The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog


The new regulator is already caving in to the banks

Charging for current accounts in credit would be an attack on citizens and insult to savers.

The gov's new regulator is already caving in to the banks
There are over 47 million current accounts in the UK. Photo: Getty Images


First the taxpayer has to bail out the banks. Now it seems that the unsuspecting current account customer could be taken for a ride, as the bankers scour around for ways to rebuild their balance sheets. 

How disappointing, therefore, that the new head of the Prudential Regulation Authority – the Treasury’s new super-regulator – should give a speech suggesting that “free banking” needs to end as the only way to protect high charges for overdrafts and other bank products.

At a time when bonuses and executive pay remain firmly stuck on a different planet, the public will be aghast at any attempt to squeeze their current accounts with a new fee. We need to have fair play on fees and charges and continue charge-free bank accounts for those who rely on these services. Arguing against exorbitant overdraft charges doesn’t mean we need to hit those customers who stay in the black - modest savers or the working population balancing their accounts each month.

The banks should look be more concerned with changing their remuneration practices and putting their customers first. There are over 47 million current accounts in the UK. If their holders are now to be charged for the privilege of using a debit card, or for basic chequing services, it would be a major blow to the entire population. Many people will have already been approached by their banks to pay a £15 or £20 per month charge for “additional” services, such as mobile phone insurance. Expect this to become the norm if the banks get their way.

Just when the banks are poised to hit consumers with these new fees, the last thing we need is a financial regulator who is actively encouraging charges for current accounts. It is simply unacceptable to erode free banking and free in-credit deposit accounts - especially when millions are giving the banks their money, which can then generate profits while being held centrally. A current account is today an essential part of daily life, a utility that is essential for getting by in the modern world. We need to defend this basic right and fight for free in-credit banking. We must not give way to these false pressures from the banks.

Chris Leslie is Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury and MP for Nottingham East

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