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MAS urged to ditch ‘unnecessary’ lobbying and focus on cost-cutting

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The Money Advice Service is under pressure to ditch “unnecessary” lobbying activity as part of a drive to cut costs and reduce advisers’ levy bills.

In its response to MAS’ consultation on its 2016/17 business plan, IFA trade body the Association of Professional Financial Advisers attacks the organisation’s proposal to measure its success in meeting its objectives through “demonstration of influence in regulatory, policy and product decisions”.

The trade body says: “We think [this] is unnecessary as lobbying is not an appropriate activity for MAS.

“MAS will need to incorporate some macro metrics that relate to the actual things they are seeking to change in terms of consumer outcomes, such as the level of pension savings and overall savings rate in the population including MAS’ priority groups.

“Such metrics are not, of course, directly controllable by MAS or any other specific body but they are the ultimate objectives of MAS’ work and therefore important to measure and publish.”

Apfa has also criticised MAS for failing to make significant cost savings following the Farnish Review. While the organisation has put a stop to all TV advertising and “dedicated brand building” – leading to a 50 per cent fall in its proposed marketing budget for 2016/17 – its overall spending for the year has only dropped £6m, from £81.1m to £75.1m.

Apfa says: “We welcome the commitment demonstrated by MAS to cutting costs and the falls in the total, money guidance and debt advice budgets. However, given the discontinuation of TV and other advertising, we would have expected larger decreases.

“It is difficult to see where the efficiencies have come from, owing to the lack of [key performance indicators] on efficiency savings contained in this paper.

“We believe that an annual plan and budget would be the optimum place for such KPIs so are disappointed to see that this opportunity has been missed. “While the rhetoric in the plan focuses strongly on the need to work as efficiently as possible, there is relatively little in terms of concrete numbers or what KPIs will be used to measure efficiencies.

“Given the Farnish Review’s emphasis on the need for greater cost-efficiency, we believe that MAS should do so as a matter of urgency.”

The Government is currently carrying out a review of public financial guidance services which could ultimately see the roles of Pension Wise, The Pensions Advisory Service and the MAS combined.

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