'Big Issue' sellers can bank at the Co-op

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The co-operative Bank is to give homeless people the rare opportunity to open bank accounts by recognising a Big Issue badge as a valid form of identification.

The pilot scheme is being launched in Manchester tomorrow by the Co-operative Bank and the Big Issue in the North, a regional charity that aims to help the homeless by selling the magazine.

It has been necessary to produce a passport, driving licence and utility bills to open an account since anti-laundering regulations were introduced in 1994. But the bank will accept a letter of recommendation from the charity, or a Big Issue in the North badge as proof of ID.

The account will give Big Issue vendors a card to withdraw money from cash machines, and enable them to set up direct debit facilities. Vendors will also be able to deposit cash at the counter and, at the bank's night deposit facility.

The Financial Services Authority said: "There is some flexibility in the money-laundering guidance notes."