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Danger toys alert at Xmas P4-5

LONDON COMMUNITY WATCH MAGAZINE

Beware of roofing cowboys - P6-7 Beware of the loan sharks see - P15 DECEMBER 2019

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2 INSURANCE FRAUD

Insurance fraud is on the rise A PREACHER, a rock guitarist pensioner and an award-winning hotelier were among the British insurance cheats exposed last year. The number of insurance claim frauds uncovered in the UK has risen to 1300 a day, with fraudsters now convicted or cautioned at an average rate of two every week, according to research by the Association of British Insurers (ABI). The total number of fraudulent claims and applications detected reached 469,000 in 2018, up 3%. The value was up 6% and the average con was £12,000 ($21,774). Of the total, 98,000 were fraudulent claims, down 6%, at a value of £1.2 billion ($2.18 billion). Dishonest insurance applications were up 5% at 371,000. Motor insurance scams remained the most common and most expensive, with 55,000 dishonest claims worth £629 million ($1.14 billion) detected, of which 80% involved personal injury fraud, including staged “crash for cash” frauds. The number and value were both down from the previous year, falling 8% and 9% respectively. There were 20,000 property frauds detected worth £115 million ($208.67

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million), a rise in value of 11%. Some of the scams uncovered: • A gang that staged car crashes to con nearly £1.2 million ($2.18 million) from insurers was jailed for a combined total of almost 39 years. • Five men were jailed for a total of 14 years after making fake claims of nearly £1 million ($1.82 million) for damage and lost earnings from restaurants. It turned out they had deliberately smashed water pipes and the restaurants had never been open for business. • A man who sold fake motor fleet insurance policies to cover 70 vehicles was jailed for two years. • A preacher, and self-styled bishop, was jailed for 10 months after fraudu-

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lently buying motor insurance using another person’s details, then claiming he had crashed his car into another vehicle. It turned out he owned the struck vehicle, and the car he said he had been driving was in the church carpark at the time. • An award-winning hotelier claimed £34,000 ($61,700) in disability income from his insurer saying that his depression and anxiety meant he could not work, when he was in fact running a hotel. He received a 14-month suspended prison sentence. • A man was jailed for 16 months after he made multiple claims to different travel insurers claiming illness meant he had to cancel his family holiday. He used fake airline tickets, bank statements and emails of hotel reservations to claim nearly £20,000 ($36,291). • A woman who staged a fall over a crate in a supermarket in West Yorkshire to claim compensation received a 21-month suspended jail sentence. • A man dropped his claim for hearing loss caused by his work when it emerged he was the frontman in a rock ’n’ roll band – despite claim documents denying he had any noisy hobbies.

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THIS Christmas, Action Fraud is reminding shoppers to take extra care when shopping for gifts online. As consumers search online for bargains and gifts for loved ones, fraudsters are seeing this as an opportunity to trick people with the promise of great deals and big cash savings. Reportsby Action Fraud shows that fraudsters conned 15,024 shoppers out of more than £11 million over the Christmas period last year. People are being defrauded on popular social media websites and online auction sites. Action Fraud works together with platforms including Gumtree to combat fraud and to issue protect advice to consumers. Mobile phones were once again the most common item that people tried to buy from fraudsters. Victims reported being hooked in with bargain deals on some of the most popular models of smart phones, only for the phone to never actually arrive and leaving them without presents to give on Christmas Day. Apple iPhones accounted for 74% of all mobile phones purchased that turned out to be fraudulent. Electrical goods (including games consoles), household items, computers, clothing, and accessories also featured in many of the reports. Examples including Fingerling toys, UGG Boots and Apple MacBook’s were among the most popular items victims reported losing money to fraudsters on. Last year, more than 30% of reports were made by women aged between 20 and 29, however anyone can fall victim to Christmas shopping fraudsters during the festive period. This year’s campaign urges all shoppers to look out for the warning signs that

FESTIVE FRAUD 3

Crooks after your gifts

Advice from Action Fraud

mean an offer may be too good to be true. Action Fraud will provide useful fraud and cyber crime prevention tips throughout December to stop people from getting conned out of the Christmas they deserve. Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online Victims commented: of fraud should “Christmas can be a really busy call 0300 123 and stressful 2040 time, so it’s easy to rush into making a quick purchase online. “But, taking a couple of minutes to familiarise yourself with a few simple online safety tips can be the difference between getting all your shopping done in time and becoming a victim of online fraud. “Simple steps such a paying via a credit

Don’t get caught out by the Xmas rush • If something seems too much of a bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t exist. • Don’t pay for goods or services by bank transfer unless you know and trust the person. Payments via bank transfer offer you no protection if you become a victim. • Make sure you’ve installed the latest software & app updates. Criminals use weaknesses in software to attack your devices and steal information, such as your payment details.

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card over a bank transfer or only using reputable shopping sites can make a big difference towards protecting yourself online.” City of London Police, said: “Unfortunately, at what is an expensive time of year for many, the internet has provided fraudsters with a platform to lure people in with the promise of cheap deals. “Our report shows that fraudsters will stop at nothing for financial gain during the festive period which is why we are working hard together with our partners to highlight the threat and to prevent people from falling victim.. “To stop fraudsters in their tracks, be cautious of where and from whom you’re buying, especially if it is technology at a reduced price.

