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A costly lesson

FSA director of financial capability Chris Pond was harping on yet again in a recent speech about the need to educate consumers in financial matters. I am sure that he is right in principle but:

1: Why does the financial services industry have to pay for this (via our levies to the FSA)? Shouldn’t this be the province of the educational system?

2: The educational system is hopeless. A glance at the following figures might illustrate why financial education is a waste of time until the basic literacy and numeracy levels of the GBP (great British public) are raised from Third World levels.

About half the workforce – 16 million adults – have the reading and writing skills of 11-year-olds. (MP Commons public accounts January 2006).
Twelve million people have literacy skills of level one and below and 16 million have numeracy skills of level one and below, which is equiv- alent to 11-year-olds.

The accounts committee reporting in 2006 said that Government schemes costing billions of pounds had done little to improve the situation. (What value all these stellar GCSE results?)

The January 2009 report reads:

  • UK workforce – about 30.4 million (ONS September 2007).
  • 23 million adults struggle with numeracy and literacy which equals 75 per cent of the workforce.
  • 17.8 million have poor literacy, 23.8 million have poor numeracy.
  • Britain ranks 14th in the global skills league table.

All this in spite of £5bn being spent on training between 2001 and 2007

It would seem that all this hand-wringing about financial education is just so much more political spin and that our hard-earned money is yet again being wasted on “jobs for the boys”, with little or no prospect of any gain for us. Isn’t it about time that this part of the FSA’s remit was finally dropped?

In fact, what consumers want and very much need is a change of Government, if not a change of country. Perhaps we should all be hoping that the Lisbon treaty gets through. Can Brussels really do a worse job?

Harry Katz
Norwest Consultants



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