Butch bows out

March 22, 2013

It is with great sadness that Bankstone News must this week report that our much loved motoring correspondent and chief test driver Marty Butch passed on a few days ago. Though you would never know it from his sleazily rugged exterior, Marty died tragically young and will be greatly missed by someone or other, we feel sure. He is survived by a string of abandoned families, unpaid bar tabs and a whiff of foul language still hanging poignantly in the air.

As a tribute to Mr Butch, we here offer his final – tragically incomplete – road test review for Bankstone News. We’re looking for a new motoring correspondent, incidentally. If you’re interested or would like to suggest a replacement, please feel free to contact editor@bankstone-news.co.uk In the meantime, here for one last time, is the (metaphorically) immortal Marty:

If there’s one person who’s guaranteed to get all over-excited about a small economical car, it’s that flippin’ Dickon Tysore. I thought he was never going to speak to me again after I ditched his Panda that time, but now he’s not only talking (god, does that man like to talk!) he’s positively imploring me to road test this new Volkswagen Up he’s got. It’s ‘blue motion’ he tells me proudly. Last time I had a blue motion was after I necked an entire bottle of Curacao at Christmas.

The model he’s really after, he tells me, eyes lit up and drooling at the very thought of it, is their new electric one – but that’s not out til next year.

“It’s called…” he chortles merrily, “and as a fellow Yorkshireman, I think you’ll appreciate this…” Tysore’s not from Yorkshire, mind, he’s from Nottingham or somewhere down south, but doesn’t want anyone to know that. “…it called an e-Up!” How we laugh, or rather, how he laughs, and laughs… and then laughs some more. He actually gets up, walks over to that machine he has in his stripy boudoir of a boardroom, makes himself his third or fourth cup of some gut-churning brew, and sits back down again, chuckling all the while.

“It’s the little white one next to the Jonesmobile” he finally gets out – sliding the keys at me across the desk. “You can keep it over the weekend, but I want it back on Monday – in one piece – along with your review.” I grunt assent. I’m mostly a man of action, as opposed to words, me. “And try and take in some nice scenery while you’re out with it”, he tells me. “See if you can get round some of the places we’d be likely to visit on the Medieval Monkeys run.” I shudder at the mention of those bloody monkeys. Three fookin’ year I’ve trailed round Yorkshire after that miserable bunch. Not doing that again!

Out in the yard, Tysore’s Up is easy enough to find. I’m sure I saw some kind of titty flick once called Up. I fire her up and get her out of the car park with barely a scratch and burn off home for tea. She’s roomy enough inside – for a TOY CAR – but her 3 cylinder engine makes a heck of a racket. She’s even got wind up windows in front – what a joke! Over a couple of pints down the Headless Ferret later on I have a bit of a brain wave: Tysore says he wants an e-Up. I’m going to make his dreams come true!

First thing the next day (before I’ve even had dinner) I’m down in the shed, dragging out this sodding great battery I nicked out of this total loss artic cab the other week, and using a winch and pulley rig to swing it into the boot of Tysore’s sorry-arsed motor. I have to put the seats down, mind, coz there’s hardly room to swing a gnat in there. Next I drag out some wiring from that washing machine that blew up last year, and in no time flat I’m pretty sure I’ve bodged up Britain’s very first e-Up. Wait til Tysore sees this!

I nip back inside for a good supply of fags and a couple of four-packs of John Smith (I scoop up a couple of mags and a bottle of Teachers as an after thought). And I’m all ready to take this baby on her maiden voyage. Turning the key, and… that’s funny… what’s that fizzing sound? Oh f

March 20, 2013

Anyone who thought Steve “Whitey” White, BIBA’s newly anointed CEO elect was going to be a big old pussy cat is in for a nasty surprise. Tossing back his mighty head, the former Compliance Personality of the Year this week announced himself to the market in no uncertain terms, vowing to show implacable courage in the face of anything and everything the future may throw at him.

“Rrrrraaaarrrrghhhh!”, he might as well have said, pledging to represent his members courageously and to fight for their rights every step of the way.

At severe and constant risk of tripping over his own dauntless feet in an effort to suggest that he would be making a rather more courageous fist of things than his predecessor, Eric ‘Reckless Eric’ Gallbreath, without in any way appearing to criticise the outgoing regime, Whitey told Insurance Age this week “Courage: that’s what it takes to stand up and speak, but also to sit down and listen and that’s what we will do. That’s not to say we have not done that in the past, but we will be looking forward to doing that a little more.”

“I don’t see a fundamentally different approach,” he continued super-tactfully, but, he suggested, “subtle changes will maybe make us a bit more visible to members out in the regions.”

