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Comments

Which? responds to FCA announcement on cash savings accounts
9 January 2020https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-responds-to-fca-announcement-on-cash-savings-accounts/

For anyone who would like to know what Which? are responding to, here is the link:
https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/fca-acts-help-customers-get-better-rates-cash-savings

Firms will have flexibility to offer multiple introductory rates for up to 12 months, then they will need to choose one SEAR (single easy access rate)for their easy access cash savings accounts, and one for their easy access cash savings ISAs.

I’m not sure how useful this change will be. Ideally, I would like to stop introductory rates. They serve to attract new customers, many of whom are then too sticky to bother to monitor future changes and then switch provider. I’d prefer to see the same interest rates available to all from day one. I may feel a bonus for longer standing customers to be in order, where lenders want to maintain the stability of their deposits.

On the plus side, what it should do is stop the erosion of interest rates down to the miserly figures some accounts offer, something that should have been outlawed.

Will it result in higher interest rates for all? I doubt it as the banks’ expenditure on interest payments will be related to the income from loans, charges etc. Unless the latter increases then I don’t envisage significant changes in the former. To be honest, whether an interest rate is 1.2 or 1.4% would not affect most people, I would suggest; if you are lucky enough to have £10 000 on deposit the difference is 38.5 pence a week.

If you want a better return than any normal cash deposit will offer then a stocks and shares ISA might suit, providing you have the nerve to ride out fluctuations on capital value.

The best new cheap mattresses for 2020

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/01/the-best-new-cheap-mattresses-for-2020/ – Which?

Do Which? check these mattresses for fire and chemical safety? Or do they rely on claimed compliance with regulations that, it is suggested below (and in other comments), seem misleading or dangerous to health?

Brian Llewelyn seems to have knowledge of the furniture industry and commented:
https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/whirlpool-opss-review-doubts-evidence/#comment-1583440
”……..mattresses that are flammable when we’re led to believe they aren’t. They’re also stuffed full of flame retardant chemicals which are doing nothing for fire safety, damaging our health, but making huge profits for the chemical industry.

https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/toxic-chemicals-teflon-mary-creagh/
Introduction:
”In the UK, furniture flammability regulations mean that every home contains several kilograms of flame retardants, which are no longer used elsewhere in the world. They can make up to 20% of a mattress filling and are in our sofas, sleeping bags, pushchairs and cot mats.
Some flame retardants, e.g. organophosphates and brominates, have been classed as harmful since they were first used in British furniture, and subsequently banned. Some of these flame retardants can make the smoke produced during a blaze more toxic.
Yet these regulations have remained unchanged for more than 30 years, despite two Government consultations, the last of which was in 2016 and has still not been published.

https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/which-reveals-sainsburys-as-the-cheapest-supermarket-of-2019/
”Which? collected the data by monitoring online pricing, which means that only shops selling all of the branded items online – Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – have been included in the ranking.”

As many superstores also sell equivalent items under their own brand, I’d find it useful if a similar comparison was made to see who are really the cheapest shop. You don’t have to pay the extra for Andrex, Weetabix, Alpen, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Dolmio Bolognese Sauce, Innocent Pure Fruit Smoothie……. Why not promote own brands, often at least as good as these?

Proposed Birmingham car ban: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-51105586

A draft plan, open for public comment, is to be published on 21 January.

I look forward to Birmingham as a city with fewer cars and cleaner air.

The key is, it seems to me, ensuring that people can get to where they want or need to go by providing convenient and regular public transport, and parking to interchange. Hopefully charging will not be used to rip-off those who travel; the alternative needs to be encouraging.

I wonder whether the ban will be time-tabled so that, for example, in the middle of the night when, no doubt, public transport is significantly less frequent, travellers may not be barred from driving across town. I don’t know how much extra distance the ring road(s) will add but extending journey distances substantially will not help total emissions.

