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‘What the hell are you doing with it?’ MPs attack MAS over budget

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25/06/2013
The Money Advice Service has come under fire from MPs after a sub-committee of the Treasury Select Committee accused the CEO that her organisation does not know what it is doing on money advice.

The hearing, which was part of an inquiry into the service that has lasted for more than a year, asked CEO Caroline Rookes, who only took over in January, to justify her organisation’s value for money.

The sub-committee found that the MAS was still overspending on marketing and did not spend enough on actual service delivery, particularly on money advice.

It also criticised the language in the organisations’s business plan, which it called “meaningless”.

TSC sub-committee chair George Mudie said: “Last year we were livid that you spent one quarter of your income on marketing. It has not changed.”

“Your business plan says, out of a £46.5m budget [for money advice], you only spend £8.8m on service delivery. That is the underlying unease we have about the flowery language in this report. We don’t know what the hell you are doing with it.

“If you cannot find a way of delivering a service on money advice and you have to spend it on marketing, transition costs, core operations, and that only adds up to something like £30m, it leads us to believe your organisation does not know what on earth they’re doing on money advice.”

Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie said: “At a time of financial constringency on this committee, we are deeply concerned to get value for money from what’s being spent.

“There is considerable unease about the way this money is being spent.”

Rookes said a lot of the marketing budget was spent on engagement , “which is vital” for the MAS’s strategy.

“It’s about engaging people with the service.”

She also said the MAS had made savings of £2.5m in marketing and salaries compared with last year and no bonuses were paid to directors this year.

“[The MAS] is an organisation that is performing well. There is a long way to go but it is going in the right direction,” she said.

The MAS is an independent body that was formed by the government as a result of the Financial Services Act 2010 with the aim of helping people to better understand financial matters.

It is funded by a levy on the financial services industry and has to consult with government departments each year over its budget.

The service faced an overhaul last year after it was found to have failed in delivering an effective service and overpaid its staff considerably, including former chief executive Tony Hobman, who pocketed a £350,000 remuneration package before he resigned last summer.

The number of customers using the MAS was up 62% on last year according full-year results released in April.

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