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This week in Mortgages

The Council of Mortgage Lenders was at the centre of proceedings this week after its attack on Home Information Packs.

Its comments that they will not work in their current format are nothing new but the fact they have come from the CML is interesting as the trade body has previously held a relatively neutral view on Hips when questioned in the past.

What the blast at the Government does is to apply further pressure on Westminster to rethink its strategy in the face of a barrage of cynicism from everyone other that the Association of Home Information Pack Providers, it seems, who think Hips simply will not add any value following the shock decision in July to make home condition reports voluntary.

While the CML and Government were at loggerheads on that issue, there was also a slagging match going on regarding the trade body’s first-time buyer stats.

The Treasury took the unusual step of publicly reprimanding the CML over what it describes as the ‘questionable’ methodology used to define a FTB by stating it does not even recognise its stats because around a fifth of those classed as FTBs are not actually FTBs.

Again, this is a discussion that has already been had but the ferocity of the Treasury’s response stands out, though rather than making noises that it may try to improve its data collection, the CML instead chose to fight back against the Treasury in a war of words.

Some will no doubt question the motive behind the attack from Government as it could be argued that its response was designed to deflect attention from the low stamp duty threshold that is harming FTBs – an issue the CML was trying to address.

Away from the cat fighting and Cheltenham & Gloucester has made its long-awaited move into the non-conforming sector although it is more a case of dipping its toes into the water rather than diving in head first as it only plans to move into the near-prime spheres.

Its rationale is that it does not want to miss out on business from a customer who only has a couple of missed credit card payments, for example, who is not particularly high risk. And with its reputation as a conservative bastion of the high street, it is probably no surprise it is not getting involved in the deeper adverse end.

Finally, and HBOS signalled its intention this week to pump millions of pounds into its intermediary distribution arm to help keep itself at the top of the lending tree. But it also has had to withstand a growing barrage of criticism over its retention policies from rivals.

There are no neutrals on this issue as everyone in the market has a vested interest one way or another on retention, but only the FSA can decide whether such schemes break TCF principles and there has been little from Canary Wharf recently to suggest they are a problem.


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