Bank of England decision 'a Titanic disaster'

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The Independent Online

The Bank of England's decision to inject a further £75 billion into the economy was "a Titanic disaster", Saga director general Ros Altmann said today.

Dr Altmann, spokeswoman for the over-50s lobby group, warned that more quantitative easing (QE) will deepen the squeeze on those who have already been hit by low returns on their savings, while seeing their living costs rise.



She said QE forced long-term interest rates down and inflation up, aggravating pensioner poverty as most pensioners buy fixed annuities which fall in real terms as inflation rises.



In a protest outside the Bank of England, campaign group Save Our Savers highlighted the effect of record low interest rates by displaying a giant papier mache piggy bank, which was then "beaten to death".



Dr Altmann described another round of QE as "a Titanic disaster" which would impoverish pensioners.



She said: "Buying gilts of corporate bonds is not what we need to revive the economy. It may be a short-term boost for bond traders and markets, but it risks a loss of confidence in the Bank of England's policymaking, which ultimately will be damaging."



Dr Altmann asked: "Has the Bank of England abandoned its core inflation-fighting remit?"



She called on the Bank to lend new money directly to small companies - "the lifeblood of our economy" - to help create jobs.



Campaigners have warned that savers are being taken for "mugs" as soaring energy and household costs have exacerbated the bleak future they are facing.



A combination of high inflation and the Bank of England's base rate being held at a historic 0.5% low has left savers struggling to find accounts which will show a real return.



Dr Altmann added: "As low interest rates erode the value of people's hard-earned savings, I would also like to see the Chancellor allowing higher ISA limits, so that at least what meagre interest people do get on their savings will not be taxed as well."



The consumer price index (CPI), a broad measure of the cost of living, increased to 4.5% in August, near to a three-year high.



Members of Save Our Savers were accompanied outside the Bank today by a "sacrificial pig" named Bertie, who took a bashing with a giant broom handle attached to two buckets.



Group spokesman Simon Rose said: "The Government know that they can take advantage of savers because they don't really have a voice."



He continued: "Quantitative easing from our point of view is appalling...



"We're not prepared to take it lying down. We did not get the country into this mess."



He said the group would consider holding further demonstrations.



Last month National Savings and Investments (NS&I) said it was withdrawing its inflation-beating savings certificate, as it was in danger of breaching the limit for the amount of money it is allowed to raise.



NS&I said there had been nearly 500,000 transactions involving the latest issue of index-linked savings certificates.



Personal finance data provider Moneyfacts lists three accounts, all ISAs, which beat the CPI rate of inflation.



Barnsley Building Society and the Yorkshire Building Society have combination fixed-rate ISAs at 5% and Governor Money Progressive Building Society's four-year fixed rate ISA is 4.5%.



A Moneyfacts spokeswoman said: "The combination of low interest rates and high inflation has seen savers struggling to achieve a good return on their investments.



"To beat inflation (CPI) a basic-rate taxpayer needs to find an account paying 5.63%.



"The only deals which currently beat inflation are fixed rate ISAs which are tax-free and so need to pay 4.50% or more."



She added: "The higher rates in the savings market tend to be for fixed rate bonds, particularly the longer term deals.



"Savers must be committed to locking funds away for the duration of the term however, as early access will often result in penalty."



The Post Office launched the third issue of its popular inflation-linked bond this week, available until January next year, which pays above the rate of inflation on the retail price index (RPI) measure in January each year.



The Post Office said the RPI rate offered better value as it has historically run at a higher level than the CPI.



But it also warned it may withdraw the bonds early if they become oversubscribed.

PA

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