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Thinktank says banks failing the poorest

07 March 2006
Bank accounts are failing to meet the needs of the poorest in society, thereby indirectly forcing them into the hands of the UK's loan sharks, according to thinktank the New Economics Foundation (Nef).

The organisation is calling for a "Universal Service Obligation" to be set up to ensure that banks always have to provide for the needs of everyone, regardless of profit potential.

In spite of launching so-called "basic" bank accounts, approximately 11 per cent of UK adults still don't have any sort of account, Nef asserts.

Moreover, in areas classified as "deprived" this number rise to 35 per cent, showing a clear correlation between prosperity and access to banking services.

Basic bank accounts are also designed to support people with a worse credit history, allowing benefits to be paid in directly and cash to be withdrawn, but without an overdraft facility.

However, under current legislation the banks are not accountable for financial inclusion, and do not have to meet government targets for these accounts.

Whitni Thomas, head of access to finance, said: "The banks are cherry picking the most profitable customers - only paying lip service to tackling financial exclusion.

"Their lack of action leaves the most vulnerable marginalised from mainstream financial services, paying more for everyday goods and with no option but loan sharks for credit."

The thinktank is also calling for a league table to be published to compare banks' performances in the provision of basic bank accounts.

To read more about basic bank accounts, click here.

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