Pembroke: Look at the scoreboard, Phillips tells his critics

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The Independent Online
Peter Phillips of the insolvency practitioners Buchler Phillips is not one to take criticism lying down. He was given a thorough wigging yesterday by Labour's terrier-like MP Frank Field over his handling of the Robert Maxwell stake in the lowly Endsleigh League football club Oxford United. This, remember, is a club Mr Maxwell once wanted to merge with Reading to form Thames Valley Royals. Mr Phillips spat back: 'If it hadn't been for the way we handled it, the club would not be in existence today. And,' he spluttered on in justification, 'they beat Birmingham City last night.'

The Bank of England, celebrating its 300th anniversary, is relying on one of its old boys for a bit of children's entertainment over the Easter holidays. The Bank is staging mini-productions of The Wind in the Willows, the Toad of Toad Hall classic written by former staffer Kenneth Grahame, at the Bank of England museum. Grahame worked at Threadneedle Street for 30 years and in 1898 became the youngest secretary of the Bank until his retirement 10 years later.

The Bank has gone to quite some trouble. The 45-minute playlet, wittily titled From Bank to Riverbank, has been specially commissioned and will feature West End actors. The productions will be staged at noon and 3pm every day except Saturdays. Entrance is free.

Marks and Spencer's chairman, Sir Rick Greenbury, isn't retiring just yet (he's only 57) but we received a little indication yesterday of who might succeed him if and when he does. Keith Oates, a much-fancied runner in the stakes, was named as the new deputy chairman who will replace Clinton Silver when he retires at the end of July. The elevation takes him to within one step of the throne that brings with it control of the brave new Baker Street world of washed and graded Jersey potatoes and underwear with added Lycra.

Mr Oates, an avid supporter of Blackpool FC and a member of a Monaco tennis club, edges ahead of three other contenders in the St Michael Handicap, who each received a little upwards nudge of their own yesterday. Andrew Stone, Guy McCracken and Peter Salsbury were appointed joint managing directors. Baker Street is typically playing down the re-shuffle's significance. 'It is too early to say when Sir Rick will retire. That is up to him. This appointment has not been made with any view on a potential heir- apparent in mind.'

The Co-operative Bank's chairman, Terry Thomas, must have been joking yesterday when he handed around a supposedly confidential Mori survey on how satisfied customers were with their banks. Surprise, surprise - Co-Op came top, jointly with Midland's First Direct. But the score beggars belief. The pair topped the perfomance table with a 94 per cent satisfaction rating. Girobank and Halifax came in third with an equally unbelievable 90 per cent.

Given the inflated nature of the statistics, the laggards must be really worried. Pitiful NatWest came bottom with 67 per cent followed by only slightly better Barclays with 72 per cent. Martin 'abolish the bank manager' Taylor, has it all to do.

Robert Fairweather is one Barclays customer who would not give his bank his satisfied vote. Given all the hullabaloo over the 'computers can do it better than bank managers' comments by Mr Taylor the other week, Mr Fairweather was perplexed when he wandered into his branch in Knowle in the West Midlands for a statement. Could he get one? No he could not. 'The system's gone down I'm afraid sir, so we can't do it.'

Staff, it seems, were unable to answer a simple inquiry, such as 'How much do I have in my account?' by manual means.

Eventually one bright spark rang the main local office in Solihull where such a complex task could be completed. 'I was told that even that would not have been possible if my Knowle branch had not been part of the Solihull division,' Mr Fairweather says. Raspberry number two for Mr Taylor. Any other offers?

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