• Use a strong, separate password and 2FA to protect your email account. Criminals can use your email to access other online accounts, such as those you use for online shopping. • Don’t click on a link in an unexpected email or text. The volume of online shopping related phishing emails increases during the holiday period. • Every Report Matters – if you have been a victim of fraud, report it to us online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

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4 WHICH? XMAS REPORT

Beware the..

y r e v e g n i k a m ‘ t’

day coun in essex

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CHRISTMAS is just around the corner and many people will be rushing round for that last minute toy for their son, daughter, or grandchild. But rushing into a last minute purchase without giving much thought could lead to disaster according to a Which? Investigation. The consumer champion claims that Amazon and eBay are failing to take basic steps to stop listing toys for sale that appear to have been declared unsafe by the EU’s safety alert system. Which? is now calling on the next government to make online marketplaces legally responsible for stopping dangerous products from being sold. Despite both marketplaces claiming to have dedicated teams and technological systems in place to monitor listings, Which? found evidence of products listed for sale on Amazon Marketplace and eBay that appear to have already been flagged by Safety Gate, the EU’s rapid alert system for dangerous products. In its latest research, Which? investigated toy products that had been registered as dangerous since 2017 by the EU’s Safety Gate system, which lists products that have either been recalled, withdrawn from sale or stopped at the border over safety concerns. It presented eBay with 12 products – including toy slimes, a Transformers helmet and cartoon helicopter, which all appeared to bear significant similarities to dangerous products – such as a shared batch or product number – and which the consumer champion believed presented a risk to children. Continued page 5

Our specialist care is free - for as long as is needed - within the home and at our two hospices. Our hospice care can only exist because of the support and generosity of the community. 3OHDVHJHWLQWRXFKWR¿QGRXWKRZ \RXFDQJHWLQYROYHG 220305 | 01702 220305 | fradmin@havenshospices.org.uk | havenshospices.org.uk/GRQDWH GRQDWH Follow us on social media @HavensHospices

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A toy Transformers helmet also presented a risk to children

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WHICH? XMAS REPORT 5

..dangerous toys on the net

From page 4 The products were classified as unsafe for a range of reasons, including high levels of a toxic chemical which could damage reproductive systems, volume levels which could harm a child’s hearing and small parts that can detach and cause a child to choke. eBay has now removed all 12 product listings It also approached Amazon with six products on the same basis. These included a magnetic building set, an inflatable swim ring and a remote control car – with the products being flagged as a safety risk for reasons such as: a risk of intestinal blockage or perforation; high levels of a chemical that could cause liver damage; and excessive levels of lead. Amazon took five of the products off sale. It did not comment on a toy dinosaur product that Which? found for sale on Amazon.com, rather than Amazon.co.uk, which had the same model number as a dangerous toy which was flagged for containing too much lead. This is despite the site offering to ship the product to the UK. A Which? investigator was also able to demonstrate just how easy it is to list an unsafe toy acting as a seller on Amazon Marketplace. In a matter of minutes they were able to list a squishy toy – a product that had already been recalled in October 2018 because it posed a risk of choking or suffocation. The information provided for the listing included the barcode number of the product listed on the recall database, and even used the same image. Despite these easily identifiable details, the product remained live on Amazon for two weeks before Which? removed the listing. The investigator was also able to list a fabric car seat, which is illegal in the UK, by duplicating a listing from another qualified Amazon seller. The site did not ask for proof of compliance. The revelations emphasise how the safeguards on these sites are far too weak to prevent the listing of items previously recalled on safety grounds. With nine in 10 people having bought consumer goods from online marketplaces, Which? is now calling for much more robust measures to ensure people are not put at risk. Since 2016, Which? has uncovered hundreds of listings on online marketplaces for dangerous products that have either failed its testing or been recalled. These include useless smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, dodgy electrical charging appliances and toxic toy slimes. Many of these were found on Amazon and eBay, but have also been identified on AliExpress and Wish.com.

eBay response

“Sellers aren’t permitted to list dangerous products or items that have been recalled. The listings flagged have been removed and we have requested sellers contact customers with a safety notice.”

Which? found that some toy slimes had similarities to dangerous products

However, online marketplaces are not currently responsible for ensuring that the products sold on their sites are safe, removing unsafe products from sale or notifying customers when something goes wrong. In a new report – out this month – Which? is calling for online marketplaces to be required to ensure that products offered for sale by sellers on their sites are safe – a view supported by seven in 10 marketplace users. Which? wants the next government to apply the safety requirement in the General Product Safety Regulations, as well as other sector-specific product safety legislation – for products such as toys – to marketplaces. This means the sites will have to enhance their checks before including sellers on their sites. The consumer champion is also calling for stronger and more consistent action when unsafe products are identified by enforcement agencies, and a new UK law that will require online marketplaces to make it clear to people they are buying from a trader, rather than another consumer. Online marketplaces must also be more effectively policed, and Which? is calling for the next government to transform the Office for Product Safety and Standards into an independent product safety regulator, and ensure that it is effectively resourced to take the lead on holding online marketplaces to account on product safety.

Amazon response

“All sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The products in question are no longer available.”


6 TRADING STANDARDS ADVICE

Don’t hit the..

