There'll be a new bank account switching service in September

Five questions answered.

The Payments Council has announced a new bank account switching service that will start on the 16 September. We answer five questions on the new scheme. 

What does the new service do exactly?

It enables current account holders to switch banks within seven days instead of up to 30 days. 

As of Monday 16th September, 33 bank and building societies brands – accounting for virtually 100 per cent of the current account marketplace – will deliver the new switching service for consumers, small charities and small businesses.

How will it work exactly?

After the start date, when switching accounts the new provider will arrange for all direct debits and standing orders to be redirected to the new account. This system will stay in place for 13 months so no one off payments are missed.

Payments going in will also be redirected.

Why is the Payments Council launching this service?

It is being launched as a recommendation from the Independent Commission on Banking two years ago. The commission said that people only changed bank accounts once every 26 years on average.

As a result, the so-called "big four" High Street banks - Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC - retain control over the market.

If it’s easier to switch, will banks be offering more incentives?

Yes! Two banks are already offering customers a cash incentive of up to £125 to switch their current accounts to them.

Will this new service provide a boost for smaller banks?

That’s one of the aims. Small banks taking place include the Reliance Bank, which is part of the Salvation Army – it has just one branch. Plus the Cumberland Building Society, which has 34 branches based across Cumbria and the north-west of England.

Payments Council has announced a new bank account switching service. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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Amber Rudd's report on the benefits of EU immigration is better late than never

The study will strengthen the case for a liberal post-Brexit immigration system. 

More than a year after vowing to restrict EU immigration, the government has belatedly decided to investigate whether that's a good idea. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to report on the costs and benefits of free movement to the British economy.

The study won't conclude until September 2018 - just six months before the current Brexit deadline and after the publication of the government's immigration white paper. But in this instance, late is better than never. If the report reflects previous studies it will show that EU migration has been an unambiguous economic benefit. Immigrants pay far more in tax than they claim in benefits and sectors such as agriculture, retail and social care depend on a steady flow of newcomers. 

Amber Rudd has today promised businesses and EU nationals that there will be no "cliff edge" when the UK leaves the EU, while immigration minister Brandon Lewis has seemingly contradicted her by baldly stating: "freedom of movement ends in the spring of 2019". The difference, it appears, is explained by whether one is referring to "Free Movement" (the official right Britain enjoys as an EU member) or merely "free movement" (allowing EU migrants to enter the newly sovereign UK). 

More important than such semantics is whether Britain's future immigration system is liberal or protectionist. In recent months, cabinet ministers have been forced to acknowledge an inconvenient truth: Britain needs immigrants. Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. Brexit Secretary David Davis, for instance, recently conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall after the UK leaves the EU. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants." 

In this regard, it's striking that Brandon Lewis could not promise that the "tens of thousands" net migration target would be met by the end of this parliament (2022) and that Rudd's FT article didn't even reference it. As George Osborne helpfully observed earlier this year, no senior cabinet minister (including Rudd) supports the policy. When May departs, whether this year or in 2019, she will likely take the net migration target with her. 

In the meantime, even before the end of free movement, net migration has already fallen to its lowest level since 2014 (248,000), while EU citizens are emigrating at the fastest rate for six years (117,000 left in 2016). The pound’s depreciation (which makes British wages less competitive), the spectre of Brexit and a rise in hate crimes and xenophobia are among the main deterrents. If the report does its job, it will show why the UK can't afford for that trend to continue. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.