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Forget MPs’ ‘stay of execution’: MAS must be scrapped now

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To say we are not the biggest fans of the Money Advice Service would be something of an understatement.

The idea is brilliant, the execution is lousy.

We need a national money guidance service, free at the point of use, which helps those in society without access to professional advice to better manage their finances.

There is no question of the Money Advice Service ever being in competition with IFAs; we work with a very different demographic and provide specific advice, rather than generic information.

That we pay for the organisation, rather than it being taxpayer funded, has always rankled.

We resent paying for something that does not benefit our clients. Ultimately our clients pay for this social service, to provide money education and guidance to wider society.

It was positive to see the Treasury select committee concluding the Money Advice Service is “not fit for purpose” in its latest report.

They wanted to call for it to be scrapped entirely, but are holding fire waiting for an ongoing investigation into its future by the Treasury itself.

This is organisation that excels at wasting other people’s money.

They blew £20m on communications and marketing in 2012-13, including one of the most annoying TV advertising campaigns known to humankind.

They also paid their former chief executive an “excessive” amount, which (according to the MPs) undermined “the credibility of the organisation”.

The Money Advice Service has to go.

The valuable bits of what it does (or should be doing) could be covered by Citizens Advice, and perhaps the Personal Finance Education Group.

There would still be some debate over whether this should be taxpayer funded, rather than paid for by the customers of retail financial services companies, but I for one would much prefer to see some of our profits diverted to efficiently and prudently run organisations with a successful track record.

Here is hoping that the Treasury reaches the same conclusion, and quickly.

Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice

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Comments

There are 9 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. E L Wisty (an only twin) 3rd December 2013 at 10:41 am

    Well said!

    Can you imagine the rumpus if the Government had created “LAS”, the Legal Advice Service, and required solicitors to pay for it.

    This has been little more than a glorified ego trip, which we have had to fund.

    It should be scrapped now!

  2. Ah, that ad campaign. That creepy little girl possessed by the evil spirit of MA will surely go down in history as one of the most offensively bad government advertising campaigns. It will take its place alongside the Inland Revenue’s “Go oahn, go oahn” and the No Pressure “Reduce emissions or we’ll blow up your children”.

    Whoever filmed it may not be much cop at ads, but they have a future in psychological horror movies.

  3. While one cannot disagree with what Martin has said, one really does wonder why he is afforded his own section when there is a general section in which some quite salient points have been made. Why not a slot for Julian Stevens for example?

    This is by no means the first occasion on which Martin shadows the main story – why is this. I have nothing against Martin at all (who often makes valid and interesting points) but cannot understand this editorial duplication. Why not just comment within the main piece?

  4. As a company which provides free debt advice we have been amazed at the poor quality of service and levels of advice dispensed by MAS. The television advertising campaign as diabolical !

  5. Of course the valuable bits of what the MAS does could be (and possibly still are) covered by the Citizens Advice [Bureau], but what this suggestion overlooks is that the MAS was set up specifically to supplant what much of the CAB does. The MAS brings very little to the table that’s new, it’s just been dressed up as so doing in an attempt to disguise the fact that its creation was designed to privatise the funding of many of the services funded hitherto from the public purse. This is confirmed by the fact that representatives of the CAB have for a long time been complaining about a creeping starvation of funding from central and local government ~ hardly a coincidence methinks. Worse still, the MAS doesn’t seem to have a very good job of its brief. All it’s done is spend bucketloads of OPM (ours) with very little in the way of concrete results to show for it. Lots of shiny statistics about how many people it’s “helped”, but has any of this “help” actually made any tangible difference? The principal beneficiaries appear mainly to be those who work for the MAS.

  6. @ Martin – One word….. agreed.

  7. If the MAS £80m a year budget is reallocated I wouldn’t advice a knee jerk decision about it’s reallocation. CAB works on the frontline and needs more support – but so do other financial educators like MyBnk, The Money Charity and IFS University College.

    £80m could arm 3m young people with money skills through face-to-face workshops.

    If you judge the effectiveness of MAS, you have to judge the effectiveness of what’s replacing it.

  8. After posting, fairly negatively, about MAS a month ago I received an email from MAS’ switched on PR manager Nancy Baynes who helpfully advised that,

    “£30m funding for debt advice is only paid by FCA fee blocks A1 and A2 and not by financial advisers (who mainly sit in FCA fee blocks A12 and A13) and of that £23m goes direct to Citizens’ Advice.”

    I totally agree that MAS should be closed down as it not fit for purpose and in truth I am not entirely sure its purpose has ever been properly defined – especially as CAB is taking 40% of its budget.

  9. @Simon – perhaps your kind MAS contact would clarify whether CAB used to be 100% funded by taxation? If it was, then collecting through the FCA and passing to MAs before passing on to CAB may be illegal under E rules as it is surely taxation in another name but a tax o the businesses involved which in due course is passed on to the consumer by higher FS business fees.
    The disgusting thing is that the QUANGOCRATS ae paid salaries higher than both the private sector and the public sector for NO risk to themselves.
    For someone who believes in the rule of LAW (like me), Anarchy is increasingly looking attractive and a more HONEST option 🙂

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