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Bank bosses furious about additional levy

Robert Peston | 12:17 UK time, Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The chairmen and chief executives of the UK's big four banking groups are livid that an additional £800m levy has been imposed on their banks (see my earlier post).

City of London skyline looking to Canary Wharf

 

According to sources, the chief executives of HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds will have a conference call this afternoon, to decide whether to press ahead with Project Merlin, the lending and bonuses deal under discussion with ministers, or whether to "throw their toys out of the pram" (in the words of a banker).

"We have been negotiating with the Treasury in good faith, on the assumption that the Chancellor would not spring nasty surprises like this on us," said a banker. "We had no idea this was coming and quite frankly some of us are livid."

The question the bank bosses will discuss this afternoon is whether it remains sensible to sign up to Project Merlin, if they can't be certain that the government will resist the temptation to periodically bash them when the political heat is on.

"The whole point of Project Merlin was to reach an accommodation with ministers, to end bank bashing," said a banker. "Is there any point for us of doing Merlin if it begins with what some of us would see as betrayal?"

The government remains hopeful that Project Merlin will still be signed. An official said it was impossible to give the banks advance warning of the tax rise for legal reasons.

If it is signed, Project Merlin with involve the banks promising to make available £190bn of credit for businesses, supporting the government's so-called Big Society Bank, providing equity finance for medium size businesses in economically disadvantaged parts of the country, and showing restraint in bonus payments.

A senior banker said "this feels a bit like the last soldier killed before the armistice - if there is an armistice."

UPDATE 18:38

Toys still in pram.

The read-out I’ve had of the bank chief executives' conference call is there is a will to press on with Project Merlin, in spite of their noses being put out of joint by the levy increase. 

However the formal announcement of the Merlin deal is unlikely to be tomorrow – though it could come on Thursday.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    "The chairmen and chief executives of the UK's big four banking groups are livid that an additional £800m levy has been imposed on their banks...."

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Awww diddums.

    Please Mr Bankers, can we have our money back?

  • Comment number 2.

    ...the chief executives of HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds will have a conference call this afternoon,....

    Is this legal?

  • Comment number 3.

    Hah, the bank bosses are livid. Cry me a river, please.

    To them - you fail to understand one of the core tenets of the UK tax system. Goods (and now services) that are fundamentally detrimental to the people of the country are taxed higher than others. For examples, see tobacco, alcohol, etc.

    Bank behaviour is at LEAST as detrimental to all of us as those two substances are, so why should they be surprised that they have to pay a piece to undo that damage. If they start behaving in a socially beneficial way, then that levy should be re-examined. Until then, my opinion is it should be raised to be brought in line with the level of social and economic harm caused.

  • Comment number 4.

    this isn't helpful if the government want to keep working with the banks, the banks aren't obliged to do that project, something worth remembering!

  • Comment number 5.

    My bet is that much of Project Merlin will just be a bringing together of previous regional and small firm government initiatives under a new more corporate umbrella directly run by the banks.
    Remember the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme?

  • Comment number 6.

    Are they really livid? Or is it to make the government look good/hard fought/tough on banks etc...

  • Comment number 7.

    Call me Dave pulls a rabbit out the hat to placate the baying British public. Sadly though the reality is far from the "Increase" in the bank Levy when compared to the other, off-radar, tax reforms being introduced in the city to eliminate the tax paid by British companies on their overseasz earnings, the marginal tax rate paid to bring their overall corporation tax rate to 28%. Essentially all overseas earnings are tax free in the UK and only the rate levied on profits in the originating country are paid in the originating country. The greatest con so far by this Con-Dem government - more money for the Uber rich at cost to the commoner on the street...

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/tax-city-heist-of-century

    Time to get angry people; our countrys coffers are being raped to provide Call Me Dave's city chums with unbelievably lavish lifestyles while the rest of us struggle to feed our families or put petrol in our cars. Come the revolution....

  • Comment number 8.

    How are the banks supposed to run a business when the chancellor is sitting on the side lines imposing additional ad hoc levies whenever he feels like it?

  • Comment number 9.

    The 'Bosses' might be livid but the shareholders (us the taxpayer!) of RBS and Lloyds TSB are pleased that at last The Chancellor has shown 'some teeth'!

  • Comment number 10.

    Personally, I'd rather the banks squeezed for £800m in real cash now than having them signed up to a agreement to 'make available' £190b, which any right minded person knows isn't going to compel them making credit available on any lesser criteria than they currently do.

    A bank lends money to make money. It is their core business. They will lend to those who are creditworth, and not to those who aren't. Unless Merlin includes the Government in some way guaranteeing loans that have a much higher risk than the banks are willing to accept on purely commercial terms, then 'Making Available' means nothing anyway.

    Let the bankers throw their toys out of the cot. The Government runs the country at the will of the people.

  • Comment number 11.

    Its not as if they can't afford it.... it is, after all, only 13% of a discretional bonus pot they are quite happy to dish out to their staff!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    The banker's anger is fake and the levy is peanuts to the banks. The government gets to look tough on the banks and the banks get to say they've paid the price now lets move on. This was all pre-agreed with Sir Humphrey months ago. Its a win:win for the government and the bankers and no one should fall for it.

