire Business Awards dinner at Heythrop Park
RARELY KNOWN TO PUT ON A SUIT…BUT EVENING TAILS?          Katy Cameron & Faye Parker: my amazing team, collecting the certificate for Micro Business Award finalists, on behalf of every amazing person that has ever worked for or with CBL
Katy Cameron, Ana Bonasera & Faye Parker each have played a significant role in our journey...I am humbled they are so proud to tell the world all about our achievements
THEY TAUGHT ME SO MUCH ABOUT MY OWN BUSINESS BY INSISTING THAT WE BE INVOLVED IN THESE AWARDS!  Katy Cameron, Ana Bonasera & Faye Parker…each have played a significant role in our journey…I am humbled they are so proud of what they are part of they wanted to tell the world all about our achievements
Anthony Russell
REPRESENTING SO MANY BRILLIANT PEOPLE THAT HAVE ADDED THEIR UNIQUE ABILITIES AND TALENTS ON A WHOLE BUNCH OF PROJECTS OVER THE FOUR YEARS: Anthony Russell & Ana Bonasera
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THE COLLABORATORS – A RICH TAPESTRY OF SUPPORTERS, ADVOCATES, BACKERS & MENTORS WE THANK YOU ALL: Paul & Jo Rockwood 
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THERE ON BEHALF OF ALL OUR MEMBERS – YOUNG AND OLD – AND ALSO THE GREATEST MENTOR OF ALL: Mrs Pomfret!
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A MAVERICK NEEDS A PERFECT FOIL – TRUE PARTNERSHIP: Hannah Jago
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IT MAY APPEAR DARK BUT SHE IS AN INSPIRATIONAL LIGHT IN CBL: Hannah Jago
Brendan Cross of Hexagon Business Centres presents the award certificate to Micro Business Award finalists Community Buying Unlimited - Katy Cameron, Chris Pomfret & Faye Parker - at the West Oxfordshire Business Awards dinner at Heythrop Park Picture: Ric Mellis
THE APPLICATION & THE INTERVIEW PROCESS WERE HUGE LEARNING EXPERIENCES FOR ME – WHEN DO BUSINESS OWNERS GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO REFLECT ON & THEN PRESENT AGAINST EXTREMELY TOUGH COMPETITION WHAT MAKES THEIR BUSINESS BEYOND NORMAL LEVELS OF SPECIAL? Brendon Cross of Hexagon Business Centres presenting the award certificate to Micro Business Award finalists Community Buying Unlimited – Katy Cameron, Chris Pomfret & Faye Parker – at the West Oxfordshire Business Awards dinner at Heythrop Park.  Picture: Ric Mellis      WE TRULY DID HAVE A SPLENDID GALA EVENING – WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK WOBA FOR PULLING TOGETHER SUCH AN EXTRAORDINARY EVENT THAT WILL LAST MUCH LONGER THAN ONE NIGHT

We are always happy to hear your feedback: chris@community-buying.com

Part THREE: Martin didn’t bother coming to say hello

I cannot wait to see the new film “Dallas Buyers Club” this weekend. Based on a true story that sounds extremely courageous and inspiring, I am expecting to see a film that depicts the Power of the Group and the point that when a group comes together it can do anything. I am expecting to see the very point that Martin Lewis does not get!

I left bringing this to a conclusion for a week because I just thought there might be a chance that the genius that is Martin Lewis would get in touch and humbly ask how he could make his article right. Sadly not. So here goes, the finale:

  1. The Power of the Group – Martin doesn’t get it. When you start a community buying group – whether it is for energy, nappies, organic vegetables or anything else – something magical happens and that group can literally do anything. However, you have to set it up right.
  2. Getting it wrong – in the section called: HOW TO SET UP YOUR OWN CLUB he states “Setting up an oil club is fairly simple”. Hmm, that is kind of like saying playing Gary Kasparov at chess is fairly simple. I mean you might know the rules and be able to play a good game of chess, but you wouldn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of winning. Set up an OIL Buying Group believing it is simple and you are setting yourself up to fail – oh it might take a year or two but you’ll get there.
  3. Rural Dual Fuel – when Martin Lewis talks about energy, just as when the media, government and all other consumer groups talk about energy, they are only ever referring to those consumers on dual fuel mains gas/electricity. You know, the only ones the Big Six are really interested in. All average annual stats are based on these users. When we began working on our Rural Dual Fuel concept – matching an electricity deal to the gamut of rural fuels – it did not take us long to understand just why those living off the main gas network feel the energy system is stacked up so unfairly against them. Electricity only UK residents are without question the poor relation. So surely the leading guru of all such things would get this and, in his first real article about a rural fuel, he would develop a system that is specifically tailored to those living off-gas with proper explanations and maybe some campaigning for making things fairer. Err, in a word no. Yes of course another link is given and yet again it is another link in the article that doesn’t do what it is supposed to. The article states: “Always cut your electricity bill too. Huge savings are possible”. Which seems like a very positive start, right? But wait a minute the link says: See Cheap Gas & Electricity for full help. Oh dear, spot the mistake that instantly sounds my alarm bells. I know before I click that link that is the bulk standard dual fuel information that frustrates those that live rurally so much. I have to say Martin that when my MP and I discussed this at length, even he (Mr David Cameron) got this quicker than you. Oh, I am being completely unfair, there are three lines dedicated to electricity only buried an awful long way into the article! Not anywhere near good enough.   

The biggest frustration I have with this article is that it does nothing to enhance the debate. The entire article is out of date and full of misinformation yes, but even worse than that it does nothing to offer solutions to the real issues. Nothing about making a dumb industry smart. Absolutely nothing about the truly terrible situation many find themselves in with regards to Fuel Poverty: simply stating the stat that 1.5 million depend on OIL to heat their homes hides the fact that some 300,000 are struggling with their bills so badly that many of whom can’t use OIL because they can’t afford it. What does that mean they use more of? Electricity. Which they can pay on a budget plan, but it will mean they pay more for over the year.

And finally, when somebody in DECC sees an article on heating OIL written by “Money Saving Expert”, they will probably go rushing around Whitehall singing “Hallelujah, praise the Lord, for Martin has finally spoken”. It won’t matter whether they have read it or not because DECC won’t understand what the issues are themselves. All I know is that they and this article have not helped heating OIL users. 

Martin says “There’s no slick solution” and he is of course wrong about that too. We are the only such solution and we could help every single one of his loyal subscribers to find their heating OIL at the best possible price, delivered in the best possible way. By doing so they would also become part of the very thing that is tackling the important issues. That’s what we do.

chris@community-buying.com

 

Day Three: Dear David…this is what we are doing about it

Over the last four winters we have done our very best to tackle what is a hideous issue for many heating OIL users – OIL Fuel Poverty. Having completed some very important work with many charities – including AgeUK over the last winter – it was obvious that there is a massive void in the UK as no organisation exists that is dedicated completely to eradicating this one issue. Age UK’s Charity Director General, Michelle Mitchell makes the case perfectly: ‘Many of our poorest and most vulnerable older people live in the country and have little choice, but to use heating oil to keep warm. A significant number can’t afford the hundreds of pounds they have to pay up front and simply do without, often, in the coldest months of the year.’ She goes on to say that those living in the coldest homes cost the NHS over £1.3 billion – and that is just in England. In other words many see this as a massive problem, but none of the organisations that work to eradicate Fuel Poverty have the level of expertise, knowledge or even the practical resource required to specifically help those who are fuel poor and use Heating OIL. Step forward Marion Lathar!
 
OIL Fuel Poverty Solutions – Marion Lathar is in the midst of launching a brand new social enterprise that will act as a resource and a hub for ALL charities, social enterprises and good causes working to eradicate Fuel Poverty, but that have no specialist knowledge about those using Heating OIL. She will be stepping into a vacuum that only she could fill. It has been an extraordinary pleasure to both work with Marion and to watch her confidently gain real expertise in this subject during her four years with CBL. We know we have saved lives together in that time. Marion is about to launch something that will go on to save thousands more.  
 
What next? The two organisations will be completely separate, but there are many ways in which we will be able to work together as allies and I look forward to developing this on many levels this winter. Further to this we will collaborate with as many organisations as we can as we seek to eradicate this pernicious issue. No doubt when we meet you will want to collaborate with us too.

chris@community-buying.com

Day Two: Dear David…what does Fuel Poverty mean to you?

It is a term that has become part of Government’s daily parlance, a media label, a campaigning tool and a source of never ending statistics. But what is Fuel Poverty?

It is not a label or a term, it is not a category or a tool. These are all faceless, lifeless, intangibles. Fuel Poverty is extremely tangible; in fact it is so real for millions of people in this country, our country, that it literally impacts every area of their life – negatively. Worse than that, it is a serial killer. Age UK should know, they have been working to tackle it for a long time and recognise the link between winter deaths and not being able to afford to heat your home: “Every winter, tens of thousands of older people die or become seriously ill in the UK because of the cold. The personal cost to families affected is incalculable – an unexpected hospital admission, facing the need for additional care services or even the premature death of a loved one.” They estimate the cost to the NHS is £1.3 billion a year – in England alone! 

So today I signed the Energy Bill Revolution petition – via the Age UK site. Go and take a look at the remarkable list of organisations behind this movement. Some of the Big Six have signed it! Lots of other large organisations like Asda, Barnardos, Greenpeace, Unison and so on. It tells me whether my MP is supporting it or not. You’ll be getting my email, because apparently – unlike 196 others – you aren’t. Surely that can’t be right can it? It seems like such a proactive thing to do to become part of a movement that cares and that should be able to do something.

So I asked a question: what does Fuel Poverty mean to you? To me it is many things and they are all completely real: it is fear, it is loneliness, it is the sense of being left behind by a society that has so much wealth and yet nobody cared enough. And then, very sadly, it often becomes a statistic.

chris@community-buying.com