Getting on the property ladder 'not that difficult', according to NatWest boss

NatWest Chief Sir Howard Davies stated that getting on the property ladder is 'not that difficult'. Credit: PA

It is not “that difficult” to get on the property ladder in the UK, NatWest chairman Sir Howard Davies has claimed.

Sir Davies said prospective buyers have to save, and that “is the way it always used to be”.

His controversial comments come as property values have increased by 1.7% on average across 2023, with the average home valued £4,800 higher than at the end of 2022, according to the Halifax house price index.

Average house prices rose by 1.1% month-on-month in December - the third monthly rise in a row.

The typical UK house price in December 2023 was £287,105, up from £282,305 in the same month a year earlier.

Asked by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme when it will be easier for people in the UK to get on the property ladder, Sir Howard said: “I don’t think it is that difficult at the moment.”

Pressed about this claim, he added: “You have to save and that is the way it always used to be.”

Sir Howard continued: “What we saw in the financial crisis was the risk of having people being able to borrow 100% in order to get onto the property ladder, and then suffering severe falls in the equity value of their houses, and having to leave and having a bad credit record. So, there were dangers in very easy access to mortgage credit.

“I totally recognise that there are people who are finding it very difficult to start the process, they will have to save more, but that is, I think, inherent in the change in the financial system as a result of the mistakes that were made in the last global financial crisis.”

Sir Howard also faced questions about the fallout of the de-banking saga, in which former Ukip leader Nigel Farage revealed Coutts, a luxury bank owned by NatWest, was planning to close his account.

The typical UK house price in December 2023 was £287,105, up from £282,305 in the same month a year earlier. Credit: PA

Mr Farage claimed it was due to his political opinions, but a BBC article appeared soon afterwards claiming the account was closed for commercial reasons.

The bank’s former chief executive Dame Alison Rose resigned after she admitted she had spoken to a journalist about Mr Farage’s relationship with Coutts.

Asked whether it was reasonable for the banking giant’s board to say they had full confidence in Dame Alison after the reports emerged, Sir Howard said: “I continue to say that the judgment that we made at the time was a reasonable one.

“At the time what we also said was that we wanted an independent legal review, which we commissioned, to be able to satisfy ourselves what was said and what was not, because it was not remotely clear at the time.”

He was also pressed on whether the review carried out by lawyers on behalf of the bank should have interviewed Mr Farage.

Law firm Travers Smith found failures in how the bank treated confidential information and how it communicated with Mr Farage.

Sir Howard responded: “That was a matter for them as to what they thought they needed to understand about the decision-making processes within the bank, and I think it was a very thorough report, it was an independent report, and I have no reason to question the conclusion that they reached.”

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