The UK “can’t go on” prioritising the competitiveness of the City over the financial welfare of millions of people during a cost of living crisis, the former chair of the Financial Conduct Authority has said.
Speaking with financial regulation podcast Following the Rules, the former chair of the City watchdog Charles Randell said ministers and regulators risked focusing their attention on the competitiveness of the financial services sector while millions fall behind on their debts.
“Over five million UK adults have fallen behind in paying their debts in three out of the last six months. Those are pretty shocking statistics,” Randell said.
“On financial inclusion, leaving the role of the FCA aside and just looking at the position of the UK, my strong view is we just can’t go on like this with a two track system where we say we want the City of London to grow and be highly competitive, but we’re prepared to tolerate that level of financial exclusion here at home,” Randell added.
Randell stepped down from his role last year, and the watchdog has since resisted calls to include financial inclusion within its objectives.
The influential Treasury Select Committee urged the regulator to place financial inclusion within its mandate but the move was slapped down by FCA chief Nikhil Rathi who said adding a financial inclusion clause “might risk increasing expectations that the FCA should step in to fix problems that it does not have the power to solve.”
Randell added that as the UK heads towards a general election political parties should grasp the issue of improving access to financial services.
“It’s a pretty perfect time for people to start thinking about this issue and whether political parties should go into the next election with manifesto commitments to have a financial inclusion strategy,” he added.
Legal experts have previously backed the FCA’s resistance to adding the issue of financial inclusion to the regulator’s mandate.
Randell’s comments come in stark contrast to hurried efforts by multiple major figures in the City to bolster London’s capital markets, after a slew of firms rejected the capital to float in New York this year.