WINTER weather can be harsh and looking after our properties can be a challenge, especially the parts we can’t easily see. A solid, leak free roof with good gutters is your home’s best defence against the elements, but if you notice water stains, holes or loose/leaking gutters then it can be a daunting task to get it fixed. Whether you need a small repair or complete roof replacement, always do your research when it comes to hiring a contractor as the consequences of bad roofing work can be disastrous. Moisture, water damage, inadequate insulation or movement could cause cracks to occur in the walls of your property and, possibly, lead to the eventual collapse of the roof. Leaks in your loft can result in multiple dangers, including electrical, water, and physical hazards. Not only will all of these affect your home’s aesthetics, but they will be costly to repair and – more importantly - compromise the safety of you and your family. If you need work doing to your roof, facia/soffits or gutters then there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure you engage a reputable tradesperson to do the work. Do not do business with a trader that cold calls and puts you under pressure to have work done - this is a popular tactic of rogue traders who are likely to undertake unnecessary work to a poor standard at inflated prices. Continued page 7

BE SURE AT THE DOOR

Follow our advice - don’t fall victim to a rogue trader. n Choose a ‘Buy With Confidence’ accredited trader n Obtain several quotes n Get a written quote detailing exactly what work will be carried out, how much it will cost and what the terms of payment are n Take your time to make sure you’re happy with what you’re undertaking n Ask a trusted friend/relative for advice n Ask to see identity

A genuine trader will not: n Call without an appointment n Ask you or offer to take you to the bank to withdraw cash or make a money transfer n Ask you to pay in full before the work is complete n Insist that you decide about the work they are offering to do on the spot n Bully or scare you into doing work

www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for useful leaflets to share with your friends and family. Don’t take chances, Follow our advice and stay safe.

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TRADING STANDARDS ADVICE 7

..roof, use a reputable builder

From page 6 Instead, when choosing a roofing contractor, we recommend that you follow our advice and whilst it is tempting to go with the cheapest, try to base your choice on the quality of the advice given and your confidence in the trader. Check they specialise in the type of roof covering you require as slating/tiling, single ply, liquid-applied roofing, high-performance felt and lead all require different skills to apply – and ensure you understand what the work will involve. Also check to see if they are a member of a reputable trade association such as The National Federation of Roofing Contractors Limited (NFRC). Never respond to leaflets for services such as gutter cleaning and repairs if the business doesn’t provide adequate contact details, Trading Standards has seen an upsurge in traders using leaflets with fake or incomplete addresses, legitimate traders would not advertise their services in this way. Also remember that property owners are responsible for any planning permission or building control approval that may be required on that property – you will need to discuss with your local Borough, City or District Council if the proposed work involves structural alterations, the performance of the new covering is significantly different to that of the existing covering, or you are replacing/repairing more than 25 per cent of the roof area. Do not assume that the trader will do this on your behalf. To find a reputable trader who has been vetted by Trading Standards visit www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk or, if possible, obtain recommendations from family, friends or neighbours. If you have any concerns regarding the quality of work undertaken on your home or are being put under pressure to have more work done or pay more than has been previously agreed, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

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Testimonial

“I received a call from Trading Standards to look at a roof replaced by another company who had ‘cold called’ an elderly property owner convincing her that she needed a new roof. “They took the roof off and took half the chimney down at a cost of £22,000. Upon examination, we found that the hips were not fitted correctly with some hip tiles held on with tape. The GRP valleys were both inferior and incorrect for this roof and around the chimneys, cement was used to keep water out instead of installing a lead detail. “The contractor informed her that the rafters needed to be replaced. When checking the loft, we had to remove timbers that had been left up there, but no rafters had been changed. The flat roof was also fitted incorrectly – with one layer of mineral laid over the top of the old roof with no upstands. “ This roofing company was paid for incorrect and poorly carried out work, the lady then had to pay us to take much of the work apart and correct all the faults. She said she felt intimidated into agreeing to the initial unnecessary works. “It’s not just about the money and the worry – Will they come back’? ‘Why did I allow this to happen’? it’s also the detrimental, traumatic psychological effect on her wellbeing. As a recently retired councillor of twenty years, I know first-hand the long-lasting emotional after affects this can have on individuals. “It’s not nice losing all that money and the roof works should have not been carried out the way they were, but it’s the emotional trauma that does the greatest damage and that is not so easily solved. “ Jim Hallissey – Managing Director, Top to Bottom Roofing Ltd (Buy With Confidence member since March 2013)

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XMAS BOOK REVIEW 9

Xmas book review: The Crossing by Wensley Clarkson

THIS novel is a real eye-opener and not only exposes the drug trade across Britain, but names the real criminals behind it, albeit using false identities. Clarkson is an expert about gangland having written about the gangsters of the forties and fifties and those more recent villains involved in the Brinx Mat robbery and the Hatton Garden job. He knows his subject but The Crossing is not only an excellent insight into the criminal mind today, it also had to be vetted and approved by the masterminds of crime today. They insisted they proof-read the book first before allowing it to be published. What makes The Crossing even more intriguing is that Clarkson has discovered that control of the drug trade throughout Britain is controlled by Albanian gangsters many of whom came here unnoticed on false passports. They boast that they have driven British gangsters out of business and those who still try to muscle in on crime are either grassed up to the police and put out of business - or murdered and never seen again. They brag that they are untouchable because no-one knows their real names; they travel on forged passports; and live in sub-let council flats in and around Dartford Crossing. It’s the new breed of gangster, Eastern Europeans who are fearless. They might even be your next door neighbour. They don’t flaunt their wealth but are making millions right under the noses of the police and unless they happen to get pulled over for a driving offence they will continue to be the invisible criminals. The Crossing gets its name for the base used by the Albanian gangsters - all activities take place within the shadow of Dartford Crossing. From here they have easy access to Essex, London and Kent and if they need to get goods or people out of the country quickly they are just 45 minutes from Dover and the route back to Albania. They hide their crimes in the many thousands of containers which are used as torture chambers, office and even brothels. And there are so many of them that police do not have the resources to check every contaner. We have all been shocked by the rise in

