Simon Read: What do YOU want from your bank?
Saturday 23 January 2010
Have the banks got away with it? With the recession set to be officially declared over next week and the financial world returning to relative normality, one thing's clear – nothing has really changed. The banks are still ripping people off with excessive overdraft and current account charges. They are also still refusing to offer real help to struggling borrowers by, for example, freezing interest charges.
In other words, despite their massive cock-ups, it's back to banking business as usual with champagne, cigars and big bonuses all round. Bookie Paddy Power predicts British bankers will be pocketing £7bn when this year's bonuses are paid out. While that's not as high as the excesses during the boom of 2007, when beaming bankers received around £10.2bn, it is a lot more than last year when they were awarded £4bn.
Enough's enough. The Government has done little to improve the lot of the consumer when it comes to mainstream banking and there is unlikely to be anything positive to appear after this year's election, whichever party emerges triumphant. It means it's down to us to change things. Pleasingly Which? has taken up the challenge with its Future of Banking Commission. It aims "to put the wider interests of society at the heart of financial reform" and has recruited former Tory Party chairman David Davis to chair it, with support from Labour's John McFall and the Liberal Democrat's Vince Cable.
Which? says the commission will be the first report to look at the financial crisis from the point of view of normal people. It will hold three select committee style hearings in February and March calling key witnesses such as Bank of England governor Mervyn King, pictured, along with a good selection of other banking bigwigs. On top of that senior politicians, financial regulators, trade unions and business leaders will also give evidence. What's missing from that list? You.
But Which? hasn't forgotten about you and is, in fact, putting normal people at the heart of its investigation. Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, says, "Ordinary people are still feeling the repercussions of the financial crisis yet their voice has so far been missing from the debate about how to rebuild our banking system. Everyone uses banking services in some form or another so it's only right that the public has a say in how banks can better serve society."
To make sure your views are heard, Which? is hosting The Which? Big Banking Debate, culminating in a live event on the evening of Thursday 4 February. It may be your only real chance to have a say in how the banking system should change. Which? will be taking its findings to the government after the 2010 general election to show whoever is in power then how people want the financial crisis to be tackled.
For a chance to attend what should be a lively debate email email@example.com with "Big Banking Debate" as the message. If you can't get to the debate – being held in London's Victoria between 5pm and 8pm – email Which? with your views or fill in its online banking survey at tinyurl.com/y932mru.
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