"Dear Mr Sunak,
Brexit was about taking control of our law-making abilities, so that unelected bureaucrats living outside this country could no longer tell us what to do.
There is a way you could build on this achievement – and help many people take back control of their day-to-day lives.
Debt has a corrosive effect on society. It can lead to marriages and relationships breaking down. It causes some to turn to alcohol, drugs or gambling. Some people also end up becoming petty criminals, doing things like shoplifting for example. And others can end up with mental health conditions due to endless money worries.
All of this has a cost to society – both in terms of the cost of the public services needed to address the problems after they’ve occurred, and also the detrimental effect on well-being for the individuals and families affected.
And dealing with the problems after they’ve occurred can often prove very difficult.
Please do not misunderstand – I am a strong believer in free markets, capitalism, home-ownership and so on.
But it seems to me that we are living in a society where an increasing number of people are being enslaved to debt.
The savings culture has largely disappeared and people are turning to borrowing for essential items.
Your party talked about creating an economy in which we rely more on savings and less on debt. And I agree that this is a noble ambition.
And I think one good measure you could implement – that could help prevent some problems in the long-run – is to improve the teaching of financial education, which is currently included in the national curriculum in England and has been since 2014.
Young people could be taught to value savings and careful management of money. Debt advice should be included too.
And I note that, according to an article written by Katherine Gemmell for the Financial Times in November 2019, young people would like to be taught about specific financial products – such as credit cards, savings accounts and the student loans system.
What I am calling for is not nanny-state meddling; I’m very much opposed to that.
It’s about helping young people develop the skills that will enable them to avoid taking on excessive debts.
But, as always, it should be about helping our young people develop their own thinking skills. They will then grow up to be confident people.
On top of this of course, we need to encourage saving again.
I worry that this country could end up with negative interest rates, as they have in Denmark. This would be very bad for our economy in the long-run. I do not want to see savers being charged to leave money deposited in a savings account.
We need the Bank of England to chart some kind of course back to “normal” interest rates. Having rates close to rock bottom may be good for helping ensuring businesses have access to quick, cheap money if they need it during a recession, but it is not good for the long-term.
The current “zero interest rate policy”, as it is sometimes known, has been in effect for over a decade now. Its sustainability needs to be assessed.
I think improving the way financial education in the curriculum is taught is a common sense measure. Combined with the other suggestions I’ve made, I believe it could help restore the savings culture. And that would mean less debt, fewer problems in society and happier lives for many.