Dartford Crossing - key to a brutal criminal empire and inset, the author Wensley Clarkson

New kids on the Bloc

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moped criminals who ride round the capital, helmets on to hide their faces, and choose high class jewellers to rob of thousands of pounds worth of gems. Clarkson has revealed that this is a highly sophisticated and well planned operation that is not done as a spur of the moment robbery. The Albanians actually train youngsters - many of them here illegally from Albania - at a secret location, testing their skills on a moped to see if they are good enough to be part of the biker crazy gang. Money from all these activities often finds its way back to the Eastern Bloc where it is used either to finance other criminal activities or build luxury homes for the gang leaders. Also linked to the Albanian gangs is the rise in County Lines drug dealing where

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youngsters - some only 11 years of age are paid to distribute the drugs in Essex, Kent, London and the rest of the Home Counties. And as the gangs powerbase continues to grow, the Albanians have one message for British gangsters who believe they can rise again and take back control of territories they have lost - “try at your peril because we are in charge and we are untouchable.” The Albanians have enforcers, torturers, killers for hire and a link to the largest drugs cartels in the world. Their power is frightening. Their methods are chilling. They are into trafficking, fake goods, forgery, robbery, drug dealing and contract killing. And this is not fiction. Clarkson has unearthed a world where the gun rules and anyone stupid enough to believe they can stop the gangs is warned they will be killed. It’s as cold-blooded as that. The only area they haven’t touched and won’t touch is Liverpool because the criminal gangs are too closely knit and too hard to infiltrate. But everywhere else in Britain, they claim, is their’s for the taking. Their links with the big drugs cartels makes them even more cunning and dangerous. They are expanding all the time and claim the good old British gangster is dead. Brexit or no Brexit, the Eastern Europeans are the new kings of crime.

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LOAN sharks are hovering as families beg to borrow cash to cover the expensive Christmas period. Residents are turning to loan companies to budget for the festive period, but it could all end in heartache. The Local Government Association, which represents virtually every local authority, is warning residents to avoid ruthless loan sharks at all costs as latest figures show debt advice enquiries have hit a record high. The LGA is urging people desperate for a loan to steer clear of illegal money lenders who typically charge sky-high interest rates, rely on extortion and are likely to plunge them into worse debt for a longer period. It is calling for tougher sentences for loan sharks and says anyone experiencing money problems should contact councils and their partner organisations who are working increasingly closer together to develop better financial support for households with debt and repayment worries. The loan sharks warning comes as latest figures show that 12,652 people a week in the UK are seeking help for problem debt – the equivalent of one person every 48 seconds. The number of enquiries made to debt advice charity Step Change in 2018 was 657,930 – a 14 per cent rise on the 577,678 enquiries in 2014, and 6 per cent up on the 619,946 enquiries made in 2017. Councils have supported several recent prosecutions of loan sharks who target the most vulnerable, rarely issue any paperwork and typically use intimidation and violence to enforce repayments. These cases include illegal loans with interest rates of 100 per cent, although criminals charging interest rates of 1,000 per cent have also been previously convicted.

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LOAN SHARKS 11

Avoid the Xmas sharks Don’t let a loan shark ruin your family’s Christmas

Call 0300 5552222 to report loan sharks

Councils know financial crises are often caused or made worse by other life events, such as loss of employment, a change in benefits entitlement or illness, leaving less time to research cash-flow options. The LGA is urging people who think they are going to have difficulty paying bills, or are worried about meeting other financial commitments, to seek free impartial advice as early as possible. Small loans from Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and the credit union sector offer safer and more affordable ways to borrow money. Households awaiting a Universal Credit payment may be entitled to a budget-

ing advance. Despite significant pressures on their budgets, councils are determined to help people with debt worries and are working together with partners in the voluntary and private sectors to develop better support for people facing problems with debt, cash flow and financial exclusion. Some councils are using data to intervene earlier by identifying people with lowlevel payment difficulties and targeting them with support. Cllr Morris Bright, (pictured aright), vice chairman of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “We know many people are struggling to make ends meet, but loan sharks should never be used – they are despicable criminals who make vast sums of money preying on vulnerable people with money problems. “Illegal money lenders are bullies who charge astronomical interest rates and subject their victims to intimidation

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and violence when they struggle to repay their loans at rates they can’t afford. “There are much better, safer and cheaper ways people can manage their money. Anyone with debt problems can contact their local council or advice provider first. There are also charities offering similar services.”

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Using speed limiters could help reduce road deaths December 2019

PAGE 3

Did you know your cats could be allergic to Christmas?

