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£16m windfall for charity… from unused bank accounts

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CHARITIES are due to receive a share of £16 million collected from unused bank accounts.

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In 2017, the States passed the Dormant Bank Accounts Law, which enabled the collection of deposits from accounts that have not been used for more than 15 years into a central fund called the Reclaim Fund. The final stage of the law, in the form of an Appointed Day Act, is due to be taken to the States for approval next month and will enable the funds to be distributed for a range of causes in the Island, including charity, education, heritage, the environment and culture.

The money will also be used to fund the office of Jersey’s charity commissioner. The owners of the bank accounts will have a mechanism of appeal to reclaim any funds taken from their accounts.

Following a request from the JEP, the government confirmed that since the initial laws were passed, money totalling £16.28 million has been collected from 10,456 dormant bank accounts in the Island.

An independent body is set to be established to determine how the money is spent.

A States spokeswoman said: ‘The Appointed Day Act will bring into force Article 20 of the Dormant Bank Accounts (Jersey) Law 2017.

‘Article 20 requires the External Relations Minister to make orders setting out a distribution policy and appointing an independent organisation to distribute any funds made available.

‘The money in the Jersey Reclaim Fund can only be used to cover the costs of the Charity Commissioner and for the charitable purposes specified in the law. It is not for the minister to decide on the individual recipients of the monies or how they are spent.

‘It is important to note that any initial distributions will be relatively limited in value as we continue to build a history of reclaims and ensure that sufficient is held in the reclaim fund to cover repayments to banks in respect of any returning customer claims – and also to give some longevity to the fund.’

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She added that it would be ‘very difficult’ to forecast anticipated receipts into the fund but it was expected that they would be lower in the future.

‘While the criteria for determining a dormant bank account is defined in the law, data relating to the period an account has been open is held by the individual banks and not by the government,’ she said.

‘When the regular annual process for making submissions is more established, receipts to the reclaim fund are expected to be significantly lower than those made in the early years.

‘The money in the fund can be reclaimed at any point by account holders, via their banks, and it is therefore important to ensure that sufficient money is retained in the fund to meet such claims.

‘Any initial release of money from the fund will therefore be relatively limited. No decision has been made about which organisation will be responsible for distributing the funds.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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