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Mixed reception for Bank's interest rate policy switch

Roger House, chairman, Federation of Small Businesses Kent and Medway
Roger House, chairman, Federation of Small Businesses Kent and Medway

The Bank of England’s new “forward guidance” strategy which could see interest rates at a historic low for at least three more years has received a mixed reception.

Small firms in Kent and Medway hailed the decision, announced by new governor Mark Carney, to pledge no rises until unemployment fell to 7% - now standing at 7.8% - as “bold and imaginative thinking.”

Businesses and consumers welcomed the certainty which would encourage investment and spending on large items such as houses. But savers and pensioners were dismayed that they would be the losers.

Roger House, Federation of Small Businesses chairman for Kent and Medway, said: “Forward guidance linked to unemployment is a profound shift in monetary policy for the Bank of England. The Federation of Small Businesses in Kent and Medway welcomes this bold and imaginative thinking to secure the recovery.

“In the longer term, we hope it will give investors and firms looking to grow confidence to bring forward work which will in turn help increase employment. With around 750,000 new jobs needed before unemployment reaches the 7% rate, Kent FSB believes that the historically low interest rate will remain for some time to spur on growth. The safeguards – or knock-outs – in place should help to protect the economy from financial instability.”

The British Chambers of Commerce, which represents many Kent firms, said the move would reassure business. Director general John Longworth said: “We agree with the committee that a decline in the unemployment rate to seven percent is unlikely in the next few years, so it looks as though interest rates will remain low for quite some time. This will give businesses a much-needed confidence boost when looking to invest, as they know that any plans will not suddenly be derailed by a hike in interest rates.”

But Save our Savers said that although the financial crisis was caused by debt, the new policy continued to favour borrowing at the expense of saving. The historic low base rate of 0.5% had “failed to invigorate the economy yet had stolen over £220 billion from the nation’s savers. Continuing low rates causes further hardship to savers, pensioners and all those who find wages stagnant while prices rise and removes spending power from Britain’s consumers.”

Simon Rose of Save Our Savers said: “The Bank of England has failed to meet its inflation target for most of the past seven years. Now it clearly has decided to ignore even higher price rises, inflicting continuing misery on the majority of Britons, in the hope that the same policies that have failed the country since the crisis will somehow magically work in the future.”

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