City Diary: Financial Ombudsman’s PPI jobs offer 50 hair shirts for Barclays

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Here's a chance for Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) staff “let go” for mis-selling payment protection insurance (PPI) to make amends.

The Financial Ombudsman service is so overwhelmed by PPI cases it continues to receive an “unprecedented” 8,000 to 10,000 complaints a week that it is looking to hire 50 ombudsmen this year.

Might ex-Barclays bankers who are, as the job advert puts it, “ready to look beyond where you are now” think about throwing their hats in the ring? Granted, the salary of a dispute-solver is less than that of a banker £58,807, “plus excellent benefits”.

But since the ombudsman’s funding arrangements ensure that “the businesses responsible for generating the biggest workload contribute the most to sorting it out”, then Barclays the biggest PPI complaint generator in the most recent records would still (effectively) be underwriting the new hires’ salaries.

Home from home, in other words.

The war of words over the proposed mansion tax continues. After Business Secretary Vince Cable waded in to welcome Labour leader Ed Miliband’s plans for the levy on £2m-plus homes, one property mole gets in touch to say that the tax would be “the death knell of the residential market in London”.

But not for the reason you might think. A couple of million pounds “sounds a lot”, says Trevor Abrahmson, of Glentree International. “But in London you would be fortunate to buy a mediocre three-bedroom house.” “This price range is not the preserve of multi-millionaires,” adds the broker for WPP (LSE: WPP.L - news) boss Sir Martin Sorrell. “The poor widow living in an unmodernised house that creeps into this price band will be knocked for six by this mansion tax.”

= Oil rumble in the jungle =

Who will win the fight between Ecuador’s biggest oil company and the British businesswoman, Mari Muench?

Muench is the one-time manager of a Greenwich go-kart track, who moved to Ecuador five years ago after an injury sustained by slipping on a nightclub floor. She went on to marry a shaman from the country’s Kichwa tribe, and the pair are now leading the global campaign to stop Petroamazonas prospecting on 172 acres of Amazonian rainforest.

After assessing each side’s firepower, Diary has decided that this one’s too close to call. Petroamazonas has an offer of £386,500 for the rights to the land up its sleeve; Muench’s husband, Patricio Jipa, can perform “traditional healing ceremonies using shamanic energies”.

Watch this space.

A postcard from Sir Philip Green from Los Angeles, where the retail tycoon has been opening Topshop’s latest emporium. The Arcadia Group chief cut the ribbon on the 26,000 sq ft store last Thursday and sales are apparently already flying. “It’s early days, but we are already trading well above our targets,” Sir Philip told Diary, as reports emerge that Topshop and Topman’s new private equity stakeholder, Leonard Green & Partners (Frankfurt: A0JJY6 - news) , proposes to open up to 50 further Topshop stores across the US. “That’s the plan,” confirmed the businessman, who has said that taking Topshop to America’s west coast was a “no-brainer”. Next (Other OTC: NXGPF - news) stop San Francisco?

harriet.dennys@telegraph.co.uk