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The Harrington Brooks Blog

News, comment and views from the team at Harrington Brooks.

Council tax debts predicted to overtake credit card debt in 2015

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

citizens advice

Analysis by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) estimates it will receive a growing number of requests to deal with people facing council tax debts.

The charity expects to advise on over 190,000 problems involving council tax arrears in 2014/15. This would be 20% more than in 2013/14. To put this in to perspective, in total Citizens Advice Bureau (England and Wales) advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. Changes to council tax benefits from April 2013 required some households to pay council tax – when previously they would have been exempt.

CAB’s predicted trend is something which some of our customers are already experiencing.

Castle Keep Law, our in house legal service for existing customers, confirms that high levels of customers are experiencing issues relating to council tax. The legal helpline are currently dealing with an average of 20 queries per day, from a customer base of over 70,000.

In January 2015 they received 543* council tax enquiries by post and indications are this will almost double in February. In October 2014 Castle Keep also experienced a spike, with 945 letters received. *This excludes email and text communications from customers.

Over 90% of Harrington Brooks’ customers currently require Castle Keep Law to handle issues relating to council tax arrears covering bills that date back to 2006 and around 80% of these issues are at bailiff stage. It’s clear to see that the predicted trend is already starting to take shape.

For customers on a debt management plan or IVA, council tax debts, for previous tax years, can be included on a debt management plan. However any council tax arrears for the current financial year, or that are in an arrangement with bailiff, cannot be included. Council tax arrears, for anyone entering in to an IVA, can be included for current and previous financial periods.

In comparison the CAB expect enquiries around credit cards, mortgages and unsecured personal loans to fall with credit card debt enquiries set to decrease by 12%. The report also reveals how debt problems reported to Citizens Advice reached a peak of 600,000 in 2010/11 which correlates with a spike in unemployment, a fall in real wages and the previous relaxed lending practices that lead up to the financial crash.

The predictions come in stark contrast against falling utility and petrol prices. Whilst signs that the economy is making small steps to recovery, the outlook from CAB points to people facing difficulty paying priority bills such as gas, water, electric and council tax. The CAB point out that in some cases the reductions are marginal compared to how prices have soared.  Energy bills are now 210% higher than ten years ago.

“There is a concerning shift in the kind of debt problems people are getting into. The mainstream debt problems of the credit crunch, from credit cards to loans, are morphing into even more troubling problems.  We’re helping people who are struggling to afford a warm home, keep a roof over their heads or put food on the table.” –  Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice Chief Executive.

It’s also worth noting that some utility providers, such as Severn Trent Water, also offer help to those who are facing problems with their bills depending on their circumstances.

If you’re looking to speak to someone about managing your finances, then please get in touch. We’re specialists in providing debt resolution and personal insolvency solutions and can provide a range of different advice, support and services suitable to your circumstances and preferences.

If you need legal advice in dealing with council tax issues, bailiffs or eviction then please contact Castle Keep Law or call 0330 102 0110. If you’re an existing customer of Harrington Brooks then you’ll get this for free as part of our service to you.

As with any change in your financial circumstances there may be consequences including restrictions on future expenditure or obtaining further credit so please consider this before committing to such an arrangement.

Forever Manchester’s 25th Birthday #FM25th

Posted by Kevin O'Donnell on

Forever Manchester turns 25 today celebrating in style with an event at the historic Midland Hotel in Manchester. All guests will be there supporting the charity while being entertained with Mancunian acts and fine dining.

Over the previous three weeks, we have dedicated our time fundraising in the run up to the event.  After hosting our own bake off and having numerous raffles, we’re proud to announce that we have raised £469.50 – A lovely birthday present for them!

In addition Harrington Brooks has also been nominated in “The Corporate Supporter of the Year” award category, which we’re all delighted about. Since September 2014 we have nearly raised £3,000 for the charity from a number of events such as abseiling, dress down days, caketober and bike rides.

Read more about our charity activity »

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Insolvency Service to name and shame rogue practitioners

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

A move by the Insolvency Service will now see details of rogue Insolvency Practitioners (IP) posted online.

