What do we want from the budget?

Commentary | 03/03/21

At around lunchtime today Rishi Sunak will deliver his budget for the coming year. Arguably the biggest day of year for any Chancellor, this is a budget like never before as we will learn the true impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy.

There is a lot of speculation about tax rises, possible changes to Universal Credit and further support for the industries most affected by the pandemic. With government borrowing at a record high, we expect much of the budget will be focused on recovery and how to get the economy moving again.

At the CCTA we are interested in the impact on family finances and believe that the members we represent have an important role to play here. For many families, credit – particularly from non-bank lenders – is an important tool in balancing their own budget.

The demand for this form of credit exists because it meets the needs of a group of customers. It may be that a small amount of credit is required for a relatively short period of time, or that a customer with a thin credit file cannot get credit from a bank.

For many customers, credit is about making sure the car can get you to work or getting a higher-than-average electricity bill paid, the alternative being unable to work or a default on their credit file.

Mainstream lenders are likely to tighten their risk appetite in the coming months as it becomes more difficult to assess the true financial situation of the borrower. This will mean that a segment of customers will find it more difficult to access credit. We know that when supply falls the need is still there, so consumers look elsewhere. Often at less desirable alternatives.

There needs to be a real conversation about how credit is used and why it remains vital to so many. The pandemic has damaged that economy in ways no one could have predicted but the use of credit is not only valuable to individuals, but society in general and the economy. Credit fuels economic recovery which is so desperately needed now.

Within the budget, a business minded government should recognise the important contribution made by the consumer credit market. A period of stability will allow our section of the credit market to continue to serve customers while also contributing to growing the economy once more.