/ Money

Our verdict on the Chancellor’s 2015 Budget

George Osborne delivered his sixth Budget today, which included new measures on savings and annuities, plans for superfast broadband in rural areas and a win for our Sneaky Fees and Charges campaign…

Following calls from more than 45,000 of our supporters, at the end of last year George Osborne used his Autumn Statement to announce that the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) would work with us at Which? to come up with practical solutions to end mortgage confusion for consumers.

And, as referenced in today’s Budget, we have jointly published an interim report with proposals to simplify the wide range of complicated fees and charges in the market. From lenders sharing common terms for fees, to better explanations of whether fees are compulsory – the proposals will help stop people from paying over the odds for their loan.

We will publish our firm conclusions in July, and the Government expects the majority of the industry to have made the necessary changes by the end of the year.

We look forward to all mortgage providers making these changes so that people can get the best deals more easily. CML director general Paul Smee comments:

‘This collaboration with Which? has helped lenders focus on practical and simple ways to help customers by making information more transparent and consistent. We hope customers themselves will find it easier and less daunting to make informed choices about their mortgages as a result.’

New measures on savings and annuities

The Budget has brought good news for struggling savers and pensioners who have been let down in the past.

The tax break and new flexibility on savings will prove popular with the millions who have got a raw deal on their savings in recent years. But there are still many savers whose money is languishing in extremely poor paying accounts so the financial industry must now play fair and help people get a better return.

People who feel trapped by a poor value annuity will welcome the chance to take advantage of the new pension freedoms. But as pensioners have been failed miserably before, in the past so the Government must keep a firm grip to ensure people aren’t ripped off again.

We want to see strong regulation of sales practices and for anyone considering selling an annuity to have access to guidance through Pension Wise, especially given the high tax bill they could face. The Government should also consider whether consumers should have to take regulated advice, and whether using an existing savings and investment provider, like NS&I, could deliver security for people uncertain about the wider market.

Ultrafast broadband in rural areas

Faster broadband speeds in remote areas is welcome news for consumers, but millions of people are continuing to pay for advertised speeds that they may never get.

Action needs to be taken by the advertising watchdogs to pull the plug on confusing adverts and ensure broadband providers show the speeds the majority of customers will actually get.

Protecting vulnerable people from nuisance calls

It’s also good news that the Government plans to invest £3.5m to protect vulnerable consumers from nuisance calls. We fully support plans to give vulnerable people call blocking technology and a Government-backed campaign to raise awareness of how to reduce and report nuisance calls.

But it shouldn’t all be up to consumers – we also need to see regulators punish firms that break the rules and senior executives held to account if their company makes unlawful nuisance calls.

You can read a summary of the Budget 2015 highlights here. What’s your verdict on the Budget?

Jon Fisk says:
18 March 2015

Nuisance calls are at the peak when you have been in overdraft or credit card debt but have paid it off. They say they can help but all they really want is to get more money ot of you. CRIMINALS!

The present administration has overseen a substantial recovery in our economy, that 5 years ago looked to be dire. The mistake would be to start living off borrowing again. The better we make the private sector the more tax will be taken that can be used in future to fund a necessary, but properly-sized, public sector. So whilst the budget gave little away, because there is little to give, it at least should keep the recovery progressing. The big mistake would be to bribe voters with big giveaways from money we don’t have, simply to stay in power or to gain it.

I support the small concessions given to older people – they have much less opportunity to improve their circumstances than the working population.

A welcome announcement is the measures to avoid large multinational companies moving money abroad to avoid UK taxes. Better late than never.

I welcome the slow economic recovery but who wiIl benefit from the £1000 pa tax free interest on savings when interest rates are at such a pittance and the benefits of a stronger economy will not help public services very much since under the present regime most public services are progressively being privatised favouring wealthy shareholders, which is indicative of Tory policy.

Beryl, I think a lot of people who have prudently made savings provision for emergencies and other needs have small incomes, above the tax threshold but not comparable with a normal wage, that render them liable for tax on their savings. The low interest rates you mention, while helping the economy at large, have destroyed the value of many people’s savings these last few years and it’s time they saw some improvement. The low yields have been bad enough – the tax on the returns has added insult to injury. I think this measure is a good one and might reduce some of the claims on the state.

John, This move is indeed bad news for savers because George Osborne evidently is banking on interest rates remaining low for at least the foreseeable future. I would wager that he would not have taken this action if interest rates were higher or if they were likely to rise. Obviously this was a clever pro election move on his part to dupe people into believing he was giving away more than is feasibly realistic.

4% on NS&I’s 3-Year Guaranteed Growth Bonds [for people 65+] isn’t too bad – beats inflation, and now no tax to pay on interest upto £1,000. I don’t have any myself but they look appealing and even more attractive after the budget.

John says:
19 March 2015

I am all for vulnerable people being protected from nuisance telephone calls, but I have grave doubts that the technology exists to achieve it. Despite caller ID and TPS registration we still receive telemarketing calls (from abroad as far as one can judge) that do not even register on our system as having called us. BT declined to discuss whether their latest phones can block this type of call, which kind of gives the impression that they cannot.

There needs to be a simple way that ‘vulnerable consumers’ [isn’t that all of us?] can divert a nuisance call, at the press of a button, direct to an enforcement agency without the line going dead. All calls have an identification code, even those coming in from abroad, and the enforcement agency could then block that code. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office could earn its keep by tackling those countries that score highly on the blocked codes list.

“up to” means what it says. Why do we pretend not to understand it? If you want a good estimate of what you will get from a potential provider, ask them first, giving your phone number. I live in the sticks and would like a faster speed than my current one delivered through copper. Would I pay for fibre? Doubt it – mine is adequate.

No it does not. How would you like to be told that your pension would be up to xxx and only receive a fraction of the amount.

Ofcom asked ISPs to give prospective customers a realistic estimate of what speed they could expect to receive. My ISP has done this but others continue to use the term ‘up to’.

I don’t know how this got here – nothing to do with George. See the rural broadband conversation!

Other forums have edit facilities so that users can edit their blunders. 🙁

wavechange, this is mistakenly in the wrong conversation. But I do know what “up to” means.

It would fit in well with the Conversation ‘Can consumers trust business?’, as evidence that ISPs are not trustworthy.

Might be a case of thinking what we’d like the words to mean, not what they actually say. “Up to” is pretty clear to me. Nor does “trustworthy” come into this – certainly not with my with my provider – I asked what I would get and they told me.

Many of us reject the use of ‘up to’ in the context of broadband speeds. Ofcom does not approve of it and the problem was the subject of Patrick’s very first Conversation.

The fees that most hack me off at present are for home or car insurance where companies even think about making charges for renewing a policy and the high fees for making what maybe minor but significant changes during the life of a policy. It surely only takes a few strokes on the keyboard, to alter their records not as if new docs. have to be produced. Don’t get me started on Cancellation fees, Whats the need

With the Budget tomorrow, we’ve urged the Government to explain how the £3.5m put aside to protect vulnerable people from nuisance calls is going to be spent. Our exec director Richard Lloyd said:

“One year on and the Government now needs to explain exactly how the money has been spent and when the long overdue awareness campaign will begin.”

The Government has responded with: “Tackling nuisance calls is a significant concern and remains a priority. We’ve already made it easier for the regulator to issue heavy fines when companies break the rules, and plan to force marketing companies to display their caller ID.

“We’ll shortly be offering free call blocking devices to those most at risk as well as trialling innovative technology to help combat the problem.”


Summary executions for perpetrators would be a promising start…