If an Insolvency Practitioner has fallen foul of industry guidelines then details of this will be made publicly available on the gov.uk website. Any reports that are published will remain on the site for a minimum of 12 months.

For details on current practitioner reports click here.

Anyone looking to complain about an Insolvency Practitioner can do so via the gov.uk site.

If you’re looking at reviewing your current financial arrangements with a Debt Management Plan (DMP), an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) or managing your debts then please get in touch.

As with any change in your financial circumstances there may be consequences including restrictions on future expenditure or obtaining further credit so please consider this before committing to such an arrangement.

Pancake Day and Lent, don’t be overspent – try a 40 day plan to save cash

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

Pancake day, or Shrove Tuesday, was typically a day where people would clear all the food they had before 40 days of Lent. In modern times people usually give something up such as chocolate or alcohol. Basically anything that’s good or classed as indulgent.

Although you may not practice Lent, having an opportunity to reduce or give up a luxury item can add pounds to your pocket. Giving up an indulgence for any period of time is never easy. But if you try you might be surprised. See how much you could save in 40 days .

Chocolate biscuits – £6

wine and beer

Cutting back on beer and wine for 40 days could save nearly £50.

Two packs a week, based on the basic range costs, will save £6.

Lottery – £24

Assuming you play twice a week, over 40 days, that’s around £24 you could save.

Bingo – £50

Based on playing once a week, on average spending £10, this would be over £50.

Wine – £20

On one £3.50 bottle of wine each week you could save £20.

Beer – £25

A multipack of 20 cans of beer costing £10, assuming this would last 2 weeks, you’d be £25 better off.

Smoking – £40

Based on 3 cigarettes a day, which is roughly a pack of 19 per week, this would cost £7.45. By cutting back you could save £40 of extra cash. If you buy in packs of 10 this will be even more as the cost per cigarette is higher.

The savings add up
Assuming you gave up playing the lottery, alcohol and chocolate biscuits you’d have at least £50 extra in those 40 days. This would easily pay for some Christmas shopping later on in the year. Cutting back on bingo and smoking in the same period would save at least £90. This might cover the cost of an MOT and any minor repairs. The costs shown above may not reflect your own consumption but should give a basic idea of what you could save.

Saving a little each day can be useful

If you don’t happen to indulge in any of the above you can still look at saving some cash over the next 40 days. 50p a day will get you £20, £1 a day will get you £40 and £1.50 a day will get you £60.

Having savings or some form of financial safety net helps in the event of dealing with a cash crisis. This could be an unexpected repair bill on a car for instance. Having savings to fall back on can help you continue with everyday life whilst potentially avoiding any financial worries later on.

Whatever you try to give up, make sure that you save the extra cash. If you’re feeling really brave, go longer than the 40 days. In the meantime enjoy your pancakes. Good luck.

It’s Valentine’s day…more and more customers love Harrington Brooks!

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on
Love hearts

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Happy Valentine’s day everyone! At Harrington Books we’ve been feeling a lot of love from our customers with great reviews on customer feedback sites. We’re truly humbled to receive so many positive comments from a huge chunk of our customers.  People across the UK come to us looking for debt management solutions from a range […]

We’re ‘Good Eggs’ at Harrington Brooks

Posted by Kevin O'Donnell on

Staff at Harrington Brooks are delighted to be nominated for “The Corporate Supporter of the Year”, which is being awarded at Forever Manchester’s 25th birthday event.

The event of the year is being held in the historic Midland Hotel in Manchester, where all guests will be entertained with Mancunian acts and fine dining.  Just being nominated for the chance to win the award is an honor as it’s “In recognition of a company that has offered a meaningful and continuous effort in supporting the work we do at Forever Manchester”.

As proud supporters of the Forever Manchester charity, we have a whole table for 10 at the event. We’ve used these tickets for various fundraising activities, to gain as much as possible for the charity in the run up to the event. We’ve been involved in raffles and Bake sales where we have had so much effort from everyone at Harrington Brooks.

