Julian Knight: Who to blame for the cuts? Look in the mirror
Sunday 03 October 2010
'It's all the banks' fault." This is a familiar refrain trotted out by politicians, journalists and many men or women in the street.
It was in repeated use this week with the news of the true cost to the Irish people of bailing out Anglo Irish Bank. Perhaps as much as a decade of austerity lies ahead for the Irish as they desperately try to get their budget to balance, and even that may not be enough. I have long thought that the Irish government deserves a lot of credit for having faced up to its problems earlier than most (whereas the Portuguese and the Spanish and Ed Balls in the Labour Party are still deficit deniers). History will be kind to the present Irish government, although not to the electorate.
But what about these folk narratives, this lazy journalese and easy political point scoring, that it's "all the bank's fault"? First, thanks to having the economies of scale that 60 million people bring, we won't suffer anywhere near as much as the Irish, but let's get something straight. The reason Ireland and Britain are in such a dire mess is because vast numbers of us chose to take on debts and mortgages that left us badly exposed in a recession.
OK, lenders sent us "pre-approved" loans, and credit cards made it ridiculously easy to borrow to buy property. Banks gave us big overdraft facilities, but we didn't have to use them. We didn't have to join in the property bubble – we didn't need to take out an interest-free mortgage, or a consolidation loan or a second mortgage. And, as for the last government, it didn't need to invent its bogus fiscal "golden rule" to justify spending far more than we were earning as a country. Collectively, we had a choice – and that goes for the UK, Ireland, America, Iceland and wherever credit got out of control.
And many of us, I'm afraid, told lies to get loans. CoreLogic, a fraud consultancy, estimated last week that a staggering two thirds of mortgage defaulters in the second quarter of 2010 gave wrong information on their mortgage applications. Potentially that's a criminal offence.
I'm not saying banks or bankers are blameless souls – some of the marketing was desperately irresponsible – but really, if you're looking for someone to blame for the cuts and our problems, look in the mirror, or at your neighbour. This self-pitying narrative being built up over what happened does no one any favours, and is, frankly, infantile.
It's a poor show, Santander
If you want to get angry at the banks, do it over complaints handling. The Financial Services Authority revealed last week that 7,000 complaints a day are flooding into the banks.
Lloyds tops the league, but that's because it has the greatest number of current accounts. Where the figures get more interesting is when you look at the ratio of complaints to customers and the clear-up rate within eight weeks. And I'm afraid Spanish-owned Santander comes out appallingly in both instances. No fewer than 216,158 complaints were received by Santander in the first half of 2010, and it managed to clear up just 46 per cent in eight weeks. This is truly abysmal.
Since Santander took over Abbey it has been widely seen as having done a good job turning around a basket-case business, and picking up lots of new customers with attractive current and savings-account offers.
However, the FSA figures show that in the dash for the new business, Santander has forgotten the fundamentals of customer service. The bank's director of service quality and complaints, Steve Williams (clearly a busy man), said in true PR fashion: "We are pleased the volume of complaints has decreased from the same time last year but know we need to do more. Improving service quality remains a priority."
What Mr Williams needs is the Santander directors to put some substantial resources into customer service – particularly with the integration of millions of Alliance & Leicester and RBS customers. It's pointless grabbing new business if you treat people so poorly.
Bargain Hunter: Now's your chance to watch the best movies free of charge at home
How much lower will mortgage rates go?
The FTSE 100 is inching closer to its record high but can it maintain these levels?
MPs call for Equitable Life policyholders to be paid £2.8bn owed by government
Fuel poverty could claim 100,000 lives over next 15 years, warns energy charity
- 1 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...
£22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads