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The Other News From England.

6 December 1999.

This week.

Index of earlier issues - click here.

(Those who like digging about will find that there are hundreds of articles on many subjects to be found on this site.)

Old issues.

I am working again on old issues of Other News (1993) and hope soon to put a few more of them on the site.


Forum For Stable Currencies.

This little group is one of several who seek to improve our monetary system to make it more equitable for all of us. They would like to invite you to their meetings that are held regularly in the House of Lords and other places around London (why not in the provinces from time to time?). The audience and 'panel' discuss various things that might be done to evolve a just system of exchange, with a view to trying to persuade Parliament to put them into action. The discussions can be very interesting, and the lectures extremely enlightening - a lot of the gaps in my economic knowledge have been filled by going to just a few of these meetings. The following is an email from Peter Challen, who sees to the communication aspects of this little group. If you like what they do, you can get Peter to put you on the email list by emailing him at

Meanwhile, why not come to the meetings below?

email follows:


Advocating Freedom from Debt for Economic Democracy


A Series of Discussion at the House of Lords

You are invited to attend our next meeting at the House of Lords on WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15TH, 6pm. Committee Rm 4 or 4B Ask for meeting sponsored by Lord Ahmed.

We will hear our fourth 'expert witness', Tim Lawson-Cruttendon, Solicitor-Advocate, on 'The Legal aspects of Bankruptcy' advancing our discussions noted here :

PLEASE PASS WORD TO OTHERS. You may receive this just for interest if you are not in reach of London. Let me know if you do not want to receive further notes.


- NOTES OF LAST MEETING House of Lords on Tuesday Nov. 23rd.

Apologies - 10 + apologies received Present : Sabine McNeill [Co-ordinator]; Donald Martin [Chairman]; Christopher Stockwell (Speaker), Lord Ahmed (Host); Lord Sudeley (Adviser); Lord Caithness (Adviser); Lawrence Bloom (Adviser ); Canon Peter Challen [Minute Secretary]; Dr. John Courtneidge; Keith Whincup [SAFE]; Shard Duhart; David Schoibl; Nathaniel Rohde for Tim Lawson-Cruttenden [Lawyer]; Damian Mearns; Tony Pritchard; Judith; Tony Chevasse; Shaheen; Flora Kerrigan; Mary Fee; Benedict Goldsmith; Bob Arnold; Cllr Andrew Creery; Peter Browne; Francois; Tarak Diwany; MA Ghamen; Neil Bhatier; Karam Bawany. (29)

Among our purpose is to fashion a 'Banking 2000 - Miscellaneous Provisions Bill'.

And to do so in our agreed context, recited at each gathering; to which we added this time: * Maximising Personal Responsibility

The Chairman drew out the interests in the assembly, and Sabine led us through the developments of the Forum's activities and the green leaflet defining many of the issues.

We are considering 3 distinct issues that require legislation:-

1) protection of bank victims

2) legislating the lenders

3) regulating Company administration, Bankcrupty and Insovlency procedures that may be derived from amendments to the Queen's Speech.

Christopher Stockwell presented his paper, promoting changes in the law governing bankruptcy [described by one as 'stunning' and another as 'both depressing and inspiring'.] He spoke of 3 stages:


Distinguish between the insolvent who has caused a loss to themselves and others, and the insolvent who has become so while being entirely honest. The liability should be proven beyond all doubt and to be the direct consequence of the individual's own actions. There should be a requirement introduced into the law that those petitioning for the bankruptcy have to prove to the court that bankruptcy is likely to produce a better result for creditors than an Individual Voluntary Arrangement [IVA].


It should only last a year, as in the USA. Bankrupts must be allowed a bank account in the period - possible in law, but not followed by most banks. If bankrupt not guilty of dishonesty he should be allowed to serve as a company director or a trustee or on a public body. Pensions should not be forfeited .


This is the most unsatisfactory stage. Discharge should be the END. They can be lawfully hounded indefinitely by Trustees in Bankruptcy. Fees must be regulated. Fees taken by insolvency practitioners leads to a great injustice.

General point:

'Penalty clauses' dressed up as 'incentives' should be identified and made unenforceable in English courts. We should acknowledge that most bankrupts are honourable people.


The consequences of corporate insolvency are usually completely disproportionate to the indebtedness, and the bankruptcy has extensive knock on effects in terms of unemployment and seizure of assets.

There should be strict rules on the way in which banks and other substantial creditors can behave in a situation of corporate insolvency. Those rules should require the bank to give the directors a substantial notice of their intention to call in loan at facilities or guarantees and that there should be a court supervised process to enforce the banks and creditors of the company to make a realistic assessment of the company's prospects with a view to sharing the pain in advance of bankruptcy and with the intention of maintaining the company as a going concern rather than pulling the rug from under it .

In sum, Christopher is in favour of restricting the ease with which bankruptcies or company administration can be sought, preferably reducing the time spent in bankruptcy (hard to see what is achieved by making it last three years), requiring creditors to seek an alternative arrangement to bankruptcy, and keeping pensions out the bankrupt estate. The rights of a well funded institution like Lloyds to abuse its powers need careful restriction with the new guidelines aimed at preventing penalty clauses being dressed up as incentives. There should be regulation of the fees of Insolvency Practitioners and that if, as a last resort someone is made bankrupt, his discharge should be an end to the matter.

The story that Christopher unfolded was of astonishingly poor law and of ineptitude or fraud. Much needs to be changed. The description of Lloyds as 'stupid gentlemen and sharp barrow boys' seemed sadly apt to the story that we heard.

It led to lengthy and detailed discussion which the Steering group will take into its thinking about out-comes and their impact on the type of Bill(s) proposed.

New books by Richard Douthwaite, 'The Illusion of Growth' and 'The Ecology of Money' from Green books & the Schumacher Society; and Bishop David Jenkins' 'Market Ways and Human Wherefores' were recommended.

Please send additional reflections to me before the next gathering. (see above).

I also like to have apologies that indicate continuing interest and support even when attendance is not possible..

Other regular London meetings continuing the debate are open to you and to others YOU invite:- - The Global Cafe every Wednesday 11-1 - The Clink Debtors prison meeting on Thursday 9th December 6-8 - ask me for details of an unusual venue.

If you do not wish to be kept on the list for notes of these explorations, please let me know.


email ends.

Economics 2.

Peter (above) also forwarded an email that had originally been written by Stefania Strega in London describing a selection of alternatives to money, and I reproduce it here.:

SORRY ABOUT THE MISSING TIME FROM THE EARLIER NOTICE December 9th ....... 6 - 8 p m @ PLaSHc, Lower Level, Hays Galleria.

And here's a glimpse of Southwark coming alive in greater self-reliance and resilience !


Southwark is a fascinating place when it comes to alternative economics because there is so much going on already.

Apart from the Social Investment Forum itself and others the thriving Credit Unions, [ with Southwark the first to get Registry approval for a borough-wide Common Bond ] the various food co-ops, LETS Internet Cafe and other interesting meeting points, the wealth of complementary currencies alone is quite staggering. These are just the ones I've come across. There will almost certainly be many others.

There are a few forms of 'barter' already existing in the area: eg

a) 'Sweat equity' is counted in buying a house with Habitat for Humanity in Peckham.

b) The LITMUS project rewards their volunteers with Peckham Pulse vouchers.

c) The Home Share project in which 10 hours of assistanceper week is traded for accommodation with an elderly person wants to stay living in their home.

And these currency-based systems: -

A, b and c are very specialised at present and based on direct barter. D, e and f are currency-based systems.

It is interesting to consider what could happen if all these schemes were using the same medium of exchange, or could otherwise inter-trade easily.... (but even having them all knowing about each other, and considering the possibilities of cooperation would be a considerable improvement at the moment. )

The following is just a positive fancy scenario .. Imagine Southwark in two years time. If all these schemes exchanged on the same demand-created 'currency' (whether the existing Peck or the Hour or the Fidget ), this is what could happen.

For only about 30,000 we can install this system for the whole of Southwark; 20 local Reps across Southwark fitted out with the Internet equipment and trained in how to use this web-based directory and the development work to connect it all up and get it going in about six months to a year.

The HourBank, with just 16 members, generated an average of 200 hours per month trading with just three months of development work. Extrapolate that to just 500 members ( a conservative estimate of the number of people currently involved in the various schemes) and we are looking at 72,000 hours, which, if valued at 5.20 per hour would represent a 374,400 of social capital investment in Southwark, within a year.

The wealth of possibilities and the synergy created by getting creative links going amongst all existing and emerging 'currencies' and swap initiatives, however, would be priceless.


Stephania Strega (

email ends.

I am afraid it is a little confusing in places because womehow on the way a few headings have been edited out.

email ends.

There is also a website about alternative currency systems that might interest you: click here


MY DAUGHTER AND I got into discussion about why there are so many rooms to let that do not find takers in London when there are also thousands of homeless people, and only a few hostel places. There are also, she tells me, plenty of empty council flats and houses. The only thing is, she says, when a certain type of person gets a council place and social security to pay the rent, they end up spending the rent on something other than rent (substances, perhaps) and end up homeless again, so that those people at least will continue to be homeless even during times of plenty.

Other homeless people who are not interested in drugs and aclohol will avoid going into the hostels because of 'all those drug addicts and people in there', and in the latest issue of The Big Issue (a magazine sold by the homeless to help them back into accommodation - not an easy task in our ridiculous economy) there was an article about a homeless couple who from time to time got chucked out of hostels because they held hands whilst watching telly! This may not be quite as bad as it seems, in that they made space for someone else by being chucked out, but it does seem a little insane to someone who thinks it's normal for people to hold hands when they feel like it.

That is enough digression. What we actually need is a solution, and the madly inflating property market and the banks are not facilitating it. Lots of rooms to let with no takers has to be a bad economic situation, although frankly the experience of the sixties and seventies where landlords ended up with tenants for life if they rented out a room only served to increase the problem because nobody would let anything under such circumstances - it is far too great a financial risk.

The rooms do not find takers because they are too expensive presumably, whilst the landlords do not feel that they can afford to let them at a price that does not in some way reflect the price they would have to pay for their only capital investment - their home. We do, after all, all live in a capitalist economy, many of us despite thinking something else would be better, and therefore have to act like capitalists or go under.

I haven't a solution, but cannot help imagining that if we had an economy which did not spend most of it's energy on finding interest to pay to banks we might have a better chance.

Anyway, what would be wrong with the government going into banking - in competition with private banks? That way, some of the extraordinarily outrageous profits made from banking would find their way back to the public, and at the same time the government would to some extent be in a position to control interest rates and inflation. Furthermore, such an arrangement would allow the sacred cow of private banking to survive.

London Mayoral Elections.

IT IS MANY years now since I asked Ken Livingstone why the public were not being consulted with regard to an extremely unpopular demolition and building project that he was promoting, and he answered rather foolishly and with great arrogance "but we (the Labour Party that we once had, I think he meant) invented public participation". I thought at the time that the idea was to avoid answering the question, which he would have succeeded in doing but for the fact that if they really had (he didn't like my suggestion that public participation was something that was born with the human race) the question over this particular project would continue to be the same: why were the public not consulted given that you invented public participation. The meeting ended in disarray without anything being resolved, as they usually do when someone asks a question which takes the decision-making out of the hands of the control freaks, but in the end we won the day, and in place of the demolition of hundreds of small houses (people's homes) and their replacement with concrete blocks 15 stories high with zero housing gain we got no action. To this day, that pleasant little area exists intact.

Ken Livingstone's credibility, however, is another thing. There are, of course, a great many people who think he is an honorable and well-meaning sort of a chap who only has the public's good to mind when promoting such schemes, but my feeling about it then was that he was not the least bit interested in the people who lived in the area, but was interested in the 'spin offs' that might come from the extensive demolition and building contracts, and that he was interested in the fast track to power. He's got it, to some extent, for what it is worth, but I am not sure that he would do the right thing if he were mayor of London.

The other disreputable individuals (and any who might turn out to be reputable in the end despite all current evidence) don't interest me at all, so it is difficult currently to comment on them.

However, the other day I noticed a photograph on the door of one of our local shops that was advertising an independant candidate, who I might interview in case there is some sense in voting for him. After all, it is unlikely he could be worse than the main runners.


As far as I know, the article by Stefania Strega above (Economics 2) was originally written for Southwark, who was employing her part time when she wrote it, 'to show them that there are much more creative things you can do than just create another currency'. I don't know if it worked.


The stuff that doesn`t often get changed now follows:

This website is about the destruction of countryside and agriculture. Worth a visit if you want to find out about how it is thought the British countryside will fair under the ongoing creep of the multinationals.

This website is one to do with monetary reform. If you are interested in economics it is worth a look.

This is a website about alternative currencies.Might be worth a look to those who have realised that you don't necessarily have to have money as such to be prosperous.

This is a website for something called The Green Guide. I know nothing about it, but am hoping it is something worthy. Please let me know if it is questionable.

This is a site concerned with one of the most unpopular planning decisions ever made in Greater London, the Crystal Palace Complex. It is so stunningly awful that only a handful of people who do not live near it appear to approve, whilst the rest are not entirely uninclined to mention such things as payola, name it! The site belongs to the London Borough of Bromley, but the aggro generated by it and the destruction of amenity caused by it will be almost entirely suffered by residents of adjoining boroughs and not the people of Bromley themselves.

