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Barrage of criticism over plan details

The Financial Services Consumer Panel and the Financial Services Practitioner Panel have hit out at the Money Advice Service’s business plan, claiming it lacks detail and has ambitious targets and unclear accountability measures.

MAS published its 2012/13 business plan in March. It says 19 million people could use a money advice service “such as ours”. The service intends to serve 1.9 million people this year, 9.4 million in 2014/15 and 11.3 million in 2016/17.

Giving evidence at the Treasury select sub-committee’s inquiry into the MAS last week, FSCP chair Adam Philips told MPs he questioned the “ambitious nature of the targets” before the plan was submitted to the FSA. He said while some of the panel’s questions were addressed, he remains unhappy with the final plan.

Philips said: “The plan makes some fairly sweeping generalisations which are not well supported. There is not sufficient detail.”

Conservative Party deputy chairman Michael Fallon said he is “surprised” the report sets out MAS’s spending plans by dividing its total budget into just 10 areas, including £16m to be spent on staffing and operational issues.

MAS chief executive Tony Hoban will face questions over his £350,000 salary.

FSPP chair Joe Garner said: “We expressed concerns at various stages that it does not cover all the questions we would have liked it to and requested more clarity on what are the specific objectives, how we will measure progress, accountability and how the money itself will be spent. The MAS should consult more widely on its business plan to ensure what it is offering is in addition to, and not competing with, existing services.”

Comments from the Treasury select committee’s inquiry into the MAS:

Treasury select sub-committee chair and Labour MP George Mudie: “It seems to be that the MAS is scrambling around to find a role at a very sensitive time.”

Conservative sub-committee member and Conservative MP Mark Garnier: “It is an organisation that has lost its direction. No one knows what the point of it is.”

Financial Services Consumer Panel chair Adam Philips: “We felt the draft plan was not clear enough, the targets were too ambitious and the evaluation it put in place was over-simplistic.”

Advice UK national money advice co-ordinator David Hawkes: “There has been a lot of talk about constructive engagement with stakeholders. We are not convinced that has been borne out in practice until recently. We could get much more effective outcomes if we work more closely.”

Association of British Insurers director general Otto Thoresen: “Engagement was non-existent for a long time but the MAS is engaging now and I am sure this inquiry is a part of that.”

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