Review of the Year - January 2011

VAT billPA

The pain kicked in early in January 2011, with the VAT rise from 17.5% to 20%.

George Osborne rubbed his hands at the thought of an extra £13 billion for Treasury coffers, while we have been facing the effects in every grocery bill, energy charge and inflation figure since.

arab springPA

Arab Spring

Wordwide, we were shaken by the wave of protest and revolution sweeping the world this month. The Arab Spring that had begun on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia took hold in January, spreading to Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, Mauritania, Sudan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Egypt by the end of the month. The Arab world demanded more economic and political freedom, and in many cases by the end of the spring had achieved many of their goals.


Sir Stuart Rose handed over the reigns at Marks & Spencer on 2 January, after riding the rollercoaster for 7 years, seeing off a takeover attempt, and being the first to introduce paid-for carrier bags on the high street.


Tesco reached even further into our pockets, by entering the cash-for-gold business. It pledged to bring better value to the market, offering £7.81 a gram. It certainly offered food for thought to remote competitors like Postgoldforcash, which paid £3.27 at the time.



The supermarket stepped up its price promise, offering to be 10% cheaper, or to refund the difference. It was to be the first of many initiatives during the year from the supermarkets, and kick-started a war of words where the grocery groups attempted to pick holes in the way their rivals' schemes operated.


There was outrage as the scale of Ministry of Defence bonuses emerged. We discovered that bosses received £39.7 million in the six months to October the previous year - including £84,000 for Archie Hughes, chief executive of the defence support group.


Fear was rife that interest rates were poised to shoot up, so there was a rush to fixed rate mortgages. There was a 42% rise in remortgaging as the experts warned of a risk of rises in the next few months.... The crystal ball was clearly cloudy that month.

Meanwhile, it emerged that 2.6 million Britons had taken cash out on a credit card the previous year in order to pay their mortgage, revealing just how seriously rising prices had hit households.


The markets started the year with a roar, and the FTSE reached its highest point since June 2008. Rumours of oil mergers and manufacturing output increases were behind a rally that put 163 points on the market in one day.

pension strikesPA


These kicked in early in 2011, with transport strikes cutting off London in early January. The government upped the ante on tough talking as they battled out a deal over extra pay for working through the Royal Wedding and Olympics. Meanwhile we had the early clues of the public sector pension strikes, as one teaching union started to ballot members on a potential strike.

The PPI scandal

There was finally some good news for those affected by payment protection insurance mis-selling. The saga had already run for months with the FSA ruling that the banks must review all cases. In January the banks took the FSA to court to fight the ruling. Of course with hindsight we now know this was an abject failure and the banks had to pay up and shut up.

Retirement age

Ministers confirmed that there would be an end to the default retirement age, and that between April and December 2011 rules would come into force which would make it illegal to force someone to retire at 65 purely because of their age.
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