  • Comment number 13.

    Logic obviously isn't the bankers' strong point. Did they think they could just carry on debating and talking about Merlin until the subject bored everyone to death and things could go back to what they were?
    I'm sure the lack of progress on Merlin was a big factor in this tax decision. And they can't say they weren't warned about it . . .

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    It would, in general, have been far better if the banks could manage their own affairs independently of government. Since they have not been able to, one price to pay is politically expedient government interference. The amounts discussed are not large in context and one assumes that being "livid" is calculated to send just the right message to an irate public and Mr Peston can always be relied upon to whip it up a bit.

  • Comment number 16.

    800 million is a drop in the ocean to these guys "me thinks they protest too much" project Merlin is just a meeting between Osbourne and the banks to work out how they can convince the public that Osbourne is being hard on the banks when actually they are not.

    The billions that will be made available to lenders is actually there now, it is not the moneys availability thats the problem its the extortionate terms they have for actually letting it go!! I should know Barclays has just closed my business down, after failing to let me have an overdraft even though the business had never required one before and the business had no other debt.......the money is there the banks will lend it but not on anyones terms but their own.

    The banks want to buy their shares back from the government and it is the consumer who is building the war chest for them to do this.

  • Comment number 17.

    Note to bankers:

    You created a world mess based on greed. We bailed you out, and due to incompetence by the last government, failed to establish agreement on bonus payments.

    Having been bailed out you went back to being unbelievably greedy. Please do not expect us to feel sorry for you, it is not going to happen.

    Strangeley I do not think the general public understand the 'big picture' about banking and bonuses. It is something to do with you creating the mess and only we seem to have to live in it.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    Good point by Kitt Green, what else are they having regular conference calls about....interest rates perhaps?

  • Comment number 21.

    "this feels a bit like the last soldier killed before the armistice". Not sure I need to enter into a massive tirade about how utterly off the mark this comment is.

    If I can sum up my feelings politely and succinctly: "this feels a bit like the last soldier killed before the armistice" - um, no it's not - not even remotely close. Happy for you to go to the frontline and find out if you want....

  • Comment number 22.

    The banks will be bashed as long as they deserve it. Is,'t it true that if you added all of the years of banking profits to the years of banking losses it would probably come out even, so why do this bunch of self serving oligarchs expect anything more from us? At least we have a chance to vote for the government every five years, the banks have as much of an effect on our lives and wealth and we can't touch them. Just a little aside, I understand from their advertising, Natwest are committing many hours of their employees to paint local cricket club fences etc. I wonder when Mr Hester will be coming to paint my garden fence? instead of making lots of money lending my money which he pays me nothing for!

  • Comment number 23.

    A banker said "we had no idea this was coming". If this is an accurate quote, that banker is totally incompetent. If it was obvious to the likes of me that this was a real alternative if project Merlin failed to get going, why not to this banker?

  • Comment number 24.

    It wont be long before we find out who is really in charge. Georgie boy will have to sob all the way to the ....!

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    Robert Peston.

    "..or whether to "throw their toys out of the pram" (in the words of a banker)"

    aren't a majority of 'little people' AKA the toys were lying in the gutter already??

  • Comment number 27.

    If I was Osbourne and Cable bankers complaining would be music to my ears. It is what the public want and what the government needs to deliver to sate public anger.

    And if the banks walk away from Project Merlin it will be a PR own goal. It will mean they cannot claim that the era of bank bashing is over. I just don't think they are that stupid.

    The smart thing for the bankers to do is to bow the head and get on with it. Lets face it they are getting off pretty lightly really

  • Comment number 28.

    Bankers literally do not understand basic economics that their long term share prices have not increased but their remuneration has. Or lax corporate governance that they are not beholden to shareholders but instead to a board of directors who all sign off on each other pay cheques. Take heed of popular sentiment when its justified or you may find when you do try and move out of the city that not that many people want taxpayer supported behemoths who pay themselves obscene amounts of money based on massaged short term profit figures

  • Comment number 29.

    The bankers are just going to make us pay for it instead.

    The banks are bashing customers the government are bashing the people.

    The people feel like a one legged man in an arse kicking contest.

  • Comment number 30.

    I note you don't give your own particular take on what this development might mean, Robert: is this because you don't have one, or are you still mulling over the implications of the tea leaves?

    To my mind, as an outsider to this particular world, what's most striking about all the quotes you give is how much the bankers see everything that isn't strictly in their favor as bank bashing.

    Even Project Merlin isn't viewed as an attempt at achieving a new sort of equilibrium between the banking world and the rest of us (as underwriters of any catastrophes their antics bring about), but merely a sop to shut the rest of us up until the next bonus crazed eco(nomic) disaster ensues - and since all they're concerned with is getting the rest of us off their backs rather than creating greater financial stability and probity, then more such disasters surely will ensue.

  • Comment number 31.

    They are naive if they did not expect to be used as a political football.

