Unhappy borrowers find a new champion

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PEOPLE enduring stormy relationships with their banks are being offered 'caring advice' by a new service, writes Alison Eadie.

The Independent Banking Advisory Service is masterminded by Eddy and Brenda Weatherill. Their troubles with Lloyds Bank were well publicised when they aired their grievances to their local MP - the Prime Minister, John Major. (They also feature in High Street Robbery, reviewed on this page.)

The IBAS is intended to broaden the scope of the Bank Action Group, a campaigning organisation formed almost a year ago out of an explosion of small business fury against the banks. The aim is to provide a more professional service, giving swift information and educating people in the way the banking system works. Mr Weatherill said: 'The crusade continues. We are not going away.'

He added that the problems are getting worse: banks are still reducing overdraft facilities, even to businesses with good prospects.

The new service tries to bring banks and customers together, and Mr Weatherill claims some success. 'We have helped several people stay in their own houses who would have been repossessed.'

He said the banks do not resent the involvement of a third party, but find it helpful. The panel of experts called on to help settle disputes includes ex-bank managers - often more senior than the people they are talking to.

Some disputes, arising from the naivety of bank customers or communication problems, could be sorted out quickly, Mr Weatherill said. More difficult are the ones that have already gone to law. The IBAS can still help, by recommending solicitors who understand banking.

The IBAS is trying to build up its membership to become an influential pressure group. 'We are trying to give ordinary people in the street some clout,' said Mr Weatherill.

Annual membership costs pounds 25 for individuals and pounds 45 plus VAT for small businesses. Telephone: Huntingdon (0487) 740742.