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Real or fake tree for Xmas - what is your families festive choice PAGE 6

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COMMUNITY WATCH


COMMUNITY HEALTH ADVICE: ANTI-ageing can be a difficult topic to address. A war is currently being fought over the meaning of "antiageing" (as research, medicine, brand, or simply adjective) and thus even mentioning the term is likely to prejudice many readers. A broad definition of 'anti-ageing' is any intervention intended to preserve and extend one's lifespan. All time honored health promoting behaviors such as good hygiene and various safety measures are 'anti-ageing' Ageing is defined as the collection of degenerative diseases that is large influenced by lifestyle. In order to give full meaning to the right to "life" we need a "war on ageing". We are therefore at an unprecedented turning point in the study of ageing, in which the curiosity-driven, exploratory research that has justifiably monopolized the field until now can at last be legitimately accompanied by goal-directed, biotechnological efforts, rationally designed on the basis of solid scientific knowledge. Anti-ageing medicine has emerged in recent times promising increased longevity with improved quality of life. Anti-ageing physicians believe that most illnesses associated with aging can be prevented, or at least slowed, through optimal cellular health. Anti-Ageing medicine is the new medical discipline which aspires to halt the degeneration and disability normally associated with aging. That style of anti-ageing medicine can, indeed, work miracles. Alternative medicine and holistic approaches have often been an incubator for approaches initially shunned by traditional medicine. Though the effort has seemed futile in the past, findings from the cutting edge of medicine indicate we can, at the dawn of the 21st century, do much to optimize how we age. You might not know that there are natural medicines that can treat your thyroid disease just as effectively as pharmaceutical drugs without the side effects. If mankind doesn't destroy itself first, it is just a matter of time until

ANTI-AGEING

Ageing - how to prevent it

LP2

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we extend healthy human lifespan to lengths that are almost unimaginable today. Once healthy life-extension is demonstrated in mice, the attitude that "ageing is inevitable" will no longer be possible and will give way to an all-out "war on ageing". Living a healthy lifestyle is the best insurance you can have, not only to avoid nursing home care, but also illness and frailty, however long you live. Restoring hormones in the body to more youthful levels can elicit improved health and vitality. Learn about natural ways to stay young and healthy and combat premature aging. We're discovering that some foods have potent healthful properties that we never imagined were there. A healthy human individual is automatically on an anti-aging program, which is why they live longer. Perhaps in another 100 years, compounds will be identified, studied and proven to be extremely helpful to human health, but in the meantime, they remain mystery compounds that are outside the understanding of modern medical researchers. When it comes to medical anti

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aging products and services however, we still have to be careful. While scientific knowledge has expanded exponentially, there are still lots of vendors making claims that are not backed up by the evidence. These entrepreneurs are poised to make a profit from a vulnerable public - while some simply relieve you of your money without providing any benefit, others may actually be harmful. Before you pay for any new or unconventional medical anti ageing treatment, discuss your plans with a medical professional whom you trust, or contact one of the consumer advocate/anti-fraud organizations that can help you verify that you are getting what you pay for. Whatever you choose, keep your eye on the latest in medical breakthroughs - there are lots of products and services already available that really do help you look and feel younger, and maintain better health. It's a safe bet there will be many more to choose from in the near future, as anti aging medicine gets more and more advanced.

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COMMUNITY MOTORING ADVICE:

USING SPEED LIMITERS

Stay within the limit legally

ACCORDING to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), there are 26,000 road deaths in Europe every year, with speed being one of the main contributing factors to this figure. And it’s long been a source of confusion from motorists as to why cars are allowed to drive so fast when our top speed limit is 70 mph. Now, thanks to campaigning by the ETSC, new software known as the Intelligent Speed Assistance system (ISA) will be mandatory for all new cars within three years. The ISA will alert a driver if they’re going over the speed limit, and if the driver doesn’t slow down the car will intervene. What is Intelligent Speed Assistance? The Intelligent Speed Assistance system uses either a video system that detects speed signs or a GPS system that uses speed data to alert drivers of the speed limit. If the driver doesn’t reduce their speed, then the car reduces it for them. The system doesn’t affect the car’s braking system though. After a series of alerts, if the driver doesn’t apply the brakes, the vehicle reduces power to the engine. The car will then naturally slow down to the new speed limit. Alongside the introduction of ISA

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software, the automatic detection of pedestrians and cyclists was also approved. What are the benefits of ISA? Besides the life-saving potential of the technology, it’s thought that insurance premiums will lower, as well as higher fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions. The introduction of ISA could also mean the end of speeding tickets, a feature that manufacturer Ford has capitalised on when promoting this technology in their vehicles. The automatic detection software may encourage more people to walk or cycle, as the new technology should increase the safety of vulnerable road users. Is there a way to override the system? You can override the system in certain circumstances. An example of this would be if you’re overtaking on a road where there’s a decrease in speed limit. After alerting you, the car will automatically start to slow down. By pushing down hard on the accelerator, you can override the system to complete the manoeuvre safely If you stay above the speed limit the system will sound a warning, then display a visual alert until the proper speed limit is resumed. The ETSC has also developed an

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on/off switch for the system. The default setting for the system is on, but it can be switched off. The system will then remain off until the vehicle is restarted. Which cars have ISA installed already? Many Ford models already use the ISA system, as do Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot/Citroen and Renault. Volvo are following suit this year – they’ll be the first manufacturer to roll out the system across all of their models. The company will cap all new cars at 112 mph. Volvo are also developing ‘smart speed controls’ that will detect when a car is driving close to a vulnerable site, such as a school or hospital. Will the UK adopt speed limiters after Brexit? Even though the UK intends to leave the EU, The Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) intends to continue with EU regulations. This means it’s likely that speed limiting rules will be enforced in the UK too. Many drivers will be confused about why Volvo are choosing to limit the speed to 112 mph, instead of the national speed limit for UK roads. The reason for this is that Volvo sells vehicles to countries with high speed limits.