  • Comment number 32.

    If it was my job to stage manage the PR for the banks, this is exactly what I'd do:

    1) persuade the govt. to levy an amount that sounds a lot to the man on the street, but is tiny compared to what the banks got from the taxpayer, or the sums they deal with on a day to day basis
    2) get my banking clients put on a suitable show of being outraged, humiliated etc
    3) let the public be suitably unsympathetic
    4) back to business as usual, champagne all round

    I don't think it's possible to be too cynical about these people

  • Comment number 33.

    This is about brokering a deal as the govt has been frustrated that the banks don’t ordinarily want to play ball and are trying to sabotage or derail the Project Merlin. Hence the govt decides to flex its muscle and show who the boss is and hit them hard where it hurts - in their pockets so the banks will now have to re-think the bonus payments to be made and allow for the levy to be deducted before making bonus payments. It is the right & wise thing to do but it is still a very minimal amount compared to the payments that will be made to the bosses. Incidentally, the bank workers at the lower bottom of the ladder don't get as much bonus as their bosses. The govt is right to announce this just before the banks start dishing out bonuses so they know what to expect and payments to be made to the tax man before they start buying new yachts etc.

  • Comment number 34.

    > "The whole point of Project Merlin was to reach an accommodation with
    > ministers, to end bank bashing," said a banker.

    Diddums? On the other hand, I'm surprised that bankers expect the bashing to end so soon. They've still got trillions to pay back.


  • Comment number 35.

    Oh my dear Bankers...we haven't started yet! The sooner we have a public bank the sooner we can stop using you for good. Pay bonuses and your in big trouble. Go abroad if you like we have plenty of people out here that can do your job. Good bye.

  • Comment number 36.

    And there was me niaively believing that Project Merlin was to help lending to SME's and help the economy. Now it seems that it was to stop 'bank bashing'.

  • Comment number 37.

    Dear Mr Bankers

    Next time you greedy lot decide to fleece the world of it's savings, cause millions of people undue stress and worry at losing their homes, cause the loss of millions of jobs worldwide just because you want a new home in the Bahamas or a bigger boat because Banker Jones in the next berth upgraded, just bear this in mind . . . . we ain't going to bail you out again.

    Next time we cut the dead wood out - once can kind of be forgiven but twice, nah you are taking the proverbial.

  • Comment number 38.

    at last The Chancellor has shown 'some teeth'!

    I fear not Osbournes teeth are for smiling with all the way to the big city job he will have after leaving office.

  • Comment number 39.

    If they wanted to avoid banker bashing then they should never have gambled the world economy chasing obscene profits and bonuses.

    The banks would like everyone to 'move on' from the 2008 crisis so they can continue to pocket huge bonuses, but the crisis is far from over, and potentially is going to get far worse this year. I get the impression they are looking for any excuse to back out of Merlin.

    I am livid my future, my pension and my kids future were all sacrificed to bail out these parasites.

  • Comment number 40.

    Robert

    Project Merlin's purpose has to be a reboot of the economy in whatever final precise formulation it takes; financial balance between lending, capital investment, bonus restraint, commitment to stay in UK, etc.

    If the banks have £6-8bn to give away to staff in bonuses this year, then an equivalent amount should be invested in businesses, this year. It should be for small and medium sized company equity participation, as well as loans and or mortgages; the latter of which should be at reasonable market rates in relative proportion to BoE base rate.

    The banks are not required to meet the new Basel Capital adequacy requirements for a few years yet, and represent a modest proportionate increase on the current rules. The legitimacy of these requirements as a justification by the banks for charging high interest rates, or excessive lending conditions should be very strongly challenged indeed.

    Osborne's intervention on national radio today for a further £800m in tax smacks either of desperation or "playing hardball" in negotiation with the banks. It was certainly a high risk tactic.

    Its not difficult to understand either Osborne's frustration with the banks or the bank chiefs' anger at his announcement today. Tensions have been running high for a while.

    A deal is needed and it is needed for the good of the government, the banks and most important of all the country and the economic recovery. It is important that it is a fair deal and seen as such by the general public. On that Cabinet Ministers seem to be in closer touch with public opinion than the banks, as illustrated by Bob Diamond's recent Treasury select committee performance.

  • Comment number 41.

    All I can see is an exercise in smoke & mirrors going on here.

    Bank taxation has to be seen as a whole - and whilst Ed Balls quite rightly hones in on the net change still being a lower bill for the banks than before, there is a MASSIVE fiddle being stiched up behind the scenes, as George Monbiot's piece in the Guardian yesterday explains:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/tax-city-heist-of-century

    By allowing banks to avoid paying corporation tax in relation to their offshore earnings: Monbiot says:

    "While Cameron insists that he occupies the centre ground of British politics, that he shares our burdens and feels our pain, he has quietly been plotting with banks and businesses to engineer the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle to the ultra-rich that this country has seen in a century." (C) The Guardian.

    He goes to claim that under the new tax regime, "we will be lucky if the banks pay anything at all."

