Don't blame coalface for banks' burn-out

'TIS the season to be sorry, so I suppose I'd better start with an apology.

Paul Geater

'TIS the season to be sorry, so I suppose I'd better start with an apology.

When the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB was announced last autumn I thought it looked like a good deal and I said so in my column at the time.

It seemed good for both parties, and no one was aware then just how deep the problems at HBOS really were!

Now it seems that the shotgun marriage, brokered by the government, could turn out to be a disaster for everyone.

HBOS will probably still have to be taken over by the government, albeit part of a larger group, and it will drag a basically sound bank into the clutches of the Treasury.

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Lloyds executives who negotiated the deal deserve all the fury of their shareholders for patently failing to carry out due diligence.

They behaved like a prospective car-buyer desperate to get his hands on a second-hand BMW for a low price who doesn't examine the knocking sound in the engine until the big end blows up!

But I'm not really happy with all this hand-wringing about the disgraceful bonuses Lloyds TSB is proposing to pay to its staff this year.

While there are some very well-paid bankers in head office, high up in the organisation, the vast majority of staff - the cashiers, personal bankers, and clerical staff behind the scenes at the branches - are not very well paid.

Lloyds has said its average salary is �16,000-�17,000 a year. That's well below the national average - and for those people their �500 or �1,000 they get for doing their job is effectively part of their salary.

It wasn't the cashiers sitting at the local branch who messed up on the takeover deal and Lloyds TSB, if you take away the HBOS element, made a profit of �2.5 billion last year which is a fantastic result given all the problems faced by the banking industry in 2008.

It was the staff down the line who contributed to that - and they deserve their small bonuses.

No directors or senior staff involved in the takeover of HBOS should get a penny in bonuses - in fact they really ought to reconsider their positions at the bank - but don't blame the workers at the coalface.

UKIP is a political party that will once again be hoping to do well in this year's European elections.

It is a party that is constantly telling us that it is a mainstream political group whose main concern is to free Britain from European Union influence - but that it is not in any way like the BNP or National Front.

However, the row over the Dutch MP who was turned away from the country for stirring up hatred against Moslems hasn't reflected well on the party.

His comments were inflammatory and anyone inviting him to this country to express his views was clearly associating themselves with them.

The invite came from UKIP peer Lord Pearson, whose decision was backed by his party. Their only comment on the controversy was a statement that the government had stifled free speech.

For those who see this not so much as an issue of free speech but as one of preventing a bigot coming to this country and stirring up religious hatred, UKIP's position is troubling.

Is it really a party for those who want to campaign against the EU? Or has it become an extreme right-wing party for those who see the modern Tories as a bunch of dangerous pinkos?

WHAT is it about potholes that councils find so difficult to deal with?

It's a fact of physics and meteorology that when you get cold wet weather during the winter you'll get potholes developing in roads - but still highways chiefs have difficulty in dealing with them.

And when they do deal with them, they have a nasty habit of returning again in exactly the same place the following year.

Last year I mentioned in my column that potholes had opened in the north west of Ipswich - I noticed those in Cromer Road in particular.

Within days they had been filled, and everything seemed fine - but now it turns out that whatever was used to fill them before wasn't exactly a long-term solution.

The potholes are back in exactly the same place, making journeys bumpy for motorists and potentially dangerous for cyclists.

I have no idea what is used for “running repairs” but if a temporary solution is applied, then surely that is what it should be - temporary.

Why is it still about to cause more problems a year later?