It is interesting how taxis might be dealt with. All the plan says is “Irrespective of advancements in technology, single occupancy private cars will never be able to match the capacity of mass public transport for getting people to where they want to go.” Fair enough if mass public transport is properly scheduled, reliable, and covers the area well. “The only mention of taxis in the plan said those “that meet emissions standards will also make a valuable contribution to the integrated transport system”.“. As many taxi journeys will be single occupancy why might they be privileged, when it is not clear that personal electric vehicles will be exempt. London and other towns and cities give taxis priority over “personal” vehicles in, for example, dedicated lanes allowing them a speedy passage; why should those who use taxis be given such special treatment?

It seems Birmingham have 11 years to make their plan clearer and to invest in the vehicles, infrastructure and staff to make it happen,

I believe that the priority here and other cities with illegal levels of pollution will be to tackle this problem as first priority. I do hope that the plans will take into account the safety of other users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

I agree with what you say about privileges for taxis, Malcolm. I suppose by cutting down the journey time it makes it cheaper for users.

People’s ability to travel is also a priority. Tackling pollution and providing good communications must be developed together.

I presume that this is the intention, but the main driver is tackling the problem of air pollution. I expect that London, Birmingham and other cities will adopt different solutions to reducing pollution and providing transport solutions.

Under the proposals, drivers entering the centre would have to go back out to the ring road to then get to other areas.“. So if I just want to travel a very very short distance the other side of the centre it sounds like I would have to take the long way round, travelling much further through suburbs and densely built areas where pollution is still a severe problem, so causing additional emissions, pollution and fuel use. It is important that proposals like this are properly thought out to ensure we are all on side and there are no silly consequences.

I think we need a full proposal from Birmingham in due course that considers the details and all the implications, as evidenced by the responders’ questions.

Of course we need to substantially reduce air pollution from all causes in towns and cities and other densely populated areas and there are ways of doing it that will work for everyone. Competent, knowledgeable and open minded people need to think it through to put all the necessary changes in place for the benefit of everyone.

The main reason I posted is because there will be the opportunity for everyone to make an input if they wish. Hopefully common sense will prevail.

It seems to me the proposals are drafted to make things difficult for motorists who currently think nothing of driving everywhere and anywhere. This may seem unpalatable to those who own several cars and love driving, but I see pollution as being one of the many things, along with climate change in general, that we’re going to find difficult to combat without significant sacrifice on the part of most.

What is interesting to me is that communication via Facetime, for example, and other apps may well make actually going to see people unnecessary in the future. I wonder just how many journeys currently made are, in fact, largely unnecessary? I may be alone, but I believe the priority should be saving lives, not pandering to those who simply enjoy driving. We’re in trouble; any meteorologist will confirm that, and something has to be done.

Owing several cars? – I can only drive one at a time 🙂 . For my part I travel when I need to – to do an activity, visit family (you can’t get them to make you a cup of tea on Facetime – yet), to go on holiday, visit shops……. I don’t normally just drive for the sake of it. Those who wish to live an electronic existence are welcome to it; socially I prefer face to face get-togethers.

However, were there decent public transport I would use it when appropriate and certainly to visit city centres. I never drive into London, for example, because I can get everywhere I need on bus or underground – although charging me £7 to leave my car at the train station (I cannot get there any other way) is not encouraging.

We need, in my view, to respect the needs of the individual when we make radical change. That doers not mean “pandering” to them – who are we to expect “pandering” – but to have the good sense to develop alternatives that meet all the conflicting objectives as far as possible.

So, for example, I would tackle what must be a major source of carbon emissions and pollution – the daily commute whether to work or education. Taking schools further from pupils means instead of walking or cycling, as I did, a trip in the family car twice a day – there and back each time; a comprehensive bus service (electric?) is a solution for many. Commuting to work seems fairly unlimited by distance these days; time to put work nearer where people live (or can afford a property) and limit the energy and time wasted, let alone all the resources and infrastructure we provide. Fundamental changes rather than tinkering with superficial matters.

Owning several cars? – I can only drive one at a time<

Perhaps. but how many do you own?