    The personal, economic and political links between the Conservatives and the City bind them together so strongly that in many ways the Tories are The Bankers' Party. If Monboit's claims are true, this is such an abuse of power and deliberate deception that it should be the subject of an opposition emergency debate and a Confidence Vote on the government.

    TODAY's ESSAY QUESTION: "Project Merlin increasingly appears to be a conspiracy to defraud the British taxpayer rather than a way to encourage lending" - DISCUSS

    This is in effect a coup d'etat - Cameron is oiling the wheels of the financial services industry to move offshore to escape UK taxation. There has been no discussion of this, it is not in any manifesto of coalition agreement and it rfeveals the LibDems to have been completely duped.

  • Comment number 42.

    they (the bankers) clearly still havent got the message about how angry we all are and the fact that RBS and Lloyds would probably be pushing up daisies with Woolworths if they were 'normal' companies

  • Comment number 43.

    According to the Guardian, the funding crisis caused by these greedy spongers has effected Royal Navy operations in the Caribean - we can't afford it there anymore.

    And _they_ are furious! Don't make me laugh....

  • Comment number 44.

    Are they furious about this as well?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/tax-city-heist-of-century

    Somehow I doubt it...

  • Comment number 45.

    hi robert,how can the banks be "livid" is this some private game of charades for the benefit of the watching public.when the banks say they are angry at a levy from the gov`t are they really so upset, i personally feel they have recieved a slap acoss the back of the hand instead instead of a rollicking

  • Comment number 46.

    Now they know what it feels like to have to pay,get used to it your free ride is over,it's about time you paid up as well now you know what us mere mortals have to put up with.

  • Comment number 47.

    Sounds like a staged bit of posturing to be honest. Are we really supposed to believe that they discussed Project Merlin without mentioning this? Pull the other one.

    This is a scam to cover the fact that they aren't really penalising the banks very much at all - which is fine if they get them lending more and not fine if they don't.

    What I would like to see is a return to GENUINE assessment of individual cases, real relationships with customers instead of monkeys in their twenties called "relationship managers" who have a checklist, a computer, a desk and a telephone.
    And they disappear to some other plastic role every six months or so and their replacement introduces himself by sending a latter calling in the overdraft you just agreed with his predecessor, hereby proving that he/she couldn't be bothered to read the file or even to call you on his own phone bill - just another profit generation scam when the customer has to ring back on a revenue share number to patiently explain everything it says in black and white right under the nose of the latest non-decision maker.

    Financial institutions need to move away from this "product" driven approach to lending and once again allow their people the freedom to make individual lending decision on a case by case basis. And yes - that does mean that the people making the decisions need to know what they're doing.


    In the old days when you wanted a loan

  • Comment number 48.

    15. At 12:51pm on 8th Feb 2011, John_Galt wrote:

    > The amounts discussed are not large in context and one assumes
    > that being "livid" is calculated to send just the right message to an
    > irate public and Mr Peston can always be relied upon to whip it up
    > a bit.

    Indeed - it's chump change for those guys. We have to beat a lot more dough out of those banks before we're done here.

  • Comment number 49.

    Its funny really, i was livid when the banks won the biased supreme court appeal against utccrs or bank charges.

    They weren't so lived then though were they when ordinary working class people suffered massively!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    £800m, that's nothing to the banks, remember they have made high 'profits' because of undervalued debt that was then revalued at a later date, not by any commercial genius, therefore it should be passed back to the public as excess profits.

    What was the total paid out in bonuses this year across the main banks....?

    Remember which banks are effectively public sector organisations, again super profits should be passed back to the real owners, us.

    Why can't the banks see the light? This is the beginning of the end for banks and the financial service sector as we know it. It's unsustainable as a business model and institutionally bankrupt.

    It will take some unravelling, but it will be unravelled, we don't need a revolution just a wee bit of time for the whole thing to be slowly dismantled and then reformed.

    Sense within economics and management will prevail, it took 15 years to get hear and reform will not be quick but it will be radical.

  • Comment number 51.

    Yes OK 'LIVID'......sorry

  • Comment number 52.

    Who oh why is Britain so hot to trot to act in isolation?
    Is this a knee-jerk reaction. If yes, then a lot of things Britain does financially will turn out to be second-guessed, or worse: second-best.
    The UK's big four banking groups are livid that an additional £800m levy has been imposed on their banks - HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds.
    But in BRUSSELS, the European Parliament has voted on a report that puts the EU support behind enacting a Financial Transaction Tax ACROSS THE EUROPEAN UNION: That's all 27 countries, including Britain.
    A financial transaction tax will be a means to raise revenue for cash-strapped governments; it will do the right thing. i.e. Make financial institutions pay for the costs of the global economic crisis. Yes, it is contentious; yes, some countries fear that such a tax could see financial business flee elsewhere, but a FAT across the EU will certainly make this more difficult.
    The report contends that
    - increasing existing taxes and
    - additional spending cuts
    will not be enough to respond to Europe's financial difficulties (originally caused by investment banks too big to fail). But a tax on transactions would
    - help stabilize markets by providing an audit trail on speculation
    - control high-frequency trading
    - reducing dramatic price fluctuations and
    - generate revenue.
    The EU Parliament estimates return of EUR200B/year at the EU level, and if the tax can be applied globally: $650B/year...but it is highly unlikely that the United States would cooperate.
    Further, the EU says that all derivatives transactions traded over counter, or under counter must be included.
    The EU Commissioner for Taxation, Algirdas Semeta, said in January that the EU Commission supports further development of the financial transaction tax at global level and is working to promote an agreement with G20. However, even at the EU level alone, the Commission supports a financial activities tax.
    By the summer of 2011, the commission is expected to publish its report; so tell me why Britain felt such urgency to impose the bank levy at this time, and how will the bank levy fit into FAT, or is Britain opting out of the FAT?

