Really, it is not so much a matter of Whatever Happened the Banks, so much as whatever happened the banks? The first question is asked by boring people in the pub who have read all the disaster books and will explain the whole banking collapse to you if you stand still long enough.
But then there is a larger grouping: quieter, frequently older and yet more furious. This is the group which is asking: whatever happened the banks? These are my people: we live in the lower case.
We’re unfashionable, often technologically ignorant and our schedules allow us to go to our local branch of the bank during the day. And our local branch of the bank couldn’t think less of us if we had come to rob it. In fact it would think a whole lot more of us if we came to hold up the bank with sawn-off shotguns.
The banks have spent large sums on preventing bank robbers swanning in and out of the premises at will. They have installed a double-door security system, they’ve thought that much about them.
Your customer, on the other hand, is regarded as a nuisance and strongly discouraged. Some time ago, at a secret meeting, the banks declared war on us.
Inside your modern bank nowadays is a cavernous space with nothing in it but a couple of machines, perhaps a television and a person whose job it is to wrangle the customers into submission by asking you what you want to do. Then they tell you that you can do it online.
Then you tell them that you don’t want to do it online. Or that you don’t know how to do it online. Or that you have concerns about security online.
Then they direct you to the cashier section – once the heart of any bank. There is one cashier. There is a queue. You queue. That is , if everything goes well.
A friend of mine rebelled. He was in a city-centre branch at lunchtime, 14 people were in the queue and one cashier’s hatch was open. He refused to tell the man who was trying to break up the queue what his business was. His business was private.
“I had a bit of a Larry David moment,” he says. He rehearsed the last couple of years of bank history in this country and told the bank employee that, as things had turned out, he would have been better putting his money in the attic.
“You know how it is in these situations,” he says modestly. “ You become a bit of a folk hero.” The other 13 people in the queue started to talk about how that member of the bank staff was “here every lunchtime” . Because the banks want you at home, doing all their clerical work for them online. It’s simple really.
I know the name of the man with the last old-fashioned bank book in Dún Laoghaire. The bank has tried for years to get it off him but he won’t surrender it – and this man is a bit of a computer whiz and could do online banking if he wished.
Still, the screws continue to tighten on your inconvenient live customer who is, as we all know, a loser.
A local businesswoman ran down to open an account in a local bank. She had a cheque for €5,000 with her and all her documentation. “A lady with a clipboard gave me someone’s card and said we could make an appointment for Thursday.” This was Tuesday. Thursday is this businesswoman’s busiest day. She went elsewhere.
Or take bank transfers as one mad and exotic example. Bank Of Ireland won’t do them – since October 2012, the bank’s head office said in an official statement. The statement, which was kindly and swiftly issued at my request, said Bank of Ireland is “committed to communities nationwide” and staying in them when other banks leave.
All I wanted to do was send a small sum to a German company. “Oh we don’t do bank transfers,” said the customer wrangler, who never did volunteer his name. “Under €3,000. You can do that online.”
I left the bank. Then I went back into the bank. What about other banks? I asked. Surely they do bank transfers. The customer wrangler said he didn’t know.
A colleague has a similar experience in Galway. “I hadn’t been in a bank for ages,” she said – she is not a member of the Resistance. She owed someone €500 and her bank told her that it was “ not possible to do a bank transfer to another bank. You have to do that online.”
My colleague had no problem with that. But she was required to register her mobile phone number online. It was going to take five working days for the activation code for the mobile phone to be issued. It was then going to take two working days for the transfer itself to be cleared.
In the end my colleague handed the woman to whom she owed money a cheque. She asked the customer wrangler what happened with older customers, or in areas of the country where there is no broadband coverage.
It’s like this: the taxpayer bailed out the banks. In return the banks’ live customers are being hunted down like dogs. All we are saying is – give peace a chance.
William Hederman writes:
While more and more people understand that it is private companies rather than Ireland that will get rich from oil and gas discoveries here, there is still a stunning level of ignorance around this topic. Much of this comes from politicians and journalists.
Providence is controlled by Tony O’Reilly Jnr whose family owned about half of our news media, so you might expect coverage of the Dalkey drill to be better informed.
