Major banks agree to inner-city services deal

Six of the UK’s high street banks have agreed in principle to set up pilot schemes with community groups which are trying to combat the closure of inner-city branches.

The agreement is the result of the first meeting between the banks and the umbrella group the Citizens’ Organising Foundation, held on July 25, which had the support of Bank of England governor Eddie George.

COF members in East London, the Black Country, Sheffield and Bristol have struck deals with six of the eight main high street banks – the Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Abbey National and Halifax. Only two, HSBC and Bank of Scotland, have yet to sign.

The schemes will initially run for two years, with a one-year opt-out clause, and offer a range of services, including low-interest long-term loans to enable businesses to generate income for some of the UK’s most deprived areas.

COF director Neil Jameson says: “The deal should finally put a stop to banks closing their inner-city branches without negotiation. It shows that at last they have recognised our concerns about social exclusion.”

The agreement has the full support of the British Bankers Association, which recently slammed the Government and Post Office-backed Universal Bank for the poor as “unworkable”.

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