This is a recycling site based in London, and offering materials to anybody. The organisation is a charity seeking to link suppliers of surplus materials with users. Especially good for the more ingenious designers amongst us.

The email of the people who run the above site is They are called Creative Supplies. Look them up for more info.

Here's an interesting education site - particularly for those who have young children and are not quite sure what to do to avoid the worst of what`s on offer in the mainstream of education.They are called

early Othernews - 1992, 93, 94.

Early Other News essays.

There were a few essays that went out with the early Other News as a freestanding item. You can read these by clicking below.


The Soup Designer`s Handbook.

The Soup Designer`s Handbook.

London Journey - a trip from Docklands through Beckenham and back to Docklands.

Friday Woodworkers.

(Friday Woodworkers are suffering a temporary break due to some of the episodes not having been fully edited at the time of writing. It may take some timne to fix this problem.

Episode 17.

(These articles were written in 1988, and were my first attempt at writing. Some people when shown these fell about laughing, some smiled faintly - and some yawned. I thought I was going to write a technical book, but it soon became apparent that I was much more interested in the people than the technology - and that is the main reason there are no drawings - although it might be rather good to do a couple of caricatures sometime.)

Index of Friday Woodorker articles (and a means of access).

Progress is slow but we`re still moving on.

We are still redesigning The Other News From England. Noticed the change so far?

There is at least one new article this week, and articles on many subjects in earlier issues (which can be seen by clicking below).

Index of earlier issues.

Gabriele Gad on alternative therapy.

A READER COMPLAINED that it was not possible to go back more than 6 articles in Gabriele`s area. Regrettably this is because there is no index, and I have not the time to organise one yet. However, for those determined enough to find the early ones, they should be accessible by going to an early Other News and clicking through from it. This will not be fast, but I think will do the job. They started about November 1997 I think.

Cartoons and graphics.

drawings click here.

sheet music click here.


(I wish someone would make a contribution before I am forced to put in some of my own stuff here).

So new, in fact, that there is nothing there. I want to open a section of this site to be used as a kind of green reference. Ordinary folks usually know what to do in order to be green, but there are times when (a) they don`t know the technology, or (b)they are short of ideas, or (c) they would like to see what some other people think.

So the purpose of this area will be for people to describe to others how they made their own electricity, or saved a great deal of domestic water being wasted, or captured the methane gas from their cesspit, designed their solar bicycle with regenerative braking and portable overnight windcharger, caused plants to grow in a desert, made a solar water pump, etc.

A site for forward-looking people, in fact.

It may be very difficult to edit, but I would like a few articles and tips that are concise, easily understood and ecologically useful. Authors will be named if they so wish. These will be left on the site, and gradually as the number of articles builds up hopefully somebody will construct an index. I won`t volunteer myself, as I have yet to make a subject index for the whole Other News site.



One week carried an article that might be of interest to anybody thinking of taking out an Abbey National mortgage - or those who already have one.

Interestingly, one of the London papers described them as being "among the greediest".

There will soon be a new twist to this story, but I am not sure what it will be until it happens. They are trying to make it as difficult as possible instead of as easy as possible to resolve the present dispute.


(see several weeks back).

This Lexmark business gets worse. I refilled the black cartridge with an ordinary cartridge refilling outfit and it won`t print despite telling me that the cartridge is full and that it is printing.

In an earlier issue I told you about my feelings regarding Tempo retailers and the Lexmark 3200 printer I bought from them. I have now found out another thing about it.

The Lexmark 3200 printer I got from Tempo must surely be the most uneconomical printer I could possibly have bought. The black cartridge only does about 250 pages of ordinary type - for 28! That makes each sheet cost 11.2 pence plus the cost of the paper and probably another 11.2 pence more if any colour is used! - ABOUT 22.4 PENCE A SHEET! Nearly a pound for every four sheets!

I wouldn`t recommend you to buy it - but also look at my earlier article for an idea of Tempo`s service.


A person to help make up a subject index for the growing numbers of articles on The Other News From England. Email

8- or more-track tape recorder. email

Also want good working VW or Volvo 7 series 2.4litre turbodiesel engine. This is the type that goes in an LT van or a Volvo 740TD. email

2,000,000 at 0% interest would quite good too, although I would probably waste quite a lot of it employing musicians to do the great work.

All material on this site is copyright. Contact me if you want to use it. I am quite flexible. Educational non-profit use is free - but ask for permission and print an acknowledgement. If you can`t think what to print, put:

From The Other News From England.

That`s all this week folks