  • Comment number 53.

    RP: Bank Bosses Furious At Additional Levies.
    ____________

    Let them eat cake?

    BTW, I have just seen a ticker tape on the screen to say cash bonuses are to be limited to £2K. Mirabile Dictum.

  • Comment number 54.

    Seemingly it's take with one hand, give with another:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/tax-city-heist-of-century

  • Comment number 55.

    They're obviously not really livid. It's all an act.

  • Comment number 56.

    As we the ordinary taxpayer own the major shares in lloyds tsb, northern rock and halifax amongst others. The banks should give us our money back before even considering lavishing themselves with bonuses.

  • Comment number 57.

    "Bank bosses furious about additional levy". Great, now they know how the rest of us feel! What goes around comes around I guess. I'm sick to death of us pumping money into the banking system. It's basically Socialism for bankers. They take the money, and skim off the cream, then we take the hit when things go bad. In any other aspect of society this would be called scrounging off the sate . . .

  • Comment number 58.

    What happened about increased competition which is the key to everything - profits, bonuses etc. ?

  • Comment number 59.

    Have I missed something hear? RBS and Lloyds are the plaything of the Treasury. If HMG says jump , they response should be "how high"?

    With regard to HSBC and Barclay, have they withdrawn from the Special Liquidity Scheme? If not they are borrowing from the Bank of England at LIBOR and lending the cash out at a 4% (or better) margin.

    I wouldn't be surprised if these two cowboys are using the money to leverage up again!

  • Comment number 60.

    I find myself repeating much of what I put on the previous post on this subject.Whilst in some respects it is welcome that the banking sector ends up in effect paying an insurance premium for the implicit and explicit support it has received from the UK taxpayer unfortunately this is only a job half done. I have written today of the other consequences of government policy for the banks and accordingly for the UK as a whole.
    "With interest-rates so low the taxpayer is in effect subsidising the banks as much of their profits will come from this. We are giving with one hand and taking away with another."
    http://t.co/fJHOQ3r

    until we get a policy which allows for all the implications of the credit crunch and the recovery we have improved our situation very little if at all.

    This hyperbole from the bankers is purely that as they are hoping to get away with the status quo.

  • Comment number 61.

    What a surprise! A bunch of bankers whinging about having to pay a bit more tax. Compared with the size of the bailout and the size of the bonuses that they are planning to pay themselves, this levy is peanuts.
    I am still at a loss to understand how they are allowed to pay themselves any bonuses at all until every penny of the bailout has been returned. What other business could invent profits, pay themselves bonuses based on these profits and then when the whole pack of cards inevitably collapsed then had the temerity to ask for a bailout? Having received the bailout, they then continue in business by taking money from the BOE lend it to HMG at a huge mark up or speculate on commodoties and into the bargain fleece SME's and consumers by paying pretty much zero interest to savers, but charge a tenfold mark up to borrowers. Having done so, they then use the profits gained to pay themselves more huge bonuses. It is theft pure and simple. How do they get away with it? Who are these people who prey on the host and act as such parasites? How have they got so much power and control and more to the point why are they allowed to exercise their power in such a manner? A series of crimes, but no apparent criminal. Who and what is behind this?

  • Comment number 62.

    Why are the bankers throwing their fits now?????

    They're trying to get out of signing up to this Project and along came an excuse for them to give up on attempting to agree a deal with the government. Then they try to pin all the blame and all their woes on the government.

    Fairness is a two-way affair. I may not agree that it was fair to spring the surprise hike on the bankers but I think it's even more unfair that the banks refuse to make any attempt in playing their role in society and then reward themselves billions for gambling away the nation's money without a Plan B to fall back on.

    If the bankers don't like being bashed then they should seek to remove the stigma of being a banker through their actions and deeds, not by sitting on their seats rewarding themselves huge bonuses.

    Unfortunately, this only shows once again the power of the banks and their hold over the government and here's another excuse to force the government to bow down to their influence.

    To quote a line, "With great power comes great responsibility."

    The banks have far too much power and their level of responsibility is far too low, so I say it's time to balance the books.

    The only other problem is the government stake in these institutions, so if you annoy the banks and spook the markets then our investments plummet.

    Feels like a lose-lose situation to the people and a win-win situation to the banks.

    We simply should have let the banks fail and government should have stepped in to take control of accounts. Instead, we have bankers who believe they're untouchable and complain every time someone has a go at them over their attitudes, behaviour and the continuing 'status quo' culture that seems to prevail.

    This country is just far too dependent on these financial institutions where the few big players dominate the majority of the UK market and interests.

    If the bankers try to milk this too far, it will only further backfire on them as the 'bank bashing' will only get worse. Well, at least that's ok for the banks, they simply relocate and the UK is left with a gap in the economy left by the banks and unemployed people no longer working at their UK based headquarters.

  • Comment number 63.

    personally don't agree with making tax policy up on the hoof. It was one of the unofficial rules of taxation policy for many years that any changes would take place at the earliest in the following tax year. This allowed companies and individuals to have some idea about how to plan their affairs because they would be able to work out how much money they would have to spend each year. Darling's bonus tax last year broke this unofficial rule and this just seems to be a continuation of the policy of pandering to the masses while telling anyone who might be looking to invest in this country that they can't quite be sure when or how often the Government might want to put its hand in their pocket. Bit silly really, Osbourne's never going to win a polularity contest so I don't see the point.

  • Comment number 64.

    "We have been negotiating with the Treasury in good faith..."

    GOOD FAITH??? A BANKER??

    What about all the people who signed up for services, mortgages, accounts IN GOOD FAITH, and now find themselves being charged left right and centre in order to keep bankers in the fashion they have become accustomed to?

    It's easy for banker to write a letters to people saying they've hiked this charge or that charge but hear them moan like stuck pigs when it happens to them.

    Santander did it this week - changing the way pre-arranged overdrafts are charged - and even had the cheek to state that if the customer wasn't happy with it s/he could close his/her account by such and such a date!

    Like are Santander THAT desperate to raise money to get their capital ratios in order?

    Or are they going to turn out, like RBS was, to be TOO big?

  • Comment number 65.

    If the bankers in this country cannot show some sensible restraint and are paying huge bonuses to their staff then obviously they can afford to be taxed that bit more. There is no cosying up to this chancellor then? and of course there was no chance of them lending anymore money to small businesses than they do now with any easier criteria. Project Merlin? There's magic in there somewhere and it won't be for the small business. my guess is the banks will just do their usual hey presto routine and all the money will vanish!! More bonuses do we think, absoloutely

  • Comment number 66.

    Tend to agree with the 'drop in the bucket' analysts above - and even possibly the conspiracy theorists (the banks are now feigning disgust to assist themselves and the government).

    Tax bankers bonuses at 99.9 pence in the pound (ongoing), go after underpayers of corporation tax and the non-doms. Then it will start to look credible!!

  • Comment number 67.


    There is more than a whiff of spin doctoring and propaganda about this Robert.

    Why would bank bosses be "livid" at having their levy increased by a paltry £800m this year? This represents only 10% of what these scroungers pay themselves in BONUSES, over and above their already inflated salaries and share options. So instead of paying themselves £8bn this year, they will simply shovel £7.2bn into their back pockets.

    Sure the extra money is better in the pockets of thousands of taxpayers, rather than a few rich men in grey suits but it doesn't go anywhere near far enough.

    What we need is to split up these mega banks into retail and investment operations and then create a single nationalised bank which delivers fair rates of interest and customer service for the people of Great Britain.

    All bankers remuneration should then be capped and published for all shareholders to see.

    This announcement is simply to make headlines that the Government is being tough on banks, when in fact, they are still getting away with the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich the country has ever witnessed.

    We are stll not satisfied, Mr Osbourne. Not by a long way.

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.

    Re comments about bail-outs meaning the taxpayer owns the banks:
    HSBC didn't ask for, or take, any bail-out payments.

    Additionally, what the bankers are "livid" about is not the amount of the levy increase, it's being stabbed in the back by ANY increase while they're negotiating in good faith.
    Personally, I think they should abandon the talks as the government have apparently decided they are no longer needed...

  • Comment number 70.

    The banks are only making large profits not because of their skill in 'banking' but because the conditions in the economy after the QE measures have made it easy to make a profit. It's therefore only right that these profits are taxed. When the banks are able to actually show they are producing real econimic benefit for the country should we even think of holding back from the 'punishment' speaking of which what punishment has there actually been at the top. The cost has been tothe branch staff and clerical support staff who've lost ther jobs to keep the gamblers and bosses in their ivory towers!

  • Comment number 71.

    Ostriches all of them, they still don't get it, and looks like they never will. Osborne is so weak on the bankers anyway it wouldn't surprise me if he deliberately made this move now to scupper any deal.

  • Comment number 72.

    Well if they’re not happy with ‘Project Merlin’ perhaps this may prove the pivotal time to move on to ‘Project Dempster’

    Now ‘Project Dempster’ is in fact a far more reasonable endeavour, one so reasonable in fact that I am wholly confident that all of the banking sector would embrace it with closed wallets.

    And what is ‘Project Dempster’ I hear you fail to ask?
    Well seeing as no one asked I’ll tell you.

