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Poverty protesters tackle bank over rates

By Bill Bowder

THE Royal Bank of Scotland has promised to consider proposals for a low-interest credit card for poor people, after a meeting with Jewish, Chris­tian, and Muslim leaders in London on Wednesday.

The leaders, from London Citizens, a community organisation of more than 130 civic and religious groups, wants an end to high lending-rates which, they say, cripple poor people and bind them into unpayable debts.

The leaders met Andrew Cave, head of RBS corporate sustainability, and a member of his team, at the bank’s London headquarters.

Fr Tom O’Brien, Regional Superior of the Augustinians of the Assump­tion, said afterwards that it had been “good news”.

“This is the first time representa­tives of the poor, and that’s what the Churches are, have stood up and said: ‘We want our banks to think about our situation whereby debt is a way of making money for the unscrupulous.’

“They took away a couple of our proposals. Our main one was about a viable low-interest credit card for poorer members of the community and for everybody. . . They promised to give that serious consideration.”

The other request was for a meet­ing with the chairman, Sir Philip Hampton. A projected meeting with Sir Philip in July had ended in em­barrassment, when a delegation, bearing copies of the Torah, the New Testament, and the Qur’an had been stopped at the doorway and refused access. Fr O’Brien said that the bank had apologised for the misunder­standing: “They said that they wanted to work with London Citizens.”

Maurice Glasman, senior lecturer in political theory at London Metro­politan University, and a member of London Citizens, said that the coali­tion of churches, mosques, and other bodies, was based on an idea from the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation in the US. The US organisation, which trained President Obama in com­munity work, was running a “Ten per cent is enough” campaign. The same could happen here, he said.

“Our congregations are experi­encing terrible issues with personal debt. They get no relief from their debts, so there is outrage at the bail-out of the banks by the Govern­ment. The banks have no sense of public accountability. They have not adapted at all to the fact that the public has bailed them out.”

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