“It would be good,” he ventured, “to be perhaps a little bit more face to face with our members.” Provided his fearfully mighty countenance does not altogether overwhelm and overawe them, BIBA members will no doubt experience a bit of face to face with the courageous Whitey as a refreshing blast of fresh air after ten year of Gallbreath. Only time will tell, of course!

March 20, 2013

Sponsored by the MoJ, the Civil Justice Council is a non-departmental public body set up in 1998 to advise the Lord Chancellor on civil justice and civil procedure in England and Wales. It’s a pretty fair bet that the current Lord Chancellor Chris Greything will be in no mood to heed its latest advice. More likely, he’ll abolish the body altogether in a deeply responsible bid to reduce the deficit.

What exactly is the CJC saying that will sound so unwelcome a note in the ears of Greything? Oh, only that his plans for freeing us from scourge of whiplash could do with a bit of, shall we say, fine tuning. Irresponsible nonsense of course. But, before consigning their counsels to definitive oblivion, let us first expose them for the twaddle they so clearly are.

Airily untroubled as they are by the burdensome responsibilities of representative office, Lord Dyson (who ludicrously styles himself ‘Master of the Rolls’) and his chums are of course at liberty to make the odd fanciful suggestion, but to insinuate – as Bankstone News regrets to inform its readers, they have – that the Government has failed to present the evidence to support the supposed link between whiplash on the one hand and fraudulent and/or exaggerated claims on the other is vicious perniciousness.

Does the war zone surgeon stay his knife pending proper diagnosis? Does the baton wielding policeman pause to distinguish the enemy of the state from the hapless passer by? They do not. What insurance companies, and, frankly, the entire motoring public, want – nay, demand – right now is action not “further research”. If Britain is to be pulled back from the very brink of the abyss, the likes of Osborne and Greything would do well to cleave fast unto the timeless motto of our special forces: “Τοις τολμώσιν η τύχη ξύμφορος”.

More irresponsible still is the CJC’s absurd contention that the Government is wrong to believe that raising the small claims limit for personal injury claims will make it easier and cheaper for insurers to challenge them, describing this view loftily as “based on a misconception”. Citing some namby pamby nonsense about it being unfair to treat the same injury differently based purely on how it occurred, the CJC whinged that the £5,000 limit was “too high” and would rope in excessively complex cases.

Ironically, given its insistence on HMG providing supporting evidence for its new measures, the CJC complained vaguely that there is “a sense” that “only a small minority of claims are exaggerated or fraudulent, and the way to tackle fraud is by a robust approach by defendants to civil actions where there is evidence to support such an allegation or, in appropriate cases, through criminal prosecution.”

With all due respect to those of extravagantly liberal sensibilities, Bankstone News can’t help thinking that this gibberish is on a par with the view that, because only some badgers carry the Mycobacterium bovis that causes bovine TB in cattle, there should be no cull! The simple and undeniable truth is that fewer claims means fewer instances of claims fraud. Let us please not get ourselves tangled up in fruitless speculation over unintended consequences – and focus instead on allowing insurers to maximise their ability to reduce premiums if they feel like it.

March 19, 2013

As the old saying goes, where there’s a claim, there’s blame. That has certainly been the experience of car theft victims in Northern Ireland who have increasingly found themselves being sued by police officers for injuries the latter have sustained in the course of recovering their stolen vehicles.

That has certainly been the experience of one Bill Rooney, who was roused one night last July by the sound of his car being taken and driven away from outside his North Belfast home. The police were alerted and intervened decisively, arresting two men and completely totaling Mr Rooney’s vehicle in the process.

Having succeeded in claiming a replacement from his insurers, Mr R was then surprised to receive a solicitor’s letter advising him that he was to be sued for personal injuries sustained by one of the police officers involved in the pursuit and destruction of his car. Protesting that he was the victim rather than the perpetrator of any offence that had taken place, Mr R professed himself “angry and disheartened”. The case is understood to be pending.

The BBC, from whom Bankstone News filched this story, has learned that Rooney – who now stands to lose, at the very least, his treasured no claims discount – is by no means an isolated example of an NI motorist being sued by a police officer for injuries sustained in the course of recovering a stolen vehicle. In response to a Freedom of Information request, however, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said they kept no records of such claims.

A police spokesperson said simply that such claims were a private matter and that police officers, like any other individuals, were at liberty to pursue a claim through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) if they were in a crash where the driver of the other vehicle was at fault and could not be traced or was not insured.

All well and good, you may think – and, let’s face it, the important thing is not why insurance companies should have to pay for everything – but simply that they should. But from Mr Rooney’s point of view this must seem suspiciously like a case of adding injury to insult.

