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Duffy on mortgages

FSA regulation introduced a new participant to the mortgage world – the whistleblower. This, I like. Having seen some multiparty electioneering starting to manifest itself, it is time to expose some gross derelictions of duty. I am talking about the Government’s performance on mortgages and associated issues.

Since sweeping to power in 1997 to the soundtrack of Things Can Only Get Better, the lot of a mortgage broker or an IFA patently has not got better. The Government’s record on enhancing life for pensioners, homeowners and first-time buyers is no better than what has been achieved with the NHS and our creaking transport system.

We have had initiative after initiative in the name of consumer championism and while some of these were underpinned by laudable socialist principles, it is their implementation and paucity of consultation which really provokes me to vent my spleen.

Take 60 seconds to think hard on what you believe have been constructive and practical programs introduced by New Labour over this period. I bet you are struggling to name more than two. Even mortgage regulation is starting to be seen as the mortgage world’s equivalent of the Millennium Dome – the punter is either unaware of it or just plain uninterested.

If the Government were a premiership team, it would be facing relegation faster than West Brom or Norwich. As Delia Smith said: “Where are you? Come on, let’s be ‘avin you.” But in an election where its record on personal finance is but a footnote in comparison with Iraq and immigration issues, we,as a profession, have simply become shrill voices in the wilderness.

Let us examine some of New Labour’s programmes. Stakeholder – fine in principle but too uncommercial to have any longevity; Turner – too much focus on the problem and not enough on realistic solutions; the Miles report – you can’t turn an oil tanker around in a bath tub; the Barker report – too little too late ( it will be interesting to see how many frustrated FTBers vote Labour this time round).

This litany of flawed proposals is compounded by a fiscal policy which has seen no fair-minded or meaningful adjustments to stamp duty, inheritance tax or capital gains tax over the elected period and an approach to means-tested pension benefits which, like the abolition of tax credits on dividends, has amounted to the greatest stealth tax robbery of all time.

I am left with one overwhelming thought. You readers share many characteristics. One is that many of you depend for your livelihood on your competency to protect and enhance your client’s mortgage and retirement positions and ill-conceived or poorly implemented policy can cost you a lot more than your job.

There is too little accountability for our Government or, as I prefer to call the Cabinet, the directors of UK Wealth Management plc. These “directors” hold the highest office in the financial services world, yet the majority of them have never had to face their clients (electorate) across a meeting room table to explain feckless investment or mortgage selection or been self-employed in any way and run a business.

The Conservatives and the LibDems have pledged to cut us some slack but who is to say their own commercial greenhorns would do any better?

Kevin Duffy is managing director of Hamptons International Mortgages

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