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Brown on kazoo, nobody on trumpet

At last, the government’s mortgage rescue package has been announced and what a surprise – it amounts to little more than window dressing.

Leaving aside the fact that it is more palliative than panacea, the package seems to provide a scattergun approach when what we needed was sharpshooting aimed at the centre of the target, if we needed anything at all.

Of course, the combination of mini-measures will have a positive impact on the relatively small number of consumers who will qualify for them. But they seem to have been designed to deliver the biggest benefits to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, although they’ll probably fail in this regard as well.

I don’t see anything in the proposals that will address the problem of the UK’s depleted housing stock. Surely increasing the number of properties coming to market would have been the best thing? The measures won’t do much to address funding issues either, another major sticking point. And there’s nothing to encourage lenders to lend more wisely.

So while it would be churlish to deny that the measures will help some consumers, they seem a bit feeble. It’s a typical political intervention – all fanfare but no trumpets, just poor old Brown dejectedly blowing his kazoo in the corner and looking around wistfully for someone with a proper instrument to join his band. The Stamp Duty move is a step in the right direction but even in today’s falling market it’s not exactly generous, is it? There are vast swathes of the country where a threshold of £175,000 won’t help first-time buyers.

And given that would-be sellers will still have to fork out for Home Information Packs to market their properties, making transactions cheaper for buyers won’t do much to bolster the number of properties on the market.

This government’s obsession with HIPs and its willingness to simply ignore the chorus of professional disapproval aimed at the packs is mind-boggling.

Scrapping HIPs is a measure that would have made a difference but no. I guess the attendant media screams would have been too much for Labour to bear so it decided it would be better to fiddle while the market burns. Anyway, we only have to wait a year or so before the Tories scrap HIPs.

Finally, small cost savings are likely to be gobbled up by loan arrangement fees which now invariably hit applicants to the tune of at least £1,000. It would have been good to see the government clamp down on profiteering that borders on usury.

So overall I’m disappointed. This rescue package is a bit like my seduction technique – great on promise but a letdown on delivery.

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