March 15, 2013

Fancy taking in some of the most breathtaking scenery in all UKdom? Fancy making up that respiratory deficit with a heartily bracing lungful of pure fresh Yorkshire air? Then, what better way to do exactly that than atop a dumpy little motorbike with an engine no better than a hairdryer?! That’s right, you too can get involved in the motorsports charity fundraising event of the year by signing up immediately for Medieval Monkeys 2013.

No idea what we’re talking about? Get used to it, nor have we! But for some tantalising clues see this very old story about last year’s event Medieval Monkeys 2012 or see this even older trailer for MM2012 based on footage of the positively prehistoric MM2011. Basically, a whole bunch of us will be getting together over the weekend of 29-30 June to ride comically undersized bikes the length and breadth of yorkshire, stopping in at various medieval type castles and abbeys and hopefully raising thousands of pounds for life-saving charity Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA).

There are many different ways to get involved, but the best way is to ride one of those strange little bikes yourself. This year we have access to a supply of brand new monkeybikes exclusively available from our friends at CG Chell for a mere £635 including VAT‚ with one year’s road tax paid up front – plus an extra £150 if you want your bike(s) resprayed in the corporate colours of your choice (we can stick your logo on for free). Please direct your enquiries to Honest Dicky Tysoe dtysoe@bankstone.co.uk.

In the meantime to get yourself in the mood why not watch this lovely video of Yorkshire from the air (probably shot by the YAA boys when they should have been saving some bloomin’ lives or whatever) which includes favourite MM haunts such as Aysgarth, York Minster, Bolton Castle, Castle Howard, the Humber Bridge, Whitby Abbey and Scarborough.

March 15, 2013

China has a new leader. The Catholic church has a new leader. Hell, even BIBA has one – or at least it will come May 1 – and it’s Steve White, a man with a personality so vibrant he once scooped the coveted (if mildly oxymoronic) Compliance Personality of the Year award.

In a press release issued today BIBA chairman Andy Homeboy claimed to be pleased (not delighted, note) to announce Whitey’s selection as Chief Exec, adding quickly that the cruelly spurned Graeman Trudgehill will join the BIBA main board with the title Executive Director, making him only slightly less important than Whitey.

Following a search which Homeboy described as “extensive” BIBA eventually gave up and settled for Whitey who had be waiting patiently in his compliance and training role all along. The Whitester said he was “delighted to be given the chance to follow in the footsteps of” outgoing Chief Exec Eric “Prehistoric” Gallbreath.

Gallbreath, who insists it is “a pleasure to be handing the reins over” to Whitey, is certainly not going out without a fight. He is fighting with insurers over their niggardly reluctance to pay claims, fighting aggregators for encouraging policyholders to focus on price, fighting policyholders for their “unhealthy” obsession with price, and fighting, most of all, with the long and complicated words his PR people keep asking him to read out in public.

Does Whitey have the warrior spirit to follow in those courageously combative footsteps? Only time will tell!

March 14, 2013

With referral fees out the window, brokers must have breathed a collective sigh of relief on learning that the FSA has decided to take a relaxed view on one of their few remaining mildly dubious income streams.

A “thematic” review carried out by the obsolescent regulator has found that some brokers derive “up to 5% of top line revenue and significantly more of bottom line profits” from flogging policyholders instalment payment plans (so-called premium finance) with interest rates of up to 20% APR and may occasionally neglect to mention cheaper finance options available direct from insurers or elsewhere.

But on the basis that “it is very important that there is a vibrant, sustainable broker market out there” the FSA has decided to turn a blind eye – so long as brokers are “transparent” (presumably not in the ghost-broker sense) and bear in mind that they are supposed to be looking after clients’ best interests.

Perhaps the whole ‘brokers need to make a living somehow’ argument could have been borne in mind during the referral fees debate. Bit late for that though. Great to see the return of pragmatism all the same!

March 13, 2013

The desk was a couple of sizes too large for the FSA guy behind it. His suit was not. Not anything like. He motioned I should sit down. I did like he said and mentioned I could badly use a coffee. He nodded to the pencil-skirted blonde hovering behind me. She turned on one shapely heel and was gone. “Straight up and strong”, I said to the space she’d just vacated, “and if you have a drop of bourbon…”

“Shall we get started?” he cut in. “Sure, why not,” I offered. “What have got for me?” “I’ll keep it simple,” he began. I nodded insincere appreciation. “A little birdy tells us some of those insurance boys have been making, let’s say, borderline legitimate use of your shamus friends.” I raised an ironic eyebrow. “Quit mugging and pay attention,” he snapped. “I want you to take a look at it and let me know if there’s anything in it.”

“Maybe I can do that,” I told him, “but you got to give me a bit more to work with.” He didn’t seem to like that, but as Blondie sashayed back with my coffee he went on: “Word is they’ve been getting private dicks to maybe lean a little on guys that are after them for insurance payouts. We hear they’re maybe leaving the rules of engagement a little flexible.”

