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Woolwich's letters in a twist

The chapter of public relations gaffes by building societies seeking to find a simple yet fair formula for rewarding members to encourage them to vote for conversion continues.

Woolwich Building Society is sending out 55,000 supplementary letters this week to members who last week were wrongly informed whether or not they are entitled to vote on the plan to convert the society into a bank. The great majority are individuals who did not have the necessary pounds 100 in their accounts on the day in December when the society drew up its provisional list of eligible account-holders, but topped up their accounts by the end of the year.

Most of those who felt they were wrongly disqualified helped to jam solid the telephone helplines the society opened to handle queries over the weekend, but a spokesman claimed the early cut-off date was the latest date practical to allow the 2.5 million mail shots to be posted to give the necessary notice of the egm.

A third letter may still be needed to be sent to 15,000 members whose top-up cheques had been received but not cleared by the 31 December qualifying date. Those members can still vote provided their cheques have not bounced. Many thousands of those members being asked to vote in favour of conversion will, however, face a further disappointment when they realise they can vote but will not get free shares themselves because they held less than pounds 100 on 31 December, 1995.

Meanwhile societies are getting stick for excluding investors under 18 from bonuses. Many parents of teenage children are faced with some who will become rich beyond their wildest dreams because they are 18 and others who will receive a derisory cash bonus or miss out altogether because they are too youngn