Gordon Brown's muchvaunted "stability" may be a bankable vote-winner for not-so-new Labour, but he has a sure anti-Midas touch when it comes to savings.

His famous move to deprive pension schemes of tax relief on their dividends is said to have cost something like £100 billion by now - more or less matching the "black hole" of pension fund deficits that will have to be filled with real money one day.

It has done the stock market no good either, forcing hard- pressed pension schemes to switch out of equities. That in turn made private individuals wary of all equity linked investments - and this year Mr Brown has made them more so by choking off the last tax relief on dividends from equity PEPs and ISAs.

You still pay no tax on any capital gains you make in these - but that is no use unless you are going to cash in gains amounting to more than the ordinary tax-free allowance of £8,500 in a single tax year. Few of us manage that.

Savers and investors have rumbled this. In 2004 there were signs that private investors were responding to the stock market's tentative recovery. They pumped £3.6 billion into ISA investment funds in the 2003/04 tax year ( allowing for withdrawals).

In 2004/05 that slumped to £1.7 billion, according to the Investment Management Association, even though the stock market staged its most encouraging rally for four years in the early weeks of this year.

In March, hitherto regarded as the peak month for ISA sales, packaged ISA investments came to only £424 million, less than half those in March last year. So yesterday when Legal & General reported ISA sales of £84 million in the first three months of 2005, down from £122 million last time, it could claim it did better than the market.

Of course, Mr Brown may not have done all this singlehanded. A breakdown of the IMA's numbers shows that private investors held back when the Footsie passed 5000. They were right, too. Those still minded to invest can do so now 200 points lower down.

They could still have got a tax break by investing in a corporate bond fund, as many did in 2004.

Mysteriously, the Chancellor has still left the income from bond ISAs tax-free. But corporate bonds had become pricy.

Then some fund managers may have scaled back their ISA advertising this year, sensing that Mr Brown had knocked the stuffing out of their market.

Arguably it is as well that he did. The collapse of what was left of the savings culture came as the retail boom was stalling. Another few hundred million siphoned off into ISAs would have made things that much worse.

Anyway, the numbers for mortgage approvals in March suggest the British have not lost their faith in bricks and mortar. This is as well for Mr Brown's "stability" the other side of the election.

It is under enough pressure from his own borrowing without a stagnant housing market to induce a "feel poor" factor to squeeze his tax revenues - and make the taxpayers more reluctant than ever to save up for a pension.