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COMMUNITY PET ADVICE:

XMAS DECORATIONS

Xmas decor - it’sstressful for cats NOW that the festive season is upon us there will be lots of preparations for Christmas. Whilst this is a happy time for most of us, it can bring about additional stress and potential problems for our feline family members. Here is the lowdown on some of the common hazards that affect our feline friends during the festive period. Festive Plants Mistletoe contains toxic compounds and, although considered to be fairly low in toxicity, some cats develop drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort within a few hours after eating it. The toxic part of the plant is the leaves and stems rather than the berries. In rare cases tremors or convulsions have been reported so it makes sense to keep them well away from your cats. Poinsettia is a Euphorbia species of plant. Although it does contain a toxin it is less toxic than most other Euphorbia. Almost half of the cases reported to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service remained well after eating Poinsettia. However, it can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach with drooling, vomiting and in-appetence. Occasionally, animals may develop a high temperature and have more severe stomach irritation

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with bloody vomiting or stools. Lilies are often included in Christmas bouquets. Many varieties are dangerous as they are highly toxic to cats. Ingestion of any part of the plant, including drinking the water they have been stood in, poses a high risk. Kidney failure and fatalities are a strong possibility. Prevention is very much the advice for this particular plant. Don’t wait for symptoms to arise – immediate veterinary attention should be sought if you suspect ingestion. Christmas Trees & Decorations Christmas tree species include spruce, fir and pine. These trees are considered to be of low toxicity but if eaten may cause mild stomach upset such as vomiting and diarrhoea, and they could cause gut obstruction if eaten or injury to the G.I tract if needles are sharp. Loose needles can drop in to ears too. Signs of this include sudden onset ear irritation and head shaking. Cats and kittens tend to be curious about most decorations but lametta is one of their favourites. It catches the light and oddly some cats like to chew and swallow it and it could cause an obstruction. Salt Dough Decorations Homemade salt dough decorations pose a hazard of salt poisoning in

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dogs and cats. A decoration may contain around 8g of salt per tablespoon which is very high. As well as vomiting and diarrhoea, symptoms can include a raised heart rate, high blood pressure and kidney failure. Consequently prompt veterinary attention is important. Chocolate Although it tends to be more common in dogs, chocolate poisoning can affect cats too. Advent calendars and christmas tree decorations are a particular risk. Theobromine is the toxin responsible, with the higher percentage cocoa being the most toxic. Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst and in some cases convulsions. Keeping chocolate away from cats is therefore just as important as it is for dogs. Feline Stress Scent profile is important for making a cat feel safe and secure. Christmas paraphernalia brought in to the home brings in new and strange smells. This can be very stressful for a cat. In an attempt to restore their own scent, some use urine to mark the house. Rather than scold them, which is likely to make the problem worse, it’s important to help them feel secure again. However prevention is better than cure.

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COMMUNITY GARDENING ADVICE:

CHOOSING A XMAS TREE

Xmas trees...real or artificial? SHOULD I get a real or artificial Christmas tree? Ultimately, whether you buy a real or artificial tree is a matter of personal taste. For many people, only a real tree will do because it’s traditional and has that wonderful Christmassy aroma. Of course, with advances in technology, these days it can be difficult to tell a real tree and a ‘real-look’ artificial tree apart. But artificial trees needn’t be bought to imitate real ones – there are so many different designs available, that you may want to buy an artificial tree to be more of a stylish, decorative feature in your house at Christmas time. Benefits of real Christmas trees Healthier All plants have health benefits – and that includes Christmas trees. We love their colours and appearance and, of course, that distinctive aroma filling the room. Some research suggests that having a real tree in your home reduces stress levels. And decorating them is lots of fun. Eco-friendly Christmas trees are great for the planet. Did you know that 1 acre of growing Christmas trees produces enough oxygen every day for 16 people? Disposing of a real tree is also environmentally friendly. Because they’re organic, they simply decay back into the earth. Wonderful aroma Ever wondered what gives conifer trees their scent? Well, according to scientists, it’s due to chemical compounds called ‘terpenes’ which produce a sweet, sharp refreshing smell. For us, it conjures up all the magical atmosphere of Christmas. Fun to pick each year Choosing a tree is fun for the whole family – every real tree is unique and seems to have a personality of its own but, somehow, amongst all the trees you can choose, you seem to know which one is meant for you. Once you’ve taken it home, it becomes part of the family. Benefits of artificial Christmas trees

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A real tree for Xmas?

