Express & Star

Mark Andrews: Argentina's colourful leader and why it's time to make a stand against bank closures

The number of animals being abandoned in the West Midlands has risen by 53 per cent over the past three years, according to the RSPCA.

The number of abandoned pets has risen by 53 per cent

I'm surprised it's that low, given what was going on three years ago. I'll wager that a pretty hefty chunk of these animals will be from people who were bored during lockdown, and decided to get a pet while on furlough or working from home.

Now these people find themselves weighed down with the responsibility of looking after an animal while having to go out to work. So they take the coward's way out by dumping them, and it is the poor animals that suffer for human's short-sighted impulsiveness.

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Congratulations to Javier Milei on his victory in the Argentinian presidential election. According to reports, Mr Milei has five genetically cloned 16-stone dogs which are named after economists, and that he consults them when deciding on policy. Which might explain why his manifesto contained a pledge to legalise the human-organ trade and shut down his country's central bank. He also brags about tantric sex in political interviews and stages rallies dressed in a superhero outfit, waving a chainsaw to demonstrate how he is going to pulverise the institutions of government.

He also wants to take control of the Falkland Islands. I bet they can't wait.

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By the time you read this, I will hopefully have begun the process of closing my two accounts with a well-known high street bank, which has just announced the closure of my local branch. And kindly told me it would transfer my account to an out-of-town shopping centre that I would never dream of frequenting.

Actually, the branch closure is merely the straw that broke the camel's back. The opening hours had already been cut to the point where it was practically closed anyway, and when it was open I had to endure lengthy queues staring at Soviet-style posters hectoring me about the joys of inclusivity. But most of all, it was the fact that when I did eventually get to meet one of the polo-shirted staff members, the first thing they did was tell me to 'use the app'.

Now, after years of trying to pressure people to use their phones rather than their branches, the bank claims a high-street presence is redundant because people prefer mobile banking. Yeah, right.

I don't suppose the bank will miss my patronage. I imagine I am just one of those 'legacy customers' who will have been accounted for when they crunch the numbers.

But I wonder how many polo-shirted bank workers will have talked themselves out of their jobs by persuading punters to 'use the app'.

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By the way, my bank is the one that used to run those rather tedious commercials berating its rivals for turning their branches into 'trendy wine bars'.

Fat chance of that in the present climate. More like boarded-up eyesores or bedsit conversions.

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Conspicuous by its absence in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement was any kind of strategy to bring shops back into our ailing town centres.

Well here's one idea. How about scrapping business rates on shops, and replacing them with a purchase tax, like we had before we joined the Common Market. That would mean traders operating out of out-of-town warehouses would be taxed at exactly the same rate as city centre department stores, levelling the playing field.