There are an endless number of subjects, and while we got even more suggestions, in the end I thought it best to go with the top ten questions voted for in our ‘what questions would you ask?’ poll. As stated there, the aim was to focus on the issues relevant to MoneySaving rather than those already being tread by mainstream media.
Quite deliberately I’ve filled them out in order to be a bit more specific and get some full answers. Of course politicians are experts at avoiding questions, yet that’s half the point. For example it’s easy to say ‘we want to help first time buyers’ yet when buying any asset including property one should also address ‘should you encourage buying right now?’ and ‘what NEW practical measures will you introduce?’, so I’ve tried to add some flavour of this.
We’ll then prominently publish all the answers together to allow direct comparison and it’ll also be pretty obvious who’s obfuscating and therefore whose answers should be ignored (I know their aids will be reading this, so that’s a wee warning).
For the SNP and Plaid (whose leaders can’t be PM) our request is simply:
“Please reply to the questions below. We’d love to know your thoughts on the issues involved and what new practical measures you believe should be put in place.”
For Labour, the Lib Dems and Tories it is:
“Please reply to the questions below. We’d love to know your thoughts on the issues involved and what new practical measures you would commit to if you’re elected the next Prime Minister.”
Here’s the rough first draft of the questions.
- Petrol Prices. While the oil companies and retailers take a cut, 70% of the cost of petrol is made up of tax – so people are really paying the government. Many consumers feel the price is crippling yet environmentally others argue it will be high. Do you believe it should be lower, and if so will you cut the tax to make it happen?
- Savings (Losings) Accounts. The cut in base rate has left many savings accounts paying pitiful rates, leaving many savers losing money in real terms due to inflation. Will you introduce any NEW practical measures to help savers, especially those that rely on interest to boost their income?
- Energy Bills. Energy prices have dropped by seven percent this year, but wholesale prices have dropped much more. The average energy bill is now £1,150 a year for many people, making it the biggest regular bill after rent/mortgages. What will you do to cut costs and/or the profits of the energy providers?
- Bank Charges Future & Past. What will you do to stop unfair bank overdraft charges in the future? Plus do you support helping those who’ve been charged them in the past, including low income and vulnerable consumers, to get their money back? If you do support reclaiming what will you do to make it happen?
- Existing Mortgage Holders. The supply of mortgage deals for existing customers is limited for the millions with an LTV of 75% or above. House prices have dipped in many areas pushing even some who once had decent equity into this bracket, leaving many people languishing on their standard variable rates or locked in to trackers at 3-4% over base rate. If interest rates rise to previous 5% levels this will leave many on 8-9% mortgages. What will you do now and in the future to ease this potential financial disaster?
- First Time Buyer Mortgages. Many first time buyers are finding it increasingly difficult to get on the ladder not just due to the cost of mortgages, but the huge deposits needed. What practical steps will you take to help them and is it wise to encourage people into the property market at the moment?
- Council Tax & Water Rates. The current council tax banding system has been in place since 1991 in England and Scotland. It’s time for a fair update so that 400,000 homes are no longer in the wrong band. How will you address this? Plus many people still pay water rates based on a valuation of their homes done in 1989 yet they can’t appeal it. Will you change that?
- Credit Cards. Thousands of credit card customers across the UK are receiving letters hiking their interest rates by up to 10%. How will you prevent excessive interest rates rises and what other plans do you have to change the credit card industry?
- Financial Education. Financial education was due to become a compulsory part of the curriculum in September 2011 but was scuppered due to disagreements over sex education. Will you commit to legislation to put compulsory financial education on the curriculum by September 2011 as planned?
- Stamp Duty. The way stamp duty works is ludicrous. When you cross a boundary you pay the tax on the entire cost, not just the marginal rate. It creates an unbalance and unfair system. Are you brave enough to change it?