I don’t disagree with your suggestions about public transport. I do, however, feel the pace of change towards all-electric is too slow. We have to curb emissions; that’s blatantly clear, now, and the quickest way to do it is to increase Car tax on fossil fuelled cars drastically, level new car taxes which are eye-watering on fossil fuel vehicles, provide appropriate exemptions for emergency vehicles, but above all else make it clear that we’re all going to have to sacrifice something.

Things won’t change by themselves; experience tells us they’ll only change when people are pushed into changing.

I don’t underestimate the problems these changes will create either; they will be truly horrendous for many. But I really do think we’re reaching a point globally where something has to be done.

I was recently interested to see this update on the electric cars now available in the UK:-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VPdSxhacJY

For those with relatively modest means but with the need to cover reasonably high mileages, there do now seem to be some good choices.

Perhaps. but how many do you own?“. As I have reported here a number of times I have 3 – a newish car I use most of the time and two Renault diesel Espaces, one 16 years old and one 26. They are worth no money and to some degree I keep them partly out of sentiment and partly because, from time to time, they are very useful, particularly as load carriers. They are used to collect timber, garden compost, take rubbish to the tip, move furniture and appliances and the rest of the family borrow them occasionally.

I still only manage to drive one at a time.

“increase Car tax on fossil fuelled cars drastically,“. OK if you can afford it perhaps, or if you already have an electric vehicle. However, many people can not only not afford an “eye-watering” increase in their car costs, probably essential to their life, but nor afford the cost of a new electric vehicle. It has been reported that there are nowhere near enough resources to provide an electric vehicle future for all; nor is there sufficient planned electricity generation it could be argued. So maybe not the option.

Should we make air travel for leisure purposes also “eye-wateringly” expensive to reduce the huge emissions they produce, and apply the same treatment to cruise ships? This approach, like the congestion charge, simply means those with wealth can continue with a polluting lifestyle while the vast majority are deprived. We need a change that affects everyone as equally as possible and with as little unnecessary disruption to necessary activity as is possible.

I’m not sure you will ever be able to prevent those with real wealth from living as they wish. But if we assume that owning several cars, all fossil fuelled, being able to fly whenever we wish and generally using fossil fuels as much as we wish without any limits is a good idea then I suspect we’re looking at the global population though the wrong end of the telescope.

Car tax increases will almost inevitably only be applied to new cars; that’s how the system has worked for many, many years and how I would imagine it will continue to work. So any increase won’t affect those who already have a vehicle.

Furthermore, it would then give folk a chance to budget sensibly for the increase in the event they decided to buy a new car at some point. As Derek points out EV costs are coming down very quickly, so they’re now within the reach of most car owners who would upgrade to a new car.

The real problem, however, is not cost; it is convenience. We have become used, as a society, to being able to drive whenever and wherever we like. This was not the case at one time, hence we adapted to the less convenient public transport systems. The argument I’m making – a deeply unpopular one as people don’t like the thought that they might have to make sacrifices in convenience terms – is that we are currently faced with a stark and unprecedented choice.

No matter how we choose to ignore the reality, the perfect storm of climate change and atmospheric pollution is upon us. Only last week cars were banned from cities throughout Europe as smog took hold with dangerously high levels of particulates. London experienced a record high pressure – the perfect instrument for smog creation – and as a consequence of this people will become ill and some will die.

In many ways this is redolent of the 1952 smog crisis in London. Then, similar atmospheric conditions created a dense fog, exacerbated by people using coal fires to heat their houses. The estimates today showed that 100,000 people became ill as a direct consequence of the smog and 10,000 died.

That led to the Clean Air act when coal was banished from cities as a heating source.

Now, one major similarity with today is that coal was convenient. It was argued at the time that people depended on coal, and wouldn’t have the means to upgrade to gas or electric heating. But the government decided that they had to because the alternative was too horrible to consider.

We have become too comfortable, too used to easy travel, to prepared to say it’s not our problem.

But it is: every time we start the car, every time we take a plane, a diesel bus or taxi, every time we have the groceries delivered by diesel-powered vans we are actively damaging the health of others in our society. It’s possible to argue, of course, that grocery deliveries might actually be helping the planet; we all need to eat, and it’s not practical to carry a week’s worth of shopping back home by walking – at least, not for those of us who live 13 miles from the shops.

But perhaps we could make alternative and less convenient arrangements? Because in the long run this is what it comes down to: the choice between convenience and killing.

As we’ve seen in Australia this problem spans the globe; atmospheric particulates don’t have passports. Pollution from here travels around the world and the evidence suggests the planet is unable to continue producing clean air if we don’t make major changes quickly.

Not in the course of time, after due consideration. Pollution and climate change are killing people now. If we don’t act quickly and decisively, then the equatorial regions will start an irrevocable path towards becoming too hot to support human life. And if we think the refugee crisis from three years ago was severe, in the grammatically inexact words of Cumming’s famous song, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

Coal-fired power stations are scheduled to be closed down by 2025, though I am not convinced that this will be achieved.

The Clean Air Act permitted the use of coke [or other smokeless fuel] as a substitute for coal. Some houses used gas for room-heating and some had electric fires in bedrooms but gas-fired central heating took some time to emerge as the most popular form.

Local authorities embarked on a massive conversion programme to upgrade people’s fireplaces with more efficient coke-burning stoves and I believe most of the cost was government-funded. The councils had compulsory powers to ensure that every property in a declared Smoke Free Zone was dealt with. But producing coke is not exactly a clean and emission-free operation either and before the conversion to North Sea gas most urban areas had large gasworks consuming thousands of tons of coal a year; coke was a by-product of town gas production but that did not necessarily compensate for the overall pollution.

In rural areas, away from the gas grid, a lot of homes still have coal deliveries. I believe there are proposals to stop new housing developments being connected to the gas grid in a few years time.

I do not know why “owning several cars” has any relevance if only one is driven at a time. However, as I suggested, there are many ways in which fossil fuels are used and create pollution – air travel, cruises, private flying and boating, military use, business travel – which, if we want to reduce emissions, should all be contenders. We transport huge amounts of goods by road, both long and short distances in fossil-fuelled vehicles. I am as concerned about climate change as much as pollution in built-up areas. We need to consider the whole problem.

However, my view is that we also need to make such changes in a way that also considers the way the public will accept and implement change.

The UK is better placed than many to reduce its fossil-fuel needs by using more electricity generated from renewable sources – if it only is prepared to make the investment. We have decent wind speeds, limited solar availability, but reliable and useful tidal energy surrounding us. Some other countries are well-placed with high solar availability but many others are less favoured with natural sources of energy and must, presumably, come to rely on nuclear.

However, this topic started with Birmingham’s city-centre ban proposals, didn’t it? My suggestion there was that in devising the mechanism of the means to reduce city pollution plans need also to be made to consider the effects on those who need to travel. I consider reducing the need to travel into the more central parts of towns and cities is a fundamental part of reducing pollution. So relocate places of work and business away from such areas both achieves this and reduces the need for commuting.

The Clean Air Act mentioned by John achieved a great deal of progress in improving air quality for those who live and work in cities. Removal of lead from petrol and introduction of three-way catalytic converters has reduced harmful emissions from petrol engines. Introduction of flue gas scrubbing has greatly reduced sulphur dioxide emissions from power stations, so that we no longer hear of acid raid affecting other countries.

Technological advances have achieved considerable progress, but obviously cannot tackle the problems created by our unsustainable lifestyle.

