Leading Article: The greedy banks must not exclude the poor
Wednesday 24 November 1999
But, annoying as this is for bank customers, there is an even more serious issue at stake. Such charges provide yet another deterrent to what the Government's Social Exclusion Unit calls the "unbanked" to avail themselves of necessary financial services. As the cash economy begins to be overtaken by electronic shopping and other automated payment services, the one-in- ten households in which nobody has a bank or building society account become further disadvantaged.
There is something of a paradox here. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has been encouraging the banking sector of "rip-off Britain" to use modern technology in order to become more efficient. Very nice in theory, but the beneficiaries are the reasonably well off. Online banking is of little use to those who don't have access to a computer, and although closing redundant branches may improve the bottom line, it also takes banking services out of poorer neighbourhoods. The same Gordon Brown is one of the Government's leading proponents of interventionist solutions to tackle social exclusion. The consequence is that last week a Treasury Policy Action Team (PAT14) published a 76-page report, Access to Financial Services, to deal with those people who are left out of the new, streamlined, hi- tech world of financial wizardry. But, as so often with this Government, the diagnosis is stronger than the solutions.
The unbanked, the report points out, "are disadvantaged when it comes to settling their bills, handling cheques and getting access to credit". Additionally, they find themselves paying more for personal loans, and miss out on savings and insurance products they might find useful. But, what does PAT14 suggest doing? Providing better information about banking services. That and pressing banks to offer "basic accounts", which supply automated credit cards for paying bills and obtaining cash and offer no dangerous overdraft facilities.
Yesterday the banks decided to delay deciding on Barclays' pounds 1 charge until February. When they meet again, they should resolve to make banking no more expensive, for their long-suffering customers. And they must take meaningful steps to bring the unbanked in from the cold.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
- 5 Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabaab militants kill 28 non-Muslims who failed to recite Koran
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Beyoncé '7/11' music video: Star bounces on bed in low-fi homage to viral video
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track