BIG ISSUE NATIONAL VENDOR WEEK
LEARN MORE
Opinion

Martin Lewis predicted the mortgage timebomb, so why did the government not listen?

Last December Martin Lewis attended a summit with the chancellor in which he suggested useful ways to mitigate the coming financial storm. And what happened next? Precisely nothing

martin lewis/ debt

Martin Lewis on Good Morning Britain talking about the cost of living crisis. Photo: Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock

When does Martin Lewis take an official position in directing the fortunes of Britain? It can’t come too soon. Clearly, he already exerts a positive influence over millions of us with his MoneySavingExpert platform. He’s the living embodiment of George Berkeley’s tree falling in the woods – if the saving isn’t presented on MoneySavingExpert is it really a saving at all? 

While potent, Lewis is still an independent. When it comes to the big decisions that direct our lives, he’s a mitigator rather than an instigator. He’s a lone voice and not a regulator. That needs to change. The peril many face as mortgages get set to leap hugely has prompted the chancellor Jeremy Hunt to call in bank bosses for a meeting to ask them to be “flexible” with customers. Which is all very well, if a touch late.  

It turns out that experts were also called in last December, and asked to think about what could be done to help people through the cost of living crisis, with a focus on mortgages. Martin Lewis was there. During that summit he warned about the coming mortgage timebomb. This week he revealed some of his suggestions. There were useful ideas, like mortgage holidays, like potential change to loan periods, that would be reversible should the conditions improve, and a request that helping measures shouldn’t damage people’s credit scores. None of them called for government intervention that we’re told would increase inflation. But all would have a useful impact for people fearing the worst. 

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

He said there were a lot of nods, but nothing happened. And now, here we are. Obviously, it was a time of flux last autumn and there was an ever revolving number of people in the great offices of state, some really bad at their jobs. Really awful. But Hunt was chancellor during the mortgage summit and you’d think he’d remember he was there. Or at least have kept SOME notes, so that even now, as the horse bolts, he’d be able to start doing something positive.

Lewis is back meeting with the chancellor this week, but it’s not yet clear if his advice will be heeded this time. 

Martin Lewis is not the only clear voice in British public discourse who can read the room and lay out useful ways to help people navigate through the reeds. There are people like  Miatta Fahnbulleh, boss of the New Economics Foundation, and journalists like Ed Conway and Andy Verity, who don’t simply rehash a prevailing soundbite but go deep to the cause and come up with plausible response. And that’s not to mention experienced social business leads in Big Issue Invest, with years of experience, who can bring proper grassroots impact. 

It’s these voices the chancellor should listen to more. Because the problem with the system we have is that too little happens too late to have a positive impact on the lives of millions, let alone getting out in front of problems and preventing the crisis before it happens. The system is tied to electoral success – as soon as it started to look like mortgage increases would damage potential votes, Number 11 started to get serious. 

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

Which is frustrating for the millions of people who rent and who have seen bills rise inexorably. They’re at their highest rate ever. Rents went up, on average across the UK, by around 4.8% in the last year. They are expected to keep rising. Around 28% of renters’ pre-tax income is going on their rent. There was no intervention for renters. But then, there has been no great policy plan across the housing spectrum.  

The big, unwieldy beast of national government isn’t functioning as it should. Every challenge to them is met with the standard boilerplate response of how funds were allocated.  

The public aren’t buying that any more. Their reality is tough. 

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

National Vendor Week 2024

A celebration of people who are working their way out of poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Andrew Tate is the worst possible example of being a man
Sam Delaney

Andrew Tate is the worst possible example of being a man

It's truly heartbreaking how often food bank guests are punished because they can't find work
Volunteers at Earlsfield Foodbank sort food in crates in the middle of a church
Charlotte White

It's truly heartbreaking how often food bank guests are punished because they can't find work

A night of karaoke and the life-affirming joy of belting out a tune
John Bird

A night of karaoke and the life-affirming joy of belting out a tune

Utopian visions of living are neglecting public housing. That must change
How a city of the future might look
Des Fitzgerald

Utopian visions of living are neglecting public housing. That must change

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know