    Project Dempster involves the purchase of the remaining outstanding shares in RBS and Lloyds TSB.

    And having completed the same; the extension of the branch network of the RBS Natwest Lloyds TSB and Halifax brands so that reasonable access to a transaction bank is made available to all.

    The investment banking divisions will be sold off, and the remainder re-branded:
    ‘The NBS’ (national banking service).

    And having finally completed the above the tax-payer guarantee will be removed from those private banks that remain.

    Now I have to say that ‘Project Dempster’ has been derided by the undeserving, ignored by the unwitting, but nevertheless embraced by the unknown.

    Still hope springs eternal on this fine February day, that before the last pluck of the monochord, this nation will finally control its own financial system.

  • Comment number 73.

    A nasty surprise??

    On which planet have these people been living for the last 18 months? It certainly hasn't been this one!

    People will lose their jobs in their thousands because of the ConDems' (partially justified) response to the economic crisis - and these clowns throw their dummies out of the pram because they will face an additional tax equivalent to less than 15% of their proposed bonus pot.

    If this display of indignation (and threat not to implement Merlin) is how the banksters react to a minor, thoroughly justified inconvenience, perhaps the Chancellor should increase the levy progessively until the banksters realise that they helped create this mess so they should help sort it out.

  • Comment number 74.

    The public and the government should stop bank-bashing now, not all the major banks were bailed out!! HSBC and Barclays are well-respected worldwide banks that give us lots of tax already, and they were NOT bailed out by us/givernment. I am a fan of the Con/Lib government, but this new bank levy is wrong and is only intended to appease the public who are intend on bank-bashing. If we are not careful, HSBC and Barclays may decide they have had enough and move their HQ's overseas, taking their jobs and money with them...

  • Comment number 75.

    Oooh, you are awful, George, £800 million, that's really nasty. You must really hate us poor old non doms. We do have school fees to pay, if not income tax, you know.
    We shall just have to cut the servants' rations back.

  • Comment number 76.

    The Banks are being disingenuous when they say that lending to businesses is up. They forced our company to take out a secured loan and reduce the overdraft, that is not new bank lending and it has not helped the company at all. We had a overdraft rate 4% over base in 2009 then they put it up to 8% when the bank rate dropped and they put it up to 12.99 over base when they forced us to have the loan. They are making more money out of business now and we cannot retaliate, I hope Osborne has better luck.

  • Comment number 77.

    It is all very well to impose a levy or tax the Banks. However it does not come out of Bankers' bonuses. They still get paid. It is passed on through bank charges to - you guessed it- us, the banks' customers.

  • Comment number 78.

    I am livid, I'm downright angry. I am paying for the wreckless greed shown by these "banksters" through reduced income and inflated taxes. Taxes inflated to pay for the trillions given to these banks to save their skins. They don't appreciate it and for them the "flap" is over. They want their big bonuses back and they don't appreciate the bail out one bit. If you were a Doctor and killed a patient through criminal negligence you would be jailed and/or at least struck off. This has not been negligence on the part of the Banks though as their actions were intentional driven by greed. It's time criminal investigation took place and anyone taking huge bonuses when tax payers money is still invested in these criminal institutions prosecuted. The future of our children is at stake - do we want to live in a country where it is dictated to by these banking mafia bosses? I don't!

  • Comment number 79.

    IT'S ALL MAGGIE THATCHERS FAULT........(thought i'd get in there first).

  • Comment number 80.

    swings & roundabouts, seems to me these bankers doth protest too much

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/tax-city-heist-of-century#start-of-comments

  • Comment number 81.

    There is clearly an overwhelming consensus that bankers need to be more moderate and responsible. We trust them to look after our money, not to invest recklessly, and it is fair that they have a reasonable income. Millions of pounds in bonuses is not reasonable. A further levy on banks and curtailment of bonuses is therefore required. I also do not trust this government, nor its motives, and it seems there are always ways of bankers making more than they need to. There needs to be more transparency, both by government and the banks.
    Yes, we have had enough of this sad affair, and it is time for banks to clean up their act and then maybe their reputation.

  • Comment number 82.

    At 12:44pm on 8th Feb 2011, Bryn The Cat wrote:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/tax-city-heist-of-century

    excellent link - like to see your take on this Robert

  • Comment number 83.

    How dare a senior banker compare themselves with the last soldier to die before the Armistice, the only fighting that bankers know about is scrabbling over how much of the cake they can take before destroying the entire economic stability in the industrialised world

  • Comment number 84.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 85.

    It beggars belief that this country's governments are so in thrall to the banks... The UK is not a major power in the world and we need to wake up and realise this...

    It's not a matter of whether the government is Labour, Tory or coalition the banks continue to exert too much influence and when they are faced with any kind of restriction they resort to threats such as the best talent leaving... Britain was built on many and varied industries, if all we have left is fat bankers who fund City champagne bars and look at the rest of us like we're something on their shoe then it is indeed time for a revolution...

  • Comment number 86.

