I'M the first to confess I'm no businessman but somewhat bizarrely I do have a degree in business.

Back in the dim and distant past, one of the modules I studied was something to do with customer relationship management – how you attract customers in the first place and having got them, how you keep them.

I may not remember much from my time at university but I do know that if you don't have customers, you don't have a business.

I mention this because at the weekend, I was doing a little bit of personal finance admin, sparked by reminders from our car insurers Direct Line and British Gas which provides our boiler and central heating maintenance cover. (I say provides but it should be in the past tense as we have kicked British Gas into touch.) Both companies would perhaps benefit from going on a customer relationship management course.

Let's start with Direct Line. The good thing is insurance companies can no longer just auto-renew premiums so in a way, that forces you, the customer, to at least think about what your are being charged.

At first glance, our motor renewal price looked fine. It was only £3 or £4 more than last year. We were all set to sign up for it when completely by chance, I got a marketing email from Churchill insurance (oh yes I did).

Now I happen to know that Churchill and Direct Line are part of the same group and after putting in all my details, Churchill's quote was £40 less than my renewal quote.

So I tried putting in my details with Direct Line and that came back around £35 cheaper.

So let's get this right, the same insurance company offering the same level of cover was willing to charge more to a customer of seven years than to a Johnny-come-lately signing up for the first time.

Didn't seem right to me – not much managing of my customer relationship going on there.

There is a happy-ish ending to this tale though. A quick 'Money Saving Expert'-style phone call to Direct Line and as if by magic, my premium was dropped down to new customer level.

Not such a happy ending with British Gas and its Home Care cover with my renewal letter blithely telling me the company was putting up the premium going up a whopping, eye-watering £70.

When I called to complain, I was told the minimum time I would be on hold before I could speak to the 'right department' was almost 40 minutes or they would call me back 'some time in the next 72 hours'.

And to add insult to injury, the 'new customer' price for a better level of cover was £140 less than it wanted to charge me.

In reality, British Gas left me with no option. No one likes to feel they are being taken for a mug and as a result of its complete lack of empathy and customer care, I'm taking my business elsewhere.

As I was told all those years ago in my college lecture room – no customers means no business.

  • I had hoped I could get away without pointing out the shortcomings of the ruling Labour group in Warrington.

But oh no, they're at it again.

Local Democracy Reporter Aran Dhillon has written a fine piece about the inequality gaps and life expectancies between the more well-heeled wards in the town and those identified as suffering from social deprivation.

Labour’s Cllr Tony Higgins, executive board member for leisure and community, hit back at criticism that the Labour administration hasn't done enough to tackle the problem and said: “The setting up of a new central neighbourhood renewal area board, which is tasked to develop and deliver better wellbeing outcomes, is one of my prime objectives as lead member."

Wow. That's OK then. Answers on a postcard to The Fly in the Ointment if you actually understand what that means.

He went on to say: "The commitment to develop a wellbeing hub in Bewsey and Dallam will also help to reduce the area’s deprivation scores.”

I wonder if Cllr Higgins would care to define the word 'commitment'. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Bewsey and Dallam Hub took place in March 2016 and it still doesn't look any nearer to being built.

Doesn't seem like much of a commitment to me.