Lots of styles Sparkling, beautifully decorated and with a true festive feel, you’ll be buying a tree that the whole family will love. You have a huge choice from twig trees to pre-lit trees and trees in different colours. And if you want a ‘real-look’ tree, thanks to clever technology, there’s nothing artificial-looking about them. The colours are natural, branches and needles feel real and their shape and texture perfectly mimic those of a real tree. Economical Because all of our trees are top quality and made to last, your tree will remain beautiful for many Christmases to come. So you won’t have to buy a new one every year. No fuss Take it out of the box, arrange the branches and your tree is ready, especially if you’ve chosen a pre-lit tree. Plus, there’s no mess to worry about. You won’t have to clear up any fallen needles and there’s no need to recycle it when Christmas is over. Stays looking great An artificial tree won’t droop or wilt and will stay looking as Christmassy as the day you bought it. You’ll be able to

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Or do you buy artificlal?

enjoy it for years. How long do Christmas trees last? If you’ve bought a cut tree around the end of November, just follow the advice in our Christmas tree care guide and you’ll have a healthy-looking tree all the way up to Christmas and for several weeks after. It won’t dry out and the needles won’t drop. When it's time to take down your decorations, make sure to follow our advice on recycling your real tree. Pot-grown trees, of course, will last forever. Simply choose your potted tree from early November and when you do bring it inside, place it on a large saucer or something similar to protect the floor. The best bit is all of our pot-grown trees have fully established roots, so you can plant them in your garden after Christmas. They’ll then keep growing, like any other tree. Artificial trees, if they’re good quality and carefully looked after, should last you for many years. When it is time to retire yours, read our tips on disposing of an artificial Christmas tree responsibly. Article by: www.wyvalegardencentres.co.uk

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COMMUNITY FINANCIAL ADVICE:

SAVING FOR KIDS

SAVING for a child today is a wonderful gift for their future. Not only can they start their adult lives with some savings in hand, but getting kids involved early with saving also helps them learn important lessons about money. Here are some of the most popular savings products for children.

Children’s savings accounts Saving a little each month, say £5 for 18 years, will add up over time, and earn interest too! Your savings could grow to be enough for your child to pay for driving lessons, or to cover a deposit on their first rented home. You can set up an account with a bank or building society on behalf of a child. They can start managing their own account once they reach the age of seven. These accounts offer a great way to learn how to manage money and help get kids into the savings habit. And some providers will include a gift with the account, like a money box. Start an account with as little as £1. In most cases, your child can take out their money whenever they like. Interest is normally paid with tax taken away, but you can reclaim this later. Or, you can get the interest paid in full without tax being taken off by asking your bank or building society for HMRC Form R85. Comparison websites are a good starting point for anyone trying to find a savings account tailored to their needs. Comparison websites won’t all give you the same results, so make sure you use more than one site before making a decision. It is also important to do some research into the type of product and features you need before making a purchase or changing supplier. Children born after 3 January 2011 – or those aged under 18 and born before 1 September 2002 – can have a Junior NISA. This applies for those children born between 1 September 2002 and 3 January 2011 who are not eligible for a Child Trust Fund (CTF). Cash NISAs are a good savings option because you pay no tax on the interest

Invest wisely... for the kids

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or return. Stocks and Shares NISAs, however, are classed as ‘tax-efficient’ because, although returns are free of UK Income and Capital Gains tax, there are other taxes payable on the investment such as taxes on dividend income which is 10% and cannot currently be reclaimed. While a parent or guardian must open the account, the money belongs to the child. But they can only withdraw the money after turning 18. Each child can have one Junior Cash NISA and one Junior stocks and shares NISA during their childhood, but it is possible to transfer each to different providers. Junior NISAs do not operate as an annual contract, unlike the adult version. Junior cash NISAs work the same way as a savings account, except that the interest is tax-free and the money is locked up until the child is 18. Junior stocks and shares NISAs let you buy shares, bonds and other eligible investments on behalf of a child. The value of these investments can go down as well as up. If the child is aged 16 or 17, they can take out an (adult) cash ISA and save up to£15,240 a year, as well as up to £4,080 in a Junior NISA. The child owns the bonds, but only a parent, guardian or (great) grandparent can buy them. The parent or guardian holds them until the child turns 16. Bonds are sold in batches known as

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issues that run for five years each. Each issue has its own fixed interest rate. Interest is added at the end of each year. At the end of each five-year period, you can roll over the issue into a new five-year issue until the child’s 16th birthday. You can start investing with just £25 up to a top limit of £3,000 per issue. All the interest is tax-free – no parental tax settlement rules apply. Use the interest calculator on the NS&I website to see how much an investment in Children’s Bonds could be worth

Friendly Society tax-exempt plan These children’s savings plans are only available through Friendly Societies, which are owned by their members to work for the advantage of those members – mutual benefit organisations. Choose to pay into the plan for between ten and 25 years. Money is invested in a share-based investment fund for the term length you choose. The maximum amount that can be paid in is £270 a year, or £300 a year if you pay in £25 each month. On the maturity date, the child must be at least 16 and you must have paid into the plan for a minimum of ten years. The value of these types of investment can go down as well as up. Friendly Society policy charges also apply.

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COMMUNITY LEGAL ADVICE

PENSION BUYBACK

Pension fears- then buy back

IF your state pension has a shortfall, there are ways that you can ‘buy back’ contributions. A reader writes: My sister reaches state pension age later this year, so she misses out on the new flat-rate pension that starts in 2016. Years ago, after ten years of working in the UK, she married and went to live in the US, but never worked there. Now she’s come back and has no pension – or only a tiny one. I understand she may be able to ‘buy back’ contribution years to increase her state pension, but by how much, and would it be worth it? Are there other ways she could boost her pension, using a small lump-sum inheritance? Our solicitor replies: Your sister has two options: to increase her state pension and to make private provision. As you recognise, her state pension will be calculated under the old rules, but that may be no bad thing. To qualify for the enhanced, singletier state pension for post-April 2016

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retirees, she would need 35 years’ National Insurance contributions and, under current proposals, a minimum of ten years’ to get anything at all. Unless she’s certain she has ten full years’ worth, she’s potentially better off under the old scheme, where she needs 30 years to qualify for the full pension and will get a proportional amount for the full years when she did contribute. Your sister first needs to contact the Pension Service and find out exactly what her entitlement is. She could have made voluntary contributions after she moved abroad, but it seems she did not. However, because she has lived in the UK for a continuous period of three years in the past, she may be able to make up some of her missed National Insurance contributions for a maximum of six years. She may also be able to make further contributions under a scheme that was announced by the Chancellor.

