Overstretching ourselves is how we got into this mess

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When I was a student, my bank threw cash at me. Every time I needed an extension on my overdraft they were only too happy to oblige.

This was during the magical era when £5 notes could still be found in cash points. Oh happy days.

When I got a job, it was a different story. I was persona non grata as far as they were concerned. Not earning enough to make it worth their while I suspect.

And then I got a mortgage.

Suddenly, my credit card limit was upped and letters offering tempting amounts of cash began to drop through the door

Of course, all that stopped about 18 months ago when the UK found itself staring into a rather large black hole.

The banks went quiet. Off they skulked, cowering in the corner as the public blamed irresponsible lending and some rather bizarre bonus arrangements for the financial meltdown.

It was interesting to see chancellor George Osborne attempting to convince people that our economy was on the up recently. But I didn’t need him to tell me the banks were feeling better now – the e-mail offering me a staggeringly large sum of money had already indicated normal service had resumed.

‘Here’s £25,000’ – the e-mail said. ‘You didn’t ask for it. But we’ve already approved it.’

And guess what? ‘Your husband can have the same amount too.’

That’s a whopping £50,000, ready to be taken without so much as a stern chat from the bank manager about the responsibility of repayments.

I didn’t bother reading the small print. I’d guessed that the interest rate wouldn’t work out in my favour and that there’d be a catch.

It’s lucky I’m not a fool. Or, more to the point, in debt. Because that cash was there for the taking – with some pretty hideous consequences if I couldn’t pay it back.

Politicians and economists keep saying consumer confidence is important. We need to have faith in spending to get back on track. But isn’t overstretching ourselves – from individual homeowners to the government – how we got into a bit of a pickle in the first place?

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