Money Advice Service to return £1m to levypayers

Money Advice Service to return £1m to levypayers

The Money Advice Service will return nearly £1m to levypayers by lowering the fees they pay, after it reported a surplus for the year.

The body had surplus income over expenditure of £3m for the year ended 31 March, compared with deficit income over expenditure of £0.8m for the same period last year.

Mas’ annual report and accounts explained this resulted in an accumulated surplus of £12.1m, with £0.8m to be returned to fee payers by reducing their levy in 2016/17 and 2017/18.

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Digging down into the numbers, Mas spent £49.7m, or 64 per cent, of its net costs on service delivery. This compared to £45.5m for the year 2014 to 2015.

The consumer education body spent £8.2m on money advice work - down from £10.9m during 2014 to 2015.

This meant it provided 83,000 face-to-face sessions, compared to around 95,000 the previous year. and 144,000 telephone, email responses and web-chat sessions, up from around 140,890 a year ealrier.

Total online customer contacts were 25.9m, up from 22.25m in 2014 to 2015.

Mas also halved the money it spent on consumer engagement and corporate communication activity, including consumer campaigns, public relations, stakeholder engagement and internal communication.

Spending in this aread fell from £10.5m in 2014 to 2015 to £4.5m over the 12 months to the end of March.

Levy income received fell to £34.6m from £42.6m the previous year, while for money advice it rose to £47m from £38.1m in 2014 to 2015.

Cash in the bank at 31 March was £22.2m, compared with £11m for the year ended 31 March 2015, primarily due to funds received from the Financial Conduct Authority in relation to 2016 to 2017 levy income.

The report noted that this cash injection was agreed with the regulator in February 2015 because of uncertainty about the number of consumer credit firms that would apply for regulation - and therefore required to contribute to the levy - and the estimated time required to regulate firms.

Chairman Andy Briscoe addressed the demise of Mas and transfer towards a new guidance body as a result of the government’s independent review.

Mr Briscoe said: “As we prepare for the transition to the new money guidance body, we will also work closely with HM Treasury, the Financial Conduct Authority and stakeholders so that the design of the new organisation – including its relationship with the new pensions body also envisaged – recognises the value of improving people’s financial capability and takes forward the insights and experience we have gained.”

Company secretary Michelle Clewer noted the consultation on what the new guidance body looks like closed last month, with the government considering responses over the summer.

“A detailed timetable will be set out with the final response to the public financial guidance review, which will be published in autumn 2016,” she added.

Chief executive Caroline Rookes also mentioned work on the post-pension freedoms Retirement Adviser Directory has enabled thousands of customers to connect to a regulated adviser.

With more than 3,500 firms and 6,500 advisers from right across the UK registered, the directory is an important part of the Pension Wise journey, stated the report. In 2015 to 2016, more than 20,000 people used the tool to connect to an adviser.