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This will allow people with a state retirement age before 2016 to fill gaps whenever they occurred. The cost has not yet been finalised, but initial suggestions are that it will be extremely advantageous for anyone seeking to purchase a secure income compared with commercial annuity rates. Your sister can invest her inheritance to create a pot of money to draw down on, to top up her formal pension income. She should consult an independent financial adviser, as there are many ways to do this. Finally, she could simply depend on her husband’s retirement income, assuming they are still together, but should ensure her needs will be taken care of if he predeceases her. This could be by taking out life insurance or, if he is buying an annuity, making sure that it includes spouse benefit, so that a proportion of the income continues to be paid after his death.

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COMMUNITY TRAVEL ADVICE: ARE you planning to go abroad next year or even this winter? Then familiarise yourself with car hire con tricks that happen across the globe. Nothing can sour a blissful holiday quite like car rental. Last year, the European Consumer Centre (ECC ) saw a 37% rise in the number of year-on-year complaints about supplementary charges for car hire across Europe. So what are the five biggest rip-off charges you need to look out for? 1: FUEL CHARGES Traditionally, most car hire companies stipulate that you need to bring the car back with a full tank. If it isn't 100% topped up, you might get stung with an admin fee and an inflated price for the missing fuel. This happened to Conor Mills, a chef from Essex, who had to pay €1.76 (£1.47) a litre for the missing fuel, compared to €1.57 at the pumps. Also watch out for companies demanding to check fuel receipts for the last fill. If you can't produce it, you might be charged a fee. The 'tank full' policy is now often replaced by schemes where you pay for the full tank up-front. As an empty tank is almost impossible to achieve, this inevitably costs you money. To avoid paying through the nose for fuel charges, try to opt for the traditional 'tank full' option and always read the small print. 2: HIDDEN CHARGES The small print hides all sorts of hidden charges. For example, broker Auto Europe, which deals with most large rental firms across Europe, charges an extra €10 a day for drivers who've held a licence for less than four years, a €250 admin charge in the event of damage or theft of the vehicle (whether you've got an excess waiver or not) and drivers aged 21 to 24 are required to pay a 'young' surcharge locally (cost unspecified). Other common extra charges include naming a second driver, as well as adding gadgets such as sat navs and baby seats. Read the contract carefully, advises the ECC. Also query anything you don't understand before you sign it. 3: THE INSURANCE WHAMMY One of the trickiest extras to understand is the excess waiver, meaning it's one of the charges most often exploited by rental companies. So how does it work? What we'd call car insurance is referred to as 'collision damage waiver' when hiring a car, and

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CAR HIRE CON TRICKS

Car hire -how you get conned abroad

this is usually included in the price. However, that comes with an excess of about €1,000 that is 'pre-authorised' on your credit card at the check-in desk. Damage the car and you'll lose part or all of this. To prevent this from happening, you buy an excess waiver. But the price of this is rarely quoted by the major companies when you first make your booking. For example, when booking through Avis we had to specifically ask an adviser for the cost and got this shock: it would cost us €19.25 a day - almost doubling the €125 weekly price we were originally quoted to €218. This doesn't stop online brokers, including Holiday Autos, offering drivers a fixed-price product they can buy before they leave. For our Italian rental, the company quoted us a basic excess waiver costing just £20. Similar products are offered by specialist companies, such as insurance4car hire.com and carhireexcess.com. You also need to check for exclusions on all excess waivers - favourite exclusions are bits of the car most likely to see damage, especially tyres and windscreens. Damages incurred while parking is also on the list. 4: DAMAGE CHARGES It could be that a scratch that was missed in the pre-inspection of the car

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has been found in the postinspection, which is why it's important to be there for both. The advice is to be very critical on the pre-inspection report and also don’t return the car out of hours if it can be avoided, so you can supervise the final inspection. Taking photographs of the car at this point will also help your case if you contest any charges. Of course, paying to waive the excess should mean you're in the clear should any damage be found, but remember that some companies will charge an admin fee to rectify the problem. 5: WRONG ENGINE FOR THE JOB Rental companies rarely give you a choice when it comes to specific car models or engines, but being handed a petrol instead of a diesel car can really inflate your bill. "You can bank on getting another 15 miles per gallon on a diesel, so multiply that by 1,000 miles over the holiday and that makes a real difference. So how do you make sure you get a diesel car? Broker firms such as Holiday Autos will flag up any diesel offerings, while Hertz's Green Collection cars are specifically good on fuel, whether that's diesel or a petrol hybrid such as the Toyota Prius. Typically, bigger cars will be diesel, while smaller cars will be petrol.

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London Community Watch magazine  

Community Watch magazine is published every six weeks for London, Essex and the Home Counties and offers residents advice and information on...

London Community Watch magazine  

Community Watch magazine is published every six weeks for London, Essex and the Home Counties and offers residents advice and information on...

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