All the debate above shows that we are not really discussing transport as an entity we are looking at it as a major facilitator for all the things we do in life; probably the biggest facilitator there is. Without it life would be almost impossible. Public transport, by its D.N.A. will always fall short of the transport needs of the public. It can’t go everywhere at a time to suit everyone, it has to have some financial viability and a capacity to take the public at peak times. The biggest problem at present is that it is under developed and the money and effort to change this is astronomical. We have never had a truly comprehensive public transport -we haven’t needed one that badly to make it happen, though we always wish for better. Walking and cycling are laudable, but who will travel in the rain and cold and arrive wet at the destination on a daily basis?
So, bashing car users to stop them travelling might be a way of reducing pollution and as many have said, life has to change. These initiatives have to be joined up so that a curb in one area is thought through and its consequences compensated for. Since the population is essentially selfish and likes what it does now, the government will have to take the lead in making change happen and take the flak for the hardships. There is little evidence that they are thinking about this. Their focus, Brexit apart, is putting more money into the NHS, police and education and improving social welfare and transport infrastructure. Committees meet to discuss “green” issues and climate, but have not concluded what to do. Science also has to play a part so that we can focus on what is effective and what is knee jerk panic. This whole issue is life changing and that revolution so drastic as to be nationally driven. Effects of doing nothing are obvious and becoming more so each year, but no one will move until they are forced to do so, and Boris is too busy being Boris at present. Basically we need a national government on a war footing to drive this along at any pace. The change needed is that great. I don’t see that happening any time soon, so keep coughing, clearing the flood water and dowsing the fires until the world does the job for us!

The public consultation on the plans for Birmingham will give the opportunity for everyone with an interest to air their views. Hopefully there will be similar consultations where there are plans to restrict cars because of illegal air pollution.

The outline plans for Birmingham are different from what is happening in London, where there are charges for using polluting vehicles and congestion charges. Other cities may come up with different schemes.

I do support rational scientific analysis of the effectiveness of measures so that we can focus on those changes that are most effective and are also practical.

“What is interesting to me is that communication via Facetime, for example, and other apps may well make actually going to see people unnecessary in the future.”

Apart from £106bn, that seems like a good argument for cancelling HS2.

“I do not know why “owning several cars” has any relevance if only one is driven at a time.”

Does no one else in your family ever drive any of the cars? But the relevance can be because each car has to be MOT tested, which takes energy, fuel, emits particulates and so on. And the older the vehicle the less ‘clean’ it is likely to be.

But that’s neither here nor there in the scheme of things. The elephant in the room is climate change. And that’s going to take all the countries in the world working together to mitigate.

On the HS2 front, in fact that could lower emissions UK-wide, as the current trend towards using rail shows no signs of reducing, so if we accept some travel will always be necessary then HS2 is better than most. Remember – the main requirement is for more track, which is the main cost, so if we’re going to lay miles of new tracks it doesn’t make sense to make it below modern, high speed standards, since that would equate to reintroducing horses and carts on the M1.

But long term major changes to our preferences will have to be made, unless we want to doom our grandchildren and their children to a far less pleasant life. We have to stop being so selfish.

I think pursuing who may, or may not, drive my cars is not for this Convo.

The point was suggested that Facetime may well make going to see people unnecessary in future. As most travel by passenger train is to go and see people it would seem to follow, if that suggestion has merit, that more such trains are unnecessary. However I would suggest more capacity for freight, and a properly integrated goods transport system, is needed; this would not demand extra high speed lines and the additional costs that entails.

The big problem seems to be getting all countries on board to tackle climate change, including those who wish to protect their own energy sources and those whose economies would suffer. some form of international funding to mitigate the effects in less developed countries would seem to be required. What organisation is there that could source agreed proposals and put such global initiatives into practice?

I thought one of the major benefits of HS2 was the release of track capacity on the existing main lines for freight and for shorter distance passenger .journeys.

Train services to the Midlands and the North are frequently overcrowded so enabling much longer trains going at a much higher speed will result in a big increase in capacity between the main destinations. That will also be a much more efficient use of energy and attract more people away from the roads. The heavy capital cost is a major problem but looked at over the potential life of the system it is not exceptional; I expect many Victorian main lines with significant engineering structures were similarly expensive when constructed [e.g. the Forth Bridge, the Great Central London extension, the Midland route to Scotland].

I agree with the improvement in capacity. What I do not agree with is the additional cost created by an extra-high speed line in both infrastructure and rolling stock, the lack of flexibility and the destruction of habitats necessary to accommodate the restriction on track layout. The time saving, in the context of overall time involved, is not substantial.

