Alistair Darling to reveal 'bank account for everyone' plan

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Indy Politics

Banks are to be put under an obligation to provide a free basic account to every UK citizen under new measures expected to be unveiled by Chancellor Alistair Darling in tomorrow's Budget.

Mr Darling is thought to believe that inability to access a bank account can prevent some of Britain's poorest people from joining mainstream society by making it more difficult for them to receive pay cheques and pay bills.

Not having an account can also make life more difficult for people who are watching every penny, as they are unable to buy cheaper goods online or benefit from the reduced rates offered by utility companies to customers paying by direct debit.

And people with bank accounts are thought to find it easier to find and keep permanent employment.

Recent figures from the Treasury's Financial Inclusion Taskforce showed that 1.75 million adults have no access to basic bank accounts - more than half of them from the poorest fifth of society.

Mr Darling is expected tomorrow to unveil plans for a universal legally-enforceable obligation on British banks to provide a basic current account to every adult UK citizen.

Anyone turned down for an account will be able to mount an appeal.

Children's charity Barnardo's warmly welcomed reports that a universal right to a bank account would form part of tomorrow's Budget.

Barnardo's chief executive Martin Narey said: "The UK's poorest families are trapped in a cycle of poverty and debt.

"Already with too little money, they pay more for utilities because they cannot pay by direct debit.

"With no facility for saving and no access to affordable credit they are driven toward unaffordable doorstep lenders. This legislation could be an important landmark in easing family poverty."

Barnardo's said that many families already struggling on a low income and unable to access basic banking were excluded from paying bills by standing order and saving much-needed cash.

Unable to borrow small amounts of cash, many families in desperation turn to doorstep lenders, who charge them as much as 545% in interest.