Terry Murden: Did Thatcher create banking crisis?

The banking centre of the UK in London's Canary Wharf. Picture: PA
The banking centre of the UK in London's Canary Wharf. Picture: PA
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ONE question that came to mind during all the talk about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy was the extent to which she could share the blame for the 2008 banking crisis.

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It may have come almost two decades after she left Downing Street, but if there was one lasting impact from her premiership it was the degree to which she encouraged people to chase their dreams and ambitions.

The late Eighties spawned the “loadsamoney” City worker; and the years that followed saw the evolution of a “me-society” in which it was every man for himself and the name of the game was to acquire as many consumer goods, holidays, fashion items and other baubles that supposedly made us feel good.

It fuelled the housing and consumer booms and in our search to get rich quick, we turned our homes into tradeable products and our careers into a means to do well rather than do good.

And all of this was fuelled by a buy-now-pay-later credit spree, which encouraged everyone to believe they could have whatever they wanted, immediately and whatever the price. Except someone had to pick up the bill.

No wonder that the banks financing this madness decided they had to go for broke. And, as we now know, some of them did.

Positive signs but First not yet out of woods

IT IS a measure of how difficult things have become for FirstGroup chief executive Tim O’Toole that one analyst greeted yesterday’s trading update positively because there was no sense of trouble.

Trading was in line with expectations, the first time in three years that there had been no warning or lower guidance.

There was some satisfaction in the sale of eight London bus depots for £80 million, which enables the group to achieve it £100m disposal target. The downside is that the price achieved is a modest 0.5 times revenue and will not transform the balance sheet, which still needs attention.

Aside from that, concern focuses on renewal of the Thameslink rail franchise beyond the September 2014 extension that was recently granted.

It was initially planned as a seven-year contract and if it was to be lost when it comes up for renewal it would be a blow to First’s earnings and working capital.

Broad brush levies also harm the innocent

The new financial services regulators began work at the beginning of this month promising to get tough and yesterday the industry learned it will come at a price as the new regime introduced a big hike in the upfront fees that companies must pay.

But this is not so much about tightening the screw on wayward bankers and other miscreants. The Financial Conduct Authority claims it is facing a big increase in its running costs, although that in itself suggests there is more work to be done chasing the bad guys. The range of organisations covered has increased.

However, the higher fees have not gone down well, particularly among those who feel they are being forced to pay for the misdemeanours of the guilty.

In that sense, the levy mirrors the sense of injustice felt by those paying into the financial services compensation scheme.

The problem with industry-wide levies is that it only takes a few trouble-makers to make life difficult for everyone else.