October 22nd, 2019 marks the one-year anniversary since the airing of Panorama’s ‘Trapped by mortgage’. This was the point that many ex-Northern Rock customers realised that they were, in fact, mortgage prisoners. Until this point, most had been ashamed of their situation, even though Northern Rock was a reputable high street lender. When it collapsed, the Government bailed it out whilst hanging mortgage holders out to dry. The margins on the standard variable rates were inflated and, with the addition of post-hoc legislation, the now widely known ‘Mortgage Prisoners’ were created.
For the subsequent 12 years, mortgage prisoners have been branded irresponsible borrowers, sent off to the ‘bad bank’ and blamed for the global financial crisis – a divisive discourse that created shame in mortgage prisoners and apathy in the general public; a fabrication given that over 90% of the 120,000 homes Government subsequently sold to the vulture fund were performing. With this detail masked, who then, they ask, would blink an eye at their plight? Who then would stand in the Government’s way as they packaged them up in beautiful 4.79% wrapping, tied up with a pretty ‘Mortgage Market Review (MMR) ruling’ ribbon, and a note attached saying ‘computer says no’. What an attractive parcel for the ‘Hound from Hell’. And what a money spinner to the Government that continues to sell mortgage prisoners off ‘at a profit’. To add insult to injury, mortgage prisoners receive constant letters from NRAM, Landmark, Whistletree and others telling them ‘rates have remained very low for several years now’ and telling them to get prepared to start paying more – while along they are told they ‘can’t afford to pay less’. Setting the record straight, mortgage prisoners will say not one of them have benefited from these ‘record low levels of interest rates’ – measures that were put in place to help struggling UK citizens through a recession and austerity. They just paid for it.
Thanks to Panorama and Cat McShane, mortgage prisoners are now wide awake, and they are fighting back. They are growing in numbers and their voices getting louder. In the last year, their stories have been debated in the House of Lords in November 2018 and heard by a group of MPs in parliament in January 2019. This led to the establishment of the APPG on mortgage prisoners who launched their own consultation. Mortgage prisoners put pressure on the Financial Conduct Authority to act and they subsequently launched a consultation to help – the outcome which is still eagerly awaited. The APPG on Fair Banking offered their support and expertise and secured a back-bench business debate in June 2019 where mortgage prisoners watched from the gallery as a group of committed MPs argued for fairness, redress and a public inquiry. There have been protests, huge support from the media and industry, and many experts working behind the scenes. What is clear, is that mortgage prisoners will not be going away anytime soon – not until they have all secured the justice, compensation and apology they deserve.
Cat McShane kicks off the ‘One Year On’ campaign by commenting on what has been achieved in the 12 months since the programme she so vigorously researched aired. Head over to our guest blog section to find out more.