I’m really glad that I did sign up though, as I’ve been lucky enough to experience both in-person and virtual events to explain more about what the Bank does, feed in some of my thoughts and feedback, and receive regular updates on what is happening in the economy at a more macro level than I had previously contemplated. Plus, I certainly no longer think that the Bank’s work doesn’t impact me! My wife and I have very fortunately become parents recently, and we are loving the new challenges and rewards this entails. But from a personal finance perspective, this year has been and feels like it will continue to get even more challenging. We have two mortgages for our house, with one on a five-year fix that’s due to expire just whilst my wife’s maternity leave pay starts to run out. Knowing that our mortgage will be going from 1.89% to likely over 6% is a real concern, especially when we need to be saving to help afford childcare. We also have friends in a similar position!
In April 2023 the Bank ran a virtual discussion on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. I felt that my story was listened to intently by the Bank, and that they recognised the importance of hearing about everyday people’s current financial experiences linked to monetary policy. As part of this event we were put into breakout rooms – panellists in the group I was in included a small business owner, a senior charity manager, two people who had retired and someone in healthcare. Our discussion was conducted by a friendly and inclusive Bank facilitator, who ensured that everyone got to share their opinions in a respectful environment. What united us as a fairly diverse group was agreeing how rising costs were affecting everyone on both a personal and business/charitable level, and how that meant having to make more difficult financial decisions more regularly and the consequent impacts.
I also particularly like how accessible the Bank makes the panel and Outreach programme. I have no background in economics, but I do work for a national retailer in the field of data, and it’s been particularly enjoyable to network with lots of different panellists with very different experiences and perspectives on how the economy is doing; hearing their voices and crucially seeing how the Bank listens and reacts. When we spoke about our current economic challenges, the Bank reiterated its purpose of keeping inflation low and stable and explained why rate rises, although painful, are necessary to ensure that there isn't a long-term impact on the economy.
Although many friends and I are feeling this pain in higher mortgage rates or rents and privately bemoan having less disposable income, the Bank’s explanations make it easier for me to empathise why we are having to experience the impacts of this direction. I have felt more supportive than I otherwise might have done. But with the recent news about another expected September rate rise, I know that pots of money we have saved for holidays abroad or for home improvements might have to be repurposed to meet even higher everyday living expenses. We’ll also likely not be able to move to an electric car as quickly as we had hoped. Being in a full-time white-collar job, I am prepared to feel the financial heat but this is where the Citizens’ Panel is so valuable as it has opened my eyes to the impact on others – for those with less income and savings it has been exceptionally tough and this is why it’s so important for the Bank to hear individual stories.
Therefore my challenge to the Bank would be to continue to listen to the cumulative effect that so many successive rate rises have had, and encourage them to use future rate rises as sparingly as possible so that we don’t swing the opposite way into recession given that such a blunt tool can take time to impact the whole economy (especially with so many mortgage fixes delaying the impacts to large portions of the population), and so the Bank doesn’t unwittingly cause unnecessary societal harm.
If you have found this article thought-provoking and feel like you could offer additional experiences and perspectives, and represent your peers, perhaps joining the Citizens’ Panel could be something exciting and rewarding for you.