Sorry, savers, base rate needs to fall

It might drag savings down, but cutting the base rate is the best option

Updated: 
Inflation forecast 'close to zero'

We may not be in recession anymore, and the economy is starting to grow. But if we're honest, this growth is nothing like we need to stop average households feeling the pinch.

That's why the Bank of England needs to do what the International Monetary Fund suggested a couple of years ago and cut base rate even further.

You're probably wondering if base rate could fall, when it's already at a historic low. Well, it could and it should. When the committee next meets, it should cut the rate to 0.25%, with a later cut to 0% if the economy remains weak.

The benefits could be considerable. Borrowing costs for individuals and businesses could fall, encouraging the flow of capital that so many companies need to grow.

Homeowners on tracker mortgages would see an immediate benefit, freeing up some spare cash to get the economy moving. And the UK economy desperately needs to get moving.

After all, we're all moaning about the Coalition's cuts but worse could be on the way. In his final Budget of the parliament, George Osborne revealed that a Conservative government would implement even more cuts over the next few years, and the polls are currently pretty close.

That means there could be more pain is still to come – and that means that the economy desperately needs a boost from elsewhere. Although the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that retail sales climbed in February, that is not simple straightforward news for British business.

Falling retail prices were a key reason sales soared and David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "The record fall in store prices highlights the strong competitive pressures facing retailers and strengthens the case for the MPC to commit to keeping interest rates low over the next year."

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Flip side of the coin

Of course, a further fall in base rate would be a raw deal for savers. Low rates have meant many savers' nest eggs have dwindled in value. It's been many years now that base rate has remained at 0.5%, and savers are paying the price for that.

But many of the savers are older people who have benefitted from rising house prices because their homes rocketed up in value. It's those high house prices that have left so many homeowners battling expensive mortgages.

The current economic situation isn't ideal for anyone – but it won't get better for savers or borrowers until the economy picks up. A cut in base rate could help that happen, so I'm sorry, savers, base rate should fall.

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How to beat miserly savings rates

Of course, one option for savers who are feeling the pinch is to invest their money rather than keep it in a cash account. New ISA rules mean that up to £15,240 can be invested within a tax-free wrapper each year and investments do tend to do better than savings over the long term.

Of course, it must be said that this comes with its own risks – money held in stocks and shares can fall in value as well as rise. And certainly the older you get the more risk averse you should become. But it is a gamble that often pays off.

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