Row over EU 'interim levy'
I was relaxing blissfully on holiday when the latest spat between David Cameron and the EU commissioners kicked off. Cameron is a man used to expressing himself in a forthright manner, but even so on this occasion it did seem as if his blood was up, and the level of invective ratcheted up a few notches.
By anyone's standards, €1.7Bn seems an awful lot of money to cough up, within a very short timescale, and my guess is that even a lot of folk who don't generally like the cut of Cameron's jib, were roused to a kind of reluctant sympathy.
Especially, when it's not his money anyway. It's ours.
It seems 'right' that this kind of financial demand be regarded as unreasonable, or unfair, or even just plain impractical. You don't find that sort of cash down the back of a sofa, or in your spare jacket pocket, or in an old Postal Account that you'd forgotten about. A demand for €1.7Bn represents an unbudgetable event, even if George had remembered to tell Dave about it a week earlier.
But, hang on a minute, isn't this a little like the way in which our regulatory redress system is funded? Sure, the FCA may have learned from past mistakes, and delivered a revenue-raising model which does at least have the form of predictability, but that certainly has not been the case with the FSCS and it's infamous 'interim levies'. David Cameron's 'surprise EU funding bill' is, on a moderately more massive scale, exactly what intermediary firms have had to contend with every year since the records of such phenomena began. In a sense, the size of the figures does not matter: it is the principle of the thing. If a thing is wrong (or right) then it is wrong (or right) irrespective of the number of zeros. Surely, what's sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander? Or do we live in a world where principle is a complete irrelevance?
Apparently we do. Today, we received correspondence from the FOS in relation to a client complaint which it is minded to investigate, despite the fact that (a) the client was comfortably outside the relevant time-bar, (b) the client had been apprised of the time limits for submission to FOS, (c) the client had been offered a specific redress which entirely resolved his dissatisfaction, and which he refused. It struck me, on reading this letter, that if the statutory regulatory bodies have their own rule-books, then it is not unreasonable to expect them to operate in a way which is consistent and subject to them. Once one enters the territory where someone says (in effect), "Yes, I know it's contrary to our own rules, but even so..." then we have entered a kind of anarchy where almost anything can happen, and we're back to the blank cheque phenomenon which David Cameron is so much exercised about.