Bank holidays become thing of the past

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The Independent Online
BANK HOLIDAYS are a thing of the past for small businesses, according to a survey which showed two-thirds worked instead of taking the day off.

While most of the population traditionally lit a barbecue or - more likely - found themselves stuck in a motorway jam, a growing number are now at work.

The NOP survey of 200 small businesses found that most running their own business chose to work through the previous bank holidays and expected to do the same again today. Eleven per cent had not taken a break for more than five years, fearing they would loose touch if they took time off.

Making something of a misnomer of the term "bank holiday," most bank workers are also at work as the banks now stay open for the May and August bank holidays.

The essence of the national holiday has, in fact, changed so much there is now a campaign to rename it, taking out the "bank" element.

So far, 46 MPs have signed an early day motion backing the campaign for a name change. The aim is that the holiday should be revamped by the year 2000 "to reflect the spirit of the new millennium."

Cooperative Bank, which launched the campaign in May, has now asked an advertising agency to come up with some alternative names. Family day and "the holiday formerly known as bank" are among the suggestions.

Simon Williams, head of corporate affairs, said: "Bank holidays are a throwback to the past when the whole banking system closed down for the day. However that is not fair because we will be open on Monday.

"We will received 10,000 incoming calls to our telephone banking operation and we will be processing thousands of Internet banking transactions."

Of those who can and do get away from work for the day, up to 200,000 are expected to be at the Notting Hill carnival in west London which will have seen around two million pass through the streets by the time the event winds down tonight.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Harwood said that the received wisdom that local residents packed their bags and left town over carnival weekend was being proved wrong this year.

"Lots of people who live in the area are amazed to find how many friends they have as carnival weekend approaches."

While the motorways have been quiet for much of the weekend, the traditional jams were expected this evening as day-trippers made their way home.

Police have appealed for anyone who fears a member of their family might have gone missing over the bank holiday weekend to contact them after the body of man aged 18 to mid-20s was found in a pond by a passer- by at Bromborough on the Wirral on Saturday.

The man is thought to have been murdered.

A woman climber aged 53 fell to her death from a cliff on to rocks in Pembrokeshire yesterday. A man climbing with her suffered a broken leg after he was pulled over the edge by a safety rope tying them together.