Following the Queen’s speech this morning, please find below commentary from leading industry experts, discussing what the announcements mean for their respective areas of expertise (each under the appropriate heading).
Household Finances (Cost of Living Crisis)
Richard Eagling, Senior Personal Finance Expert at NerdWallet, said: “The Queen’s Speech is far from a Budget, but no doubt many people will have been hoping for more mention of short-term financial measures to support those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Indeed, almost a quarter (23%) of UK adults are finding it more difficult to keep up with monthly bills compared to a year ago. Given the poor economic forecast for the years ahead, the situation is only likely to get worse. Now, it’s vital that the government outlines a plan regarding its long and short-term strategy to fuel economic growth and help households cope.
“Until then, it’s vital people are proactive in understanding their financial situation. Keeping track of all incomings and outgoings will be critical in helping them identify any potential issues on the horizon or pinpoint areas where savings can be made. And if they find themselves struggling to keep up with monthly bills or debt repayments, they should speak to their provider as soon as possible to establish their options. For example, some mortgage lenders allow borrowers to temporarily commit to interest-only repayments while their financial position stabilises. However, borrowers should always read the small print before committing to such options, as this could prove more costly in the long-term.
“Importantly, if households feel like they are drowning under financial pressures, help is on hand from charities such as StepChange or Citizens Advice. The key is to remain calm and consider all the options available. There are seldom any quick fixes, but if individuals take a proactive approach they may be able to regain control of their financial situation and make more informed decisions in the challenging months to come.”
Andrew Megson, executive chairman of My Pension Expert said: “It’s encouraging to hear that the government is committed to ensuring that the financial services sector acts in the interest of consumers – however the premise remains vague. An opportunity was missed to outline plans to help individuals better understand and engage with their pensions by improving access to financial advice.
“Indeed, the silence surrounding policy to better improve access to advice is deafening. And whilst various attempts have been made to offer savers access to free online guidance or robo-advice, they have proven to be unsuccessful. For example, just 9% of UK adults aged 40 and over, used online guidance like the FCA’s pathways in 2021, according to My Pension Expert’s research. Surely, it is time to explore alternative solutions – a hybrid advice/online solution for example, could offer the invaluable combination of expert advice and tech efficiencies, all at a lower cost.
“Innovation like this cannot happen overnight. However, it is vital the Government now proactively works with regulatory bodies, as well as advisers themselves, to consider creative and affordable methods to help Britons achieve a secure financial future. Only then can meaningful change and consumer financial security be secured.”
Chieu Cao, CEO of Mintago said: “The exclusion of retirement policy from the Queen’s speech is disappointing. The long-promised 2017 auto-enrolment reforms could have given employees an opportunity to benefit massively from earlier savings opportunities and higher contributions. Now, it is looking less and less likely that such changes will occur within this decade.
“Words are no longer enough. The Government must push forward legislation to lower the minimum autoenrollment age. Mintago’s recent survey found that over a third (36%) of millennials are finding financial anxiety is negatively impacting their job performance. Surely, then, encouraging younger members to take charge of their finances as early as possible would reduce some of this stress and better prepare them for the future.
“I concede that such legislative changes will take time to implement, even if the government were to act immediately. However, steps can be taken by employers to help their workforce better engage with their workplace pension. Improving access to information and explaining the benefits of increasing contributions, for example, could help employees of all ages engage with their financial futures. Whilst it might not have the same gravitas as government legislation, employer support regarding pension schemes could go a long way to enhancing people’s financial futures.”
Paresh Raja, CEO, Market Financial Solutions: “Will they, won’t they – that was the big question surrounding the Planning Bill ahead of today’s Queen’s Speech. It is certainly positive to hear it mentioned, with the policy seemingly dragged back out of the proverbial long grass, into which it was kicked last year. As ever, the devil will be in the detail, but stating that “the planning system will be reformed” is a start at least.
“Let’s start with the obvious fact: the UK needs more housing, and fast. To achieve this, we need to make it easier to build more new homes and, crucially, also convert disused commercial properties into residential ones. Tabling the Planning Bill is a vital first step in hopefully addressing the red tape that prevents the delivery of new homes.
“Question marks hang over the purported decision to give local leaders more power to revitalise high streets, which was hinted at. It sounds promising, but the policy could miss the mark a little. Landlords seldom want their properties to sit empty – really the question whether there is viable demand from businesses to rent shops and offices, and at a price that ensures landlords can cover their costs.
“The continued efforts to raise standards in the private rental sector and protect tenants’ right is welcomed. It will be interesting to see how this takes shape.”
Levelling Up And Regeneration
Jamie Johnson, CEO, FJP Investment said: “It’s encouraging that today’s Queen’s Speech has signalled a renewed effort in favour of tackling geographic inequality across the UK as part of the forthcoming levelling-up and regeneration bill.
“In the face of the current pressing economic, social and environmental challenges, now more than ever, it is crucial that housing is put at the forefront of the government’s agenda and while a root and branch shake-up of the planning system is still required, the reforms referenced today are a step in the right direction towards increasing the number of homes that this country so desperately needs.”