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Page last updated at 18:16 GMT, Friday, 15 October 2010 19:16 UK

Equitable Life compensation plan

Honor Blackman campaigns
BBC Radio 4's Money Box
Saturday, 16 October 2010 at 1204 BST on Radio 4 and Online

The Government seems to have made a decision about compensation following the collapse of the insurance company Equitable Life 10 years ago.

The BBC believes that a figure of £1.5bn, reported in today's press, is correct.

That is less than a third of the compensation implied by the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report of 2008.

But it is three times the amount proposed by the independent advisor Sir John Chadwick earlier this year.

Campaigners, including actress Honor Blackman, have fought over the years to secure the best compensation possible.

We talk to Paul Braithwaite of the Equitable Members Action Group.

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Tax-free pensions savings cut

The Government has slashed the amount of money that people can save into a pension tax free. From next April the annual allowance for pension saving will be cut from £255,000 to £50,000.

The Treasury estimates that the change will affect 100,000 people saving for retirement - 80% of which earn more than £100,000 a year. The Government hopes that by restricting tax relief for top earners it can save £4bn a year.

Another major change to come in will be a reduction in the lifetime contribution tax free allowance from £1.8m to £1.5m.

The programme hears from Mike Warburton tax director at the chartered accountants, Grant Thornton. And from Tom McPhail, Head of Pensions Research at Hargreaves Lansdown.

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The cull of the Quangos

It was announced this week that 192 quangos will be axed while another 118 will be merged.

As Moneybox exclusively revealed last weekend, Consumer Focus is to be scrapped with its responsibilities transferred to the Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB).

A consultation is due to start about this change in the new year. The CAB is also going to take over the government supported Consumer Direct helpline.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) will lose all its role in protecting consumers - that job will pass to local trading standards offices instead. What's left of the OFT will be merged with the Competition Commission.

Money Box talks to Professor Catherine Waddams, Director of the Economic and Social Research Council Centre for Competition Policy at the University of East Anglia.

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Payday loans

More and more people are turning to pay day loans - borrowing small amounts to tide them over to payday. The number of these loans has quadrupled in the last four years.

The APRs are terrifying - thousands of percent and they can reach millions if you only borrow the money for a week.

The Centre for Responsible Credit is launching a campaign for tighter regulation. It says too many people are taking out payday loans that they cannot afford - and it wants stricter controls on the industry like they have in the USA and Canada where these loans originated.

We speak to Damon Gibbons from the Centre for Responsible Credit and Ray Watson, Director of the Consumer Credit Group at the Office of Fair Trading.

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STA travel cards problems

Money Box has been hearing complaints about a pre-paid card being heavily marketed to students and young people looking to travel abroad.

These sort of cards are not directly connected to a bank account so are supposed to reduce the risk of fraud and users can't run up debts on them.

But some holders say the STA Travel Mastercard can be slow to load money onto and when things go wrong can leave customers struggling to access their cash. Bob Howard reports:

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ISA allowance and tax letters

The Government has announced this morning that from 1 April 2011 you can put an extra £480 a year into a tax-free ISA taking the total up to £10,680. Half of that £5,340 - can go into a cash ISA, a rise of £240 on this year's limit.

And if you have got one of those dreaded letters from the taxman saying you owe tax there is new guidance on the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group website on what to do. Do not pay any tax demand before reading this advice.

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BBC Radio 4's Money Box: Saturday 16 October at 1204 BST and Sunday 17 October at 2102 BST.



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