Review of the year - March 2012


Petrol pumps emptyDominic Lipinski/PA Wire

March saw crisis heaped upon crisis. We saw big high street names under extraordinary pressure, the threat of a tanker driver strike cause a run on petrol, and anyone with an interest-only mortgage suddenly struggled to sleep at night.

And on top of this George Osborne produced a Budget which was soon branded an Omnishambles.

Petrol panic buying

Panic at the petrol pumps gripped the nation at the end of the month. The threat of a petrol tanker strike in April led us to panic at the pumps, buy twice as much as usual, and create a crisis all of our own making. The Government didn't help, by suggesting we filled jerrycans, and soon there were queues round the block and empty stations all over the country.

Interest-only mortgage crisis

There was also a rising sense of panic among those with interest-only mortgages, as research revealed that one in seven people with a mortgage have an interest-only arrangement, and no idea how they will pay it off.

To add to their worries, banks continued to withdraw interest-only deals, or make the rules on who qualifies so stringent that many who currently have deals will suddenly find themselves having to switch to more expensive repayment options. RBS and NatWest stepped up the pressure this month, saying borrowers had to have a deposit of at least £50,000 to qualify for interest-only mortgage in future.

Game storeAP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

High street in crisis

Panic continued on the high street. Game, the entertainment retailer, went into administration - joining a long list of retailers who couldn't soldier on through the downturn any longer. It was later bought and over 300 stores remained open. However, it was another sign of how desperate things had become. It also emerged that the number of empty shops on the high street had hit an all-time high, with almost 15% of all shops empty - or one in seven shops on the average high street.

Ticket price alarm

There was growing concern over train ticket prices, as Sir Roy McNulty's report on rail costs raised the spectre of increasing ticket prices - particularly at certain times of day. There was also unease over suggestions of changes to staffing and booking offices at some stations, which unions were concerned would lead to staff cuts.

Pasty tax demonstrationGeoff Caddick/PA Wire

The Budget

Then we had the bad news of the Budget. The headlines from the Budget were the much-hated granny tax - otherwise known as the phasing out of the age-related allowance - which will leave millions of older people worse off. This was followed swiftly by the pasty tax - which was so unpopular that Osborne was forced to make an embarrassing U-turn. Other unpopular measures included a child benefit cut for households where one person earns £50,000 or more. It was the Budget that pleased no-one.

Card-fraud down

However, it wasn't all bad news. In among the misery was the news that card fraud losses reached a 10-year-low, as new security features and advanced technology made things harder for criminals. Sadly it meant many were turning their attention to other kinds of financial crime as a result, but a 7% fall in card crime in a year was something to celebrate.

Chicken nuggetSteve Parsons/PA Wire

Chicken nugget craziness

And finally, possibly the silliest story of the month was that a chicken nugget which supposedly resembled George Washington, sold at a charity fundraiser in Iowa for an astonishing $8,100. As we reported, this may seem strange, but is a drop in the ocean compared to the grilled cheese sandwich featuring an image of the Virgin Mary, bought at auction by for $28,000.