Lower-paid 'must get help to save'

Piggy bank Image copyright PA

Banks and building societies should be stopped from defaulting savers to tiny interest rates, a think tank has said.

The government should also concentrate on providing savings incentives to the poorest, the Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM) said.

The think tank, part of the University of Birmingham, said that 60% of lower and middle income families could not save.

That left them at risk of financial shocks and spiralling debt, it said.

Teaser rates

Previous research by the Money Advice Service suggested that more than 16 million people in the UK had savings of less than £100. This left them at risk of getting into unmanageable debt when faced with the sudden need to spend on a new fridge or other household goods.

Meanwhile, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the City regulator, has found that, for two years running, some savers are getting an annual return of as little as 0.01%.

Some savers with £1,000 to put away are therefore earning just 10p a year in interest.

Now, a report by the CHASM think tank has argued that commercial providers should be prevented from defaulting savers onto the lowest interest rate.

Instead, they should default to a capped rate, it said.

The idea is to prevent banks and building societies luring potential savers with introductory offers then penalising them for loyalty if they subsequently fail to switch accounts.

Other recommendations include further investment in the Help to Save scheme, paid for by reducing some of the tax breaks offered to those who can save more in Individual Savings Accounts (Isas).

Employers should do more to promote save-as-you-earn schemes, it added.

Professor Karen Rowlingson, co- author of the report, from the University of Birmingham, said: "It is extremely difficult for those just about managing to save and they get very little support to do this.

"The government spends a tiny amount of money on supporting people on lower incomes to save compared to the amount it spends on schemes to support the better off. This balance needs to be shifted."

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