Leader: Fairer funding for all

Since the downturn first struck six years ago the UK banking sector has been in dire need of two things – funding and competition.

Over four years of the Bank base rate at 0.5 per cent, quantitative easing, the Funding for Lending Scheme and now Help to Buy have all helped to ensure that the UK’s banks and mutuals remained open for business.

The issue of competition has been more tricky. The credit crunch wiped out many established lenders like Bradford & Bingley, Northern and a whole host of non-banks lenders who are now just a painful memory for anyone that bought their loans.

New lenders like Metro Bank, Precise Mortgages, Aldermore Bank and recently Magellan have been regrettably few and far between.

It will be interesting to see what the splitting up of both banking giants Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group has on this as well.

And from the consumer side, the same case could be said of payday lender Wonga.

But news last week that its lending last year, at £1.2bn, was bigger than the entire equity release sector and the same as that of a medium-sized mutual like The Principality was frankly incredible.

Especially when you consider that it has enjoyed lax regulation by comparison with mainstream lenders under the Office of Fair Trading.

In a report on the sector published in May this year even the OFT conceded it had not spent enough on protecting consumers.

Hopefully this will change next year when the Financial Conduct Authority will transfer responsibility for consumer credit on 1 April 2014 from the Office of Fair Trading.

UK consumers and businesses badly need access to finance, but also need to be treated fairly.