Tuesday 27 September 2016

We are not out of the arrears mess yet

Published 14/05/2015 | 02:30

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and then Minister for Justice Alan Shatter were not for turning
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and then Minister for Justice Alan Shatter were not for turning

The mortgage crisis has been allowed to drag on for a year-and-a-half longer than it should have because the Government failed to listen.

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When it announced plans for the new Insolvency Service it was told repeatedly that making provision in the legislation for a bank veto over formal debt deals for financially stricken people would not work.

But Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and then Minister for Justice Alan Shatter were not for turning.

They pressed ahead allowing the bailed-out banks too much say over who gets an insolvency deal.

And the result was as inevitable as could be expected from shameless and rapacious banks - they have been shunning the new Insolvency Service.

Banks hate the new insolvency deals, especially the personal insolvency arrangement (PIA) because implicit in that is the writing off of mortgage debt for those genuinely unable to meet their repayments.

A quarter of formal deals are voted down before they get anywhere near being approved in court.

And even more deals end up dead in the water before they get near the courts or the Insolvency Service that administers them. Now there has been a huge climb-down by the Government which has effectively removed the bank veto.

Although the mechanics of the voting arrangements will not change when banks and a personal insolvency practitioner, acting for an indebted consumer, go into a creditor's meeting, judges will now have the power to review and force through a reasonable PIA.

That is a massive U-turn by the Government.

The fact that it has taken until now to make this change, which needs new legislation, is an admission that the Government got it wrong.

But watch the banks attempt again to get around being forced to write off mortgage debts.

The latest attempt is to bring British debt charity StepChange back into this country. Its activities are being funded and controlled by the banks.

The smart money says StepChange will propose informal deals that do not involve writing off bank debt, but instead keep the bank in a strong position. We are not out of the arrears mess yet.

Irish Independent

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