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Consumer groups call for free advice

Tony Blair has confirmed the next general election will be held on June 7. Parliament will be dissolved on Monday Both main parties put increasing emphasis on public/private solutions for financial services. The Conservatives are giving long-term care a high profile following announce-ments last week and a plan to abolish tax on savings for low and moderate earners. The Tories are also promising reform of compulsory annuity purchase at 75.

Labour will focus on the future needs of the young, with proposals for a trust fund for all children. The LibDems promise a simplified state pension with a compulsory private component.

Major consumer bodies want a free financial advice ser-vice possibly backed with state funding.

In responses to the Treasury paper, Standards for Retail Financial Products, the Financial Services Consumer Panel and the Consumers&#39 Association stress the need for a basic advice service for lower-income consumers.

The panel says: “The Government must have a strategy for making advice more widely available, properly supported and funded.”

The CA believes IFAs provide the best-quality financial advice but the price is too high for many consumers and it suggests a new type of FSA-approved financial adviser to offer a basic level of advice.

Virgin Direct thinks computer-based decision-tree-walking is the answer and a new type of salaried adviser, not FPC-qualified, could use this to give free advice to people buying simple products.

Financial Services Consumer Panel chairman Colin Brown says: “People should be able to get an amount of free accredited financial advice as a starting point.”

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