    What a load of froth - they are laughing all the way to the bank at this very small incremental change. This is just for show, WE DONT BELIEVE YOU.

  • Comment number 87.

    These bankers still haven't got the message have they?

    I would love to see one of the CEO's of the big four being invited on to a programme such as Question Time. Then they can justify to the nation, why big bonuses are a good idea, why a banking levy is not, and why they refuse to lend to small businesses to kick start an economy which is in such a mess because of their own actions in the first place!

    That really would be worth watching!

  • Comment number 88.

    If any of this was true I'd be happy, but it's not really is it? It's all for show.

    "throw their toys out of the pram" (in the words of a banker). - classic maturity shown by an industry which gets bailed out due to it's recklessness and then blames everyone except themselves.

    "A senior banker said "this feels a bit like the last soldier killed before the armistice - if there is an armistice.""

    Shame on you - even writingsonthewall in his most angry mode wouldn't try to compare a financial penalty with the sacrifice made by those who died in WWI.

    They really believe their own press don't they?

    If they think they've just reached the end of a war, they are sadly mistaken - we've not even had the opening salvo's yet - there's a long way to go in this campaign fighting fascism.

    As you can see from Egypt - the masses are easily soothed with some reassuring words from compulsive liars - luckily not everyone is so maleable and easily fooled.

    Keep the stories coming Robert - blow the lid off this 'gesture of politics' which is designed to distract the people from the trashed economy (and the people who trashed it of course)

    I don't care though - I'm asking for a pay rise - I mean the bankers want to play capitalism, well then let us play.......they don;'t realise that some of us don't want to play because it's immoral - not because we wouldn't whip their butts at it and leave them destitute.

    ....if only the public knew the real story about banks....they would never believe the tale of 'rewarded talent' ever again....

  • Comment number 89.

    So ... let the bankers "throw their toys out of the pram". It's like watching Mafia Bosses complaining about having to pay taxes on their illegal profits!!

    We must no longer allow the country to be held to ransom by the greed of a small number of Banksters. I say tax them 100% on their bonuses. And if they decide to take their business abroad - let them.

    It is then Government's responsibility to find an alternative source of income to replace any shortfall. One suggestion to replace any such shortfall in the Financial industry could be to restore the country's manufacturing base - decimated by previous governments. The Financial industry provides a mere 10% of GDP. Is the Uk Government so bereft of ideas that it cannot conceive an alternative means of income.

    We do not tolerate 'blackmail' from criminals and/or terrorists. Why do we continue to tolerate it from Banksters?

  • Comment number 90.

    Sorry I don't buy this one, squeezing them does not change anything. HMRC are currently sat on £2k of my cash (or in banker terms a half decent bottle of red) under the pretence of a "Security Check" my hard earned cash which is propping up the banks, whilst get this, they are bashing me with overdraft charges while I wait for my rebate! The banks need cash to repair their balance sheets, you and I are just pawns in the game, sorry, scrub that, we are not even pawns!

  • Comment number 91.

    Where's Writingsonthewall?
    I'm due to go out, but am hanging around waiting for today's comments from him...

  • Comment number 92.

    Ah, there you are at 88, just missed you as I was posting...

  • Comment number 93.

    A senior banker said "this feels a bit like the last soldier killed before the armistice - if there is an armistice."
    _________________________________________________________________________

    There's a war on, you know.

  • Comment number 94.

    I think that the current attitude of the banks opens up a wider debate beyond economics. We live in a plural democracy in which we ask our democratically elected government to raise taxation and govern. If banks are in a position to even debate that we raise taxation / levies on them then a question needs to be asked about who actually has power in this country - our government - which ever colour that is - or the leading banks in the city. Surely it is a case of the banks doing as they are told when asked by our government. If this is not the case I question whether we do in fact live in a democracy and we need to make sure that the only sovereign power is parliament and government via parliament. Any other body should not and does not have any power to choose if and when it pays taxes or levies or to threaten us if told by government to pay more tax.

  • Comment number 95.

    The bankers are upset that they may actually have to pay for their criminal lending of the past. Even as the public is the greatest shareholder the bankers can not be expected to assume any responsibility for the crisis they caused. What is the point of political contributions if you can't insure that you will be taken care of. Of course this is mainly for public consumption and hidden tax reductions or accounting processes will make sure this comes to little real money. The amount is a small percentage of the funds they actually stole. This is all to make the public believe that the government is acting in their interest when of course they are not. Take trillion and divide by billion and see the results. This is all about the banks lending some degree of cover for the government. If they pay a billion and increase interest rates (based on non-existent inflation) they come out ahead. The banking bosses may get some idea of how citizens felt when their retirement accounts were reduced by 30% because of their Ponzi schemes.....no..that would require a conscience and accepting responsibility. As long as these money lenders conduct their business in the doorway to the temple nothing will change.

  • Comment number 96.

    As far as I am concerned as the ordinary man in the street it was the Banking Industry which got us INTO THIS MESS; so they should be penalised to help get us out of it!

    The Conservative Party's top officials are all millionaires anyway so how are the austerity measure going to affect them; they had the chance to