As of lunch time today (13th February 2015) our bake sale has raised £170 for Forever Manchester, which we couldn’t have achieved without our ‘good egg’ bakers.  All of our fantastic bakers have made a fantastic effort and got the whole office talking. It’s just another way how we’ve “demonstrated commitment, dedication and effort “in supporting this amazing charity.

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Love your other half, for a little less cash

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

Valentine’s day is just around the corner. We’ve come up with five low cost Valentine’s day ideas that are fun and quick to organise, especially if you’ve left it to the last minute.

Love hearts

A poem, an ideal use of time if you like to rhyme

What you’ll need – a spare photo frame, sheet of paper to fit in your frame and a pen/ pencil.

First you’ll need to jot down a handwritten poem about your loved one on a sheet of paper. About 10 or 12 lines should be fine unless you have more to say. Once you’ve written it pop it in to a photo frame, make sure it looks ok, and you’re done!

 

A personalised mix CD, for the geeks

What you’ll need – A computer, blank CD and smartphone.

To begin pick a list of 10 love songs that would be nice for your other half to listen to. If you’ve not already got them on your computer you’ll need to buy them or transfer them from CD. Then for the personalised bit. Record a short message for them using your smartphone, and a voice recording app, and transfer this to your computer. All that’s left to do is burn the songs and your message to disc. For further brownie points you could present it in a case with a picture!

 

Indoor Champagne picnic, the food option

What you’ll need – A blanket, living room floor, bottle of Champagne, Paper plates, champagne glasses and nibbles of your choice.

Everybody loves a picnic. But a picnic in February isn’t a good idea. The other option is to bring your picnic indoors. Lay out the blanket in your front room. Then add your nibbles, along with champagne, and for added picnic effect dine on paper plates. The sun might not be out but you can always put the fire on to make it warm and cosy. The indoor picnic is better done as a surprise so consider getting home before your loved one does for a great Valentine’s treat.

 

The Valentine’s quiz, the mastermind option, great if you’re competitive

What you’ll need – A sheet of A4, a pen and some prizes such as chocolate, wine or a month’s worth of back rubs.

Think of 20-30 questions about your relationship or things that you both know about each other. You may need about 30 minutes to have a think. Assuming you’ve left this to the last minute you’ll need to think of some ‘prizes’ that you can quickly get hold of – chocolate, wine or the promise of back rubs for a month are options. Once you’ve written your questions down think of how you want to award your prizes. For example – get all the questions correct and we’ll go out for dinner. Get most of them right and you get back rubs. Get a few right and you’ll get wine and chocolates just for turning up. Once you’ve got your prizes and questions ready invite your other half to your Valentine’s quiz. Be set for a night of fun and possible arguments if your questions are wrong!  

 

The public display of affection, on social media

What you’ll need – A poem, kind words and a Facebook account.

In the event you have no time or cash then a message to your other half on social media may help salvage Valentine’s day for you. If you are going to post something then make it creative, like a poem as mentioned before, and make it nice. Anyone can say I love you on somebody’s Facebook wall, but to do it with a twist will get you a little more credit.

 

Tips for the future – budgeting

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

It can be a chore to work out what money you need to spend and where. But if you do it right you can make your money go further. Here are some quick tips that can really help.

Don’t bury your head in the sand

Open all bills and statements as soon as they land. Seek help as soon as you experience any financial difficulty. You’ll know what you need to spend and you can also track if you’re overspending anywhere in your budget. You might even be getting overcharged so it’s always worth checking your bills.

Stick to a budget

Set a detailed household budget to get a clear picture of what you need to spend each week or month. In some months this may change as you spend less on heating bills for instance. So make sure you save what you don’t spend as you may need it later on in the year.

Don’t give up

Circumstances can be difficult and sticking to a tight budget can feel tough. If you over spend one day, aim to get back on track as soon as possible. Just because you’ve overspent one day doesn’t mean that you can’t under spend on another. Stay positive.

Prioritise your debts

Don’t pay those who shout the loudest.  Payments like mortgages, rent, council tax and energy bills should come top of the list. After that always look to pay off the debts that cost you more in charges and interest.

