Why the Money Advice Service or its replacements will never be impartial
Many of you may have heard me on the radio this week as I was interviewed by 10 different radio stations, one after the other, which have a combined reach of over 2.5 million listeners. Each station was seeking my view on a piece of research that found a third of Brits predict that the value of their assets will drop when we exit the the European Union. Many also feel that their job prospects will diminish.
In reality the Brexit angle to the research wasn't the most important thing to takeaway from the story. It was the fact that the research echoed the trend that we all become more nervous about things when there is economic uncertainty. In one of the radio interviews I was joined by a spokesperson from the Money Advice Service (MAS). According to the Money Advice Service website it offers 'free and impartial money advice, set up by Government'. Its independence is supposed to be further underlined by the fact that it isn't funded by the Government but via a levy on financial services firms. This led to an annual budget of around £60million for them to spend to achieve their objectives. Part of the MAS's statutory objectives is' to enhance consumers' ability to manage their own financial affairs'.
I know the MAS spokesperson outside of his day job as he runs his own money blog. He's a great guy and helping people with their finances is also a passion of his. However, the MAS almost pulled the plug on the interview at the last minute because they claimed they could not talk about or answer questions that relate to Brexit as it could be seen as criticising the Government!
Eventually the interview went ahead on the proviso that I answered any questions relating to Brexit, which was fine by me. But how can the MAS claim to be independent if it won't answer questions for fear of upsetting the Government, even though they weren't in anyway criticising Downing Street? How can MAS claim to be enhancing consumers' ability to manage their own financial affairs when they won't tell them how to in relation to Brexit, the biggest political event in a generation?
In March this year the Treasury announced that the MAS would be replaced by a smaller advice service. Yet the interview fiasco is proof that any financial advice or guidance which is set up by Government is never truly independent or what consumers want/need. That's why it's left to people like me who are independent and not gagged by politicians or corporate bosses to speak up and help people. If there is a silver lining to all this it's that it further underlines why I was right to quit my day job a few years back to expose MoneytotheMasses.com to a wider audience.
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