When Providence applied for the foreshore licence last January, one newspaper quoted a Dún Laoghaire businessman saying the project “could be a good for morale and a boost for the business community”.
If Providence does find oil beside Dalkey, the only morale boost the business community will get is by admiring the rigs and tankers from the shore.
Last year Providence explained to me that they would load the oil into tankers at the rig and probably ship it directly to a refinery in Britain or Holland.
There would be no jobs or investment onshore. The workers on the rig will fly in from Scotland and elsewhere.
The fact that the oil is unlikely to be supplied to the Irish market nullifies the “security of supply” argument.
And of course, oil finds will not reduce the price of petrol here. So let’s desist with the Dallas analogies please, newsdesks.
The only guaranteed benefit to Ireland is the 25% corporation tax rate on profits. However – and this is where the industry’s lobbying of Ray Burke 25 years ago really paid off – when calculating profits from the sale of our oil, Providence can write off the costs of all exploration anywhere in Irish waters in the previous 25 years.
The likely result of such tax write-offs is illustrated by a private study conducted for Shell in 2003.
It projected that the Corrib project would pay just €340 million in tax over its lifetime, this from a field that is now valued at up to €13 billion. (At the time of the study, the field was worth considerably less, but I estimate that €340 represented around 7% of the revenue Shell would generate by selling Irish gas back to the Irish consumer).
Economically, our oil fields might as well be in the South Pacific, but environmentally, the Dalkey drill is frighteningly close to the shore – much closer than would be allowed in other European countries.
Providence’s own Oil Spill Contingency Plan shows that a spill could reach the shores of Dublin in one hour. This drilling is in shallow water, with fast currents, hundreds of marine and bird species, next to Dublin’s greatest amenity: Dublin Bay.
All being put at risk to show that Ireland is open for business, even though that business will hardly benefit us.
William Hederman is a freelance journalist. His website is IrishOilandGas
Pic via CiaranCuffe.ie
via Dalkey And Oil |.
IT HAS BEEN revealed that Council expenditure on the administration of Sligo’s Cranmore Regeneration project is significantly higher than any other regeneration scheme in the country.
United Left Alliance representative Joan Collins T.D. recently asked the Minister for the Environment for details of the amount of regeneration funding spent on a number of urban renewal schemes in 2009 including, the Mitchel’s Crescent Regeneration Scheme in Tralee; the Laural Avenue Regeneration Scheme in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown; the Cranmore Regeneration Scheme Sligo and the Waterford City Regeneration Scheme. She also sought the expenditure on staff salaries on each of the regeneration schemes and the staff salaries as a percentage of overall expenditure on each scheme.
The response from the Ministers office revealed that a colossal 17% of funding provided for the Cranmore Regeneration Project in Sligo was spent on salaries. In Dun Laoghaire Rathdown 1.5% of the funding was spent on salaries; in Tralee 1.5% was spent on salaries; while in Waterford 4.5% of funding was spent on salaries.
Speaking today Independent Socialist Councillor Declan Bree thanked Deputy Collins and said “This funding was supposed to be for regeneration, for the refurbishment of housing stock and the improvement of the estate, however in Sligo almost one out of every five euro is being spent on salaries and administration. How can the County Manager justify this?
“When the Minister for the Environment asked the local authorities in Dun Laoghaire, Sligo, Waterford and Tralee to use their own staff and resources to the fullest extent in terms of supervising regeneration schemes, he did so with the intention of reducing costs. However the exorbitant costs in Sligo are inexplicable and clearly cannot be justified.
“While paying 17% of the funding on administration the regeneration office also paid out over €120,000 in fees to private consultants, in addition over €90,000 was paid in Technical fees in respect of the grass mounds in the estate which still remain in place.
“The fact is that regeneration funding is not being spent where it is supposed to. In the past week alone I have been contacted by a number of constituents from Cranmore – one pensioner who asked for proper heating to be installed in her home was told that there was no money for such work; another told me that her obsolete cooker could not be replaced due to lack of funds and another told me that she has had to ask the Ombudsman to intervene so as to have her windows repaired/replaced.
“I have asked Deputy Collins to raise the matter in the Dail when it resumes in September. As far as I am concerned the people of Cranmore and the people of Sligo are entitled to know why so much money is being squandered on administration costs. ” said Cllr Bree.