Save when you can

Energy suppliers have recently announced cuts to their charges. Petrol and the costs of some household goods are also coming down. Make sure you take advantage by saving any extra cash as this will be handy if you have an unexpected cost such as a car repair. Having a financial buffer to help pay for emergencies will help your everyday life continue should you need to pay for them. Cut back where you can – if your typical takeaway costs over a month are £15, cutting back by just £5 a month will save you £60 in a year.

Save for your future

You’re not going to be 21 forever. So it’s always wise to save towards a pension. Most workplaces will have a scheme that will automatically make contributions from your salary so always keep this in mind when budgeting.

 

Harrington Brooks quarterly comment – Q4 2014

Posted by Peter Kelly on

Debt outlook for 2015 is brighter, but consumers should be prepared for a possible interest rates rise, says Harrington Brooks.

New analysis compiled by leading debt management firm Harrington Brooks predicts that 2015 will be a better year for people in debt. The analysis forms part of Harrington Brooks’ second quarterly snapshot of indebtedness in the UK, Let’s Talk About Debt [pdf], covering Q4 2014.

In general, Harrington Brooks believes that customers should begin to see and experience a marginally brighter outlook and standard of living in 2015. Economic growth is underway and employment is rising, and so consumers should begin to feel that the pound in their pocket goes further and their level of disposable income increases.

Harrington Brooks’ own debt statistics seem to support this trend. From Q3 to Q4 last year, the total number of their customers on a debt management plan fell by 8%, whilst the average debt managed by the firm fell by 15%.

However, despite the improvements, the drop in debt from the Harrington Brooks customer base can partly be explained by the number of Wonga customers being removed from debt management plans, in addition to the upturn in people’s financial positions.

Matthew Cheetham, CEO of Harrington Brooks, said: “We welcome the fact that people’s finances seem to be improving and hope that continued economic growth will make this year better for our customers.

“Though, we remain concerned that there are increasing numbers of people who find themselves struggling with their finances. Our debt outlook for 2015 is one of caution, as thousands of families are financially vulnerable to a potential interest rate rise. To prepare for this rise, we’re encouraging our customers to set clear budgets, prioritise their debts and save more.”

-END-

Notes to editors

As one of the UK’s largest debt management companies, Harrington Brooks manages £920m+ of unsecured debts for over 75,000 customers each year and distribute £7.6m to creditors on behalf of customers behalf each month.

It has over 6,000 creditors set up on their system and in most cases, it can contact creditors on the day that plans are fully set up. It typically works to receiving a return response rate of 10 days. In the case of IVAs, 64% of unsecured debts are typically written off at completion.

Let’s Talk About Debt is a quarterly report from Harrington Brooks, designed to give industry participants and consumers a regular and accurate update of the consumer credit market, including information on how well it is working for its customers. Download the Let’s Talk About Debt report [pdf] while the Q3 2014 report [pdf] is also available.

for more information:

RalphJ@lansons.com

Tel: 020 7294 3667

Severn Trent WaterSure scheme helps customers save cash

Posted by Peter Kelly on

Severn Trent Water is aiming to help customers tackle their monthly payments by encouraging them to take part in the WaterSure Scheme. Meaning more savings in the pockets of customers. Do you qualify?

You can save money on water bills regardless of your supplier

The WaterSure scheme is run by The Water Services Regulation Authority (OFWAT). This is also available in various parts of the UK through regional water suppliers and not just Severn Trent Water customers. So depending on your circumstances you too could be saving money as well.

To be eligible for the scheme you must be:

  • on a water meter 
  • receiving selected benefits or tax credits
  • either have three or more children under 19 years old, or with a medical condition requiring additional use of water

The WaterSure scheme primarily allows customers to have their bills capped. This is to make sure that those who take part in the scheme don’t cut back on how much water they use because of the associated costs.

More info on WaterSure.

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Do I qualify for cheaper bills though WaterSure?

To find out if you are eligible For WaterSure, you should contact your water supplier. If you’re unsure who this is then follow the link below to find your local supplier

http://www.ofwat.gov.uk/consumerissues/watercompanies/map