Julian Knight: Who to blame for the cuts? Look in the mirror

'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.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

    £30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

    Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

    £250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

    Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

    £230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower