Martin Lewis: ‘Abominable’ MAS deserved stay of execution

Martin Lewis

Chancellor George Osborne was wrong to axe the Money Advice Service despite it being guilty of an “abominable” waste of advisers’ money, according to Moneysavingexpert founder Martin Lewis.

Lewis, who has been scathing of the MAS in the past and once described the service as “crap” to the Treasury select committee, says recent reforms had given it new direction.

Since the Farnish report was revealed in March last year, MAS chief executive Caroline Rookes had sought to dramatically slash the service’s budget and refocused its offering on debt support.

Lewis says: “What the MAS has done in the past has been awful. It spent years being a brand-building, rent-seeking exercise, duplicating services already in existence.

“For the adviser community there is no doubt there has been an abominable and disgusting waste of their money that has been spent on this.”

However, Lewis maintains the MAS was in the process of being turned around and needed more time before its success could be judged.

He says: “If I were going to scrap the Money Advice Service, the time to do it was three years ago. We have finally got to a position where we know what the MAS should be, and at last it was moving in the right direction.

“I still do not think the MAS moved quickly enough to turn things around, and things like the adverts and sponsored tweets should have been curtailed immediately.

“But we need some of that financial capability support, and this plan was moving the MAS towards that.

“I would have previously said I would not blink if given the chance to get rid of MAS, but if I were in charge now I would give it 18 months because it is finally pointing in the right direction.”

The plans to scrap the MAS come as part of a consultation on a broader redrawing of Government-backed guidance services revealed yesterday.

The Treasury will consult until June on plans to introduce a new, single pension guidance organisation comprised of The Pensions Advisory Service, Pension Wise, and parts of the MAS.

In addition, the Government suggests a new money guidance service designed to study gaps in current provision, commissioning other providers to help fill needs.

A formal response to the consultation will be issued in the autumn, with a new structure hoped to be in place by April 2018.