John Bird: My first private member’s bill will make borrowing fairer

Millions of renters across the country face higher rates for credit than those with a mortgage, no matter how punctual their payments. It's time this inequality was stamped out.

Early morning is my bright idea time; very early. It always has been. Often I would walk the streets through the night and compose songs which by morning, as I got to a Victoria station early cafe, or Edinburgh Waverley, or even Gare St-Lazare, I would have realised that they were not heading for the Hit Parade. And that all the money I was going to spend once I had sold a million of If You Ever Want Fame & Fortune, or whatever other ditty I was making up, was not happening.

This habit had started the year that Buddy Holly’s plane had crashed and killed him and other artists. I was 13 and desperate to get my hands on some money so that we did not have to starve a few days of the week and my mum and dad could have a seaside holiday. Everything Is Gonna Be Alright though also did not see the light of day, and did not make the money necessary to lift the Bird family out of penury.

A vast collection of genuine silver cutlery taken from a bomb-damaged house turned out to be silver-plated and the 10 shillings me and my mates got meant two shillings each. I could not even seem to steal successfully.

People with low scores, and less wealth, are excluded and effectively treated as second-class citizens

Instant wealth never left my mind. But I couldn’t be arsed to actually put the effort in to get it. I was incapable of doing a Michael Caine or Sean Connery, or a John, Paul, George and Ringo and lift myself out of straitened circumstances by hard application. By burning the candle at both ends. The above strivers did strive, and I was not in their bracket. Because I had not discovered what I wanted to do in the world. And I obviously did not want money so much that I would sweat blood for it.

What is so interesting is that the above mentioned, and people like Alan Sugar, put enormous efforts into ‘getting on’. Into honing their abilities to make something that would lead to money. And I seemed unable to do such a thing.

But I still got up pre-dawn, and still do, to come up with ideas. But now instead of composing songs that will make me rich, or invent things that will do likewise, I get up and think, “How can I save the world from itself?” “How can I dismantle poverty?” “How can I drive a coach and horse through governmental ineptitude in dealing with people in need?”.

Thank God I’ve moved on from those dreadful songs with the big pay-off imagined. But am I not kidding myself imagining that I can in some way magic out of the air, out of the early-morning air, some graspable and do-able thing that will bring us nearer to heaven on earth?

Last week, I introduced my first private member’s bill into the House of Lords. A bill about creditworthiness. It aims to change the anomaly that you could be a rent payer and a council tax payer for donkey’s years, but that may as well count for nothing in the eyes of a lender. A level playing field does not exist in credit. Far from it. Firms lend renters money at a higher rate. People with low scores, and less wealth, are excluded and effectively treated as second-class citizens.

This is grown-up thinking. Already Big Issue Invest has helped a million and a half people paying rent and council tax into raising their credit rating

I am pleased to say though that this bill did not appear in my early-morning mind. This bill is firmly based on the work done by a Big Issue business called Big Issue Invest. Which if you don’t know takes money from investors and invests it into businesses with a social purpose. It’s a form of social brokering.

This is grown-up thinking. Already Big Issue Invest has helped a million and a half people paying rent and council tax into raising their credit rating. Meaning that they don’t have to borrow at the high rates offered to the people in most need.

Unfortunately more and more people will be housed in the rented sector, so that without helping people to get credit at a better rate, the renter is left to stew.

I’ll keep you informed how this bill progresses, but it really is a good bit of Big Issue thinking. And a development of helping to dismantle poverty and not simply preserve people in it. It may look like a small step but in some ways it’s more of a giant step. Because it is about finding methods to change finance for millions more people who may find themselves operating in the uneven world of borrowing.

In the meanwhile I still come up with schemes. And early-morning thinking. My latest to solve the housing crisis by upping the game on creating prefabricated housing. Houses that can be put up in one day, as is beginning to happen. Put houses up quickly and move them if necessary later. But also to actually put housing on a state of emergency plane, and not just leave it to local authorities to totter along, and never catch up in a month of Sundays.

I’d like to think that I’m getting my feet more firmly on the ground the further I get away from my earlier pop song career that never quite took off.

But then there is the million tea towels I want to sell by year’s end to help charities that use gardening to get people into health and wellbeing.

Watch this space.