It has been claimed by The Telegraph that theHelp to Buy ISA, recently criticised as having misled first-time buyers, underwent a “lower level of scrutiny than usual” in order to save time and start the ISAs up as soon as possible.
It was thought that people opening a Help to Buy ISA would be able to use the 25 per cent bonus from the government in their initial deposit, when they bought their first house. However, it recently emerged that the bonus cannot be used until after the house purchase is completed, with experts claiming the scheme was now useless, effectively, as the deposit is the main problem prospective home buyers face.
The Telegraph has reported that a private “working group” decided the terms of the ISA in an effort to save time and launch the scheme quickly, in order for savers to start using them as soon as possible. Normally, complicated financial policies undergo a prolonged public consultation, to ensure all small print is sorted out and nobody is unfairly discriminated against.
Critics have said that the government should have spent more time going through the terms of the ISAs, holding formal consultations with experts, in order to prevent this ‘scandal’ from occurring.
“This may well have been spotted if there had been a longer consultation, but the problem with the government is that everything takes so long,” said Jason Rees-Mogg, a member of the Treasury Committee and a Conservative MP.
“What you want instead is flexibility if an honest mistake has been made, and I think this is what this is. Now the push is for the government to recognise that the people who have tried to use Help to Buy ISAs have acted in good faith. That good faith should now be replicated by the government.”
A spokesperson for the Treasury said: “Mortgage lenders, conveyancers, banks and building societies were extensively consulted during the policy process to ensure Help to Buy Isa can effectively support first time buyers when purchasing their first home.
“Following this consultation, the scheme was specifically designed to pay the bonus immediately prior to completion to ensure the process was as simple for consumers as possible and that the payments were linked directly to a property transaction.”
Although it appears that a significant number of people opening a Help to Buy ISA did so with the understanding the government bonus could be used for an initial deposit, it still offers a favourable interest rate for savers, and can therefore be a useful tool to help people save money.