“I can hardly believe what you’re telling me,” I deadpanned. He seemed to be liking my attitude less and less. His face suddenly seemed a deeper pink than I remembered. “Just read this”, he sputtered, handing me a slim file marked Gumshoe Probe “and call me back in a week with whatever you’ve got.” “I charge 500 a day, plus expenses”, I told him, picking up my coat. “That’s understood,” he grunted. “Delores will give you something to sign on your way out.”

She looked up from her typing as I approached. “Signature, please” she told me flatly. “They got some kind of ban on small talk round here?”, I asked. “I’m sorry, did I hurt your feelings?” she asked with a hint of playfulness I didn’t hate one bit. “Not yet,” I said. “Why not join me for a couple of drinks later and you can take a proper shot at it.” “Oh, I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” she said clearly and distinctly, handing me a quickly scribbled note.

Bond’s at 6, was all it said. That seemed like enough to me.

March 8, 2013

Admiral’s Sir Henry Angelheart has a famously colourful turn of phrase.* Unveiling the nautically inclined insurer’s 2012 results, he described the 12 months in question as ‘the Year of the Kangaroo’. This is not (as you were probably thinking) a reference to the classificatory system devised by ancient Chinese astrologers, who, (if you’d only thought this through properly) were blissfully ignorant at the time of the existence of kangaroos or indeed any other marsupial species.

No indeed: it alludes to the fact (obvious when he explains it) that 2012 “bounced around a little bit but turns out to be pretty big, strong and energetic, with the babies protected in the mother’s pouch.” Setting aside the fact that actual non-metaphorical kangaroos carry but a single ‘baby’ in their pouch at a time, it is pretty clear what Sir Henry is getting at.

Now, obviously you wouldn’t turn to Bankstone News for a factual update on Admiral’s spring-footed ‘return to form’ during the Year of the Kangaroo, but we can tell you that the firm made some profits. £258.4m of them to be precise, which was leaps and bounds ahead of the £221.1m it made in 2011 (the Year of the Echidna). This was helped by avoiding any bodily injury claims spikes of the kind on which the firm incautiously impaled itself in the tail end of 2011.

The babies may be safely pouched, but Sir Henry must surely sense a certain wistful twinge where the firm’s dwindling ancillary income is concerned. This fell by 6% during YoK to £170.9m (2011: £181.5m), at which level it still accounted for 46% of Admiral’s UK motor profit. Referral fees (£18.6m of which Admiral stowed merrily in its tucker bag during YoK) are clearly on the verge of extinction. Credit hire referral fees (£13.6m) could soon go the same way if the Competition Commission reports back with a dim view.

But it looks like old Kanga, 20 this year, is not quite out of bounds yet.

* For more on Angelheart’s bizarre penchant for animal allusions, click here.

March 8, 2013

You may have a fancy car and a clever plan, but that doesn’t give you ‘an easy route to securing tens of thousands of pounds from insurers’. That was the stark warning this week from Detective Constable Katie Sibley of the City of London’s insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (the FEDs, for short).

Doncaster man Mark Smith, 42, must have thought he was sitting pretty after stopping his fancy Porsche motor abruptly in front of a van owned by Doncaster Council and promptly putting in a claim for near on £100k, including car hire costs of £22k and a hefty old whack for whiplash.

He reckoned without the beagle-eyed claims hounds at the council’s insurer Zurich and the advanced forensic capabilities of the FEDs (who were able to get hold of some CCTV footage on which the villain was caught in the act of stopping very suddenly for no apparent reason! Smith – if that’s his real name – now enjoys the dubious distinction of being the first person ever to receive a criminal conviction for C4C fraud as a result of a FED investigation.

At a previous civil trial, Smith accepted that he might have been trying it on a bit with the claim, but insisted his sudden braking was simply a case of being ‘a bad driver’. In moral terms, of course, this statement may be closer to the truth than the devious Smith intended. It fails, however, to reflect his cynical disregard for the safety of other motorists and the outright fraud-lust seething in his vicious veins.

DC Sibley has clearly had plenty of time to polish up her motoring and road-related puns in preparation for this triumphant day and did not hesitate to ‘wheel out’ a few of them in announcing Smith’s comeuppance. “The fact that he was putting lives at risk,” she said, “did not put the brakes on his fraud. He wanted this money and was prepared to go the distance to get it.”

At an Old Bailey hearing on 7 March, Smith was sentenced to a six month jail term, suspended for two years and ordered to complete 140 hours of unpaid work in the community within the next year.

Let that be a warning to any one else with a fancy car and a clever plan! 

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