Some Islanders denied basic banking facilities

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HIGH street banks in Jersey are failing to provide basic banking facilities to people with poor or non-verifiable credit ratings, a lawyer has said.

In the UK Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds do offer access to a 'basic' bank account with no overdraft facility or cheque book, but according to a lawyer the branches in Jersey are refusing to provide those basic facilities to individuals declared bankrupt, in financial difficulty or if the bank is not able to obtain information about their credit history.

Advocate Marcus Stone, of Lexstone Lawyers, last month wrote to several States Members – Treasury Minister Alan Maclean, Health Minister Andrew Green and Deputy Sam Mézec – drawing attention to what he believes is a 'serious social injustice' that is preventing people from taking the first step out of poverty.

In his letter Advocate Stone wrote: 'Although this is not something that I would normally become involved in, I feel that the banks' refusal to offer such products is actually aggravating poverty on the Island.

'It should be the condition of any deposit-taking licence granted by the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) to provide such accounts.'

The director of banking and enforcement at the Jersey Financial Services Commission, Mark Sumner, said that banks in the Island were under no regulatory obligation to make this provision and suggested that it was a matter of social responsibility for the government. 'It is not a regulatory matter,' he said.

Jersey Citizens' Advice Bureau manager Angela Pigliacelli confirmed that the organisation had approached all four high-street banks in the Island – HSBC, Barclays, NatWest and Lloyds – who all advised that the basic account available in their UK branches did not apply in the Island, although they would consider applications on an individual basis.

She said that CAB clients were often referred to Island credit union Community Savings, in Commercial Street, which does provide basic bank account facilities and can set up standing orders, but not direct debits. However, in future the States will no longer be providing any funding for Community Savings, leaving the organisation totally reliant on voluntary donations.

Advocate Stone said he believed that for most people a bank account was a necessity at a time when society was becoming increasingly cashless. 'It is a basic human right,' he said.

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