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James Moore: A chance to stimulate some financial feelgood

Outlook Notwithstanding all that, providing consumers with a windfall by helping them to make a quick buck on Lloyds shares might come in very handy ahead of the 2015 election.

With scant room in the public finances for a Budget giveaway, it might provide a method of getting money into voters' hands – and money they surely do need.

Yesterday the inflation figures showed a 2.7 per cent rise by the CPI measure in August, down a smidgen from the 2.8 per cent in July. That's good as far as it goes. Unfortunately RPI inflation (including housing costs) rose to 3.3 per cent while wages remain mired in the doldrums, rising at a pitiful 1 per cent, a long way from keeping pace with either.

It doesn't matter how many indicators are trotted out to support claims that the economy is improving, the Chancellor will struggle to derive any credit from the electorate until they start feeling an improvement in their personal finances.

These have at least been bolstered somewhat over the past couple of years by compensation payments for various banking misdeeds (notably the mis-selling of payment protection insurance) and there's a bit more of that to come, plus one or two other reviews pending.

But the steady flow of compo cash from the banks is starting to look like North Sea oil: there's still some out there to be released, but we're now past the peak and the returns are fast diminishing.