I do not know how many people will be attracted away from the roads; I suspect many already will use trains. As there are no stations between London and Birmingham it will be easier for those residents to either use the existing services or continue to drive.

It’s the higher speed that creates much of the extra capacity.

I wish there would be less environmental harm but I see it as the lesser of two evils – the other being more road traffic and probably more motorways. Railways are not as intrusive as roads and far safer. Faster trains require straighter tracks and easy gradients and that does have an impact on the landscape and habitats, but I expect the mitigation measures, replacement habitats, and new planting make up a large proportion of the high cost.

Stations require a lot more land take and eat capacity so additional stations between the two cities are not really justified so long as the interchanges with the existing lines are good and passengers can easily transfer to make the best use of the new services. If faster journeys are not that important, people between Birmingham and London will not mind using the existing West Coast main line or Chiltern route for intermediate journeys.

We do not know what is going to happen with the population, the economy, or the use of road vehicles between now and 2035 or whenever HS2 opens, but waiting to discover it’s going to be worse than we expect is probably not the best position to be in.

People are in more frequent touch with people they wish to interact with than ever before in history yet there has been no let up in the continuous growth in journeys by both road and rail, so the desire for human contact will not diminish just because technology appears to present an alternative.

If we are going to tackle climate change then reducing our dependence on travel is a priority. Rather than spending money on HS2, might it be better to focus on reducing commuting by getting more people within walking or cycling distance of where they work.

Yes, but it is very difficult to achieve once families have settled in a particular place. People like to have access to a range of employment opportunities and these are generally provided by large cities where there are clusters of companies offering the same kind of industrial, commercial or professional occupations. That improves career opportunities.

The New Towns of the 1950’s and ’60’s are an interesting example. They were conceived as self-contained towns with people living and working in the same district. Employers were incentivised to relocate to them and facilitate the move of their workforce out of the cities. This was generally successful because there was such an improvement in living standards, but over time the New Towns, such as Stevenage, Harlow, Basildon, and Crawley around London, having been provided with handsome modern railway stations, just became additional commuter dormitories and the employment within their boundaries declined as a result of national economic and technological trends.

Questions that occur to me are –
Why are so many people who do not work [chiefly for age and health reasons] living in the centres of so many cities?
Why cannot the administrative headquarters of government be relocated to provincial towns and cities that need a boost leaving just the ministerial functions around Parliament?
Is it necessary for London to have so many higher educational institutions and thousands of students occupying prime sites?
Can anything sensible be achieved without central direction and control?

malcolm r says: I think pursuing who may, or may not, drive my cars is not for this Convo.

I agree, Malcolm; but you did introduce the fact (by implication) that only one of your cars could be driven at any time. I was simply attempting to ascertain whether the inference taken from that was accurate. To be fair, you did propose it as a major plank in your argument 🙂

The point was suggested that Facetime may well make going to see people unnecessary in future. As most travel by passenger train is to go and see people it would seem to follow, if that suggestion has merit, that more such trains are unnecessary.

🙂 That’s not quite what I said. I did say ‘if we accept that some form of travel will always be needed’ and also pointed out the fact that train travel has become the most rapidly growing form of transport in the UK, which does leave the possibility of virtual visiting at some point in the future a definite possibility (many businesses could operate on that system right now in fact) but as people and occupations cannot be rapidly changed in the short term without unpalatable measures, we are stuck with travelling as an unfortunate necessity.

As all forms of transport, other than sailing, are polluting at the point of travel, surely we should look to maximise the use of those that are the least polluting and that – currently per passenger mile – is the train.

As John says, the higher speed creates the extra capacity, as HS trains run around 2.5 minutes apart from each other.

The major problem facing us, however, is getting all countries to act cohesively and that, when we have leaders of some of the largest economies openly rubbishing Climatology, is going to be well nigh impossible.

It’s interesting. I was at school when the Cuba crisis unfolded. and our teachers were almost exclusively ex-WWII veterans. I still remember the assembly the morning of the crisis and the Headmaster’s words “Now that the clouds of war seem to be gathering once again..”

In those days I always believed humanity would die from nuclear Armageddon. Now, I fear it will die slowly, painfully and choking for breath because the voices against doing anything rational to save the planet are simply to many. Seems the SciFi writers of the ’60s got it in one.

Why are so many people who do not work [chiefly for age and health reasons] living in the centres of so many cities?

I can only think that many prefer to stay close to shopping centres, medical services and family. We’re close to none of those, of course, but we do manage to travel pollution-free at the point of travel to local shops.

Why cannot the administrative headquarters of government be relocated to provincial towns and cities that need a boost leaving just the ministerial functions around Parliament?

An excellent point. However, Manchester has revealed a downside to this idea. Since it’s been made the second city in media terms house prices have shot through the roof. Monet, as always, seems to be at the root of the problems.

Is it necessary for London to have so many higher educational institutions and thousands of students occupying prime sites?

Another superb question. In the ’60s they created the large self-contained universities: Keele and Warwick, to name but tow and they’ve become extremely well-regarded institutions. As their popularity and reputations have grown, so have student numbers so…there’s not enough room on campus.

Can anything sensible be achieved without central direction and control?

No. Even on this topic we disagree with each other about basics. Real change has to be directed, but it will need directing on a global scale, as Malcolm suggested. And until there’s an effective world government, I don’t see much chance of that.

The real problem is selfishness. National, tribal, community and individual. No country wants to share the pain, no countries want more refugees, none of us wants to give up our three cars, our summer holidays abroad, our freedom to pollute. Unless and until we can become true humanitarians on a global scale I doubt anything will ever be done.

A Which? press release:

Which? comments as Beales goes into administration
20 January 2020
Adam French, Which? Consumer Rights Expert, said:

“Beales falling into administration is the latest example of traditional high street retailers struggling to adapt to changing shopping habits.

“While stores remain open, your consumer rights should be unaffected, but we would advise anyone with Beales gift vouchers to consider spending them as soon as possible.

“If you are planning to shop in Beales and intend to buy something worth more than £100, make sure you use a credit card as you’ll be able to make a claim against your credit card company to recover the money if anything goes wrong.”

It’s sad to see another retailer fail. Hopefully the stores will be taken over and jobs saved.

It is sad for employees, shareholders and customers. However, all businesses have the responsibility and the need to adapt to a changing environment and customer habits. At the same time we should ensure they are as fairly treated as online businesses in, for example, taxation and business rates.

I wonder how JL&P will fare?

It’s difficult to estimate whether the environmental impact of the move towards online shopping has been beneficial or harmful in comparison with shopping in high street stores. I presume that both can apply, depending on how we shop.

I know one of the Beales stores quite well and it has been in three different ownerships in the last fifteen years, and each change was a turn for the worse. It just cannot compete with other outlets and due to a lack of maintenance and a poor quality interior it cannot survive. Shops like that cannot carry the range of products that people are looking for or offer the value and quality that are now found in supermarkets.

The clothing and homewares now sold in any large supermarket are more appealing and usually cheaper than small department stores can offer. It’s not just the internet that has harmed shops like Beales but the expansion of supermarkets into non-food areas where higher volume sales enable wider and more varied ranges to be carried.

Why would anyone go to an unmodernised store like Beales to buy some new sheets or towels or children’s clothes and shoes when there is a large Tesco and a large Morrisons a short walk away with a level layout, adjacent car park, customer toilets and a café, open seven days a week from 8:00 am till late, and with more choice in both product range and quality?

It’s sad, but so is the shop.

Although our supermarkets were responsible for the closure of many small businesses there have been many benefits for the consumer.

After reading about Beales going into administration I looked for a list of companies that have failed recently: https://www.retailresearch.org/whos-gone-bust-retail.html#bycompany In the the nearest city there is a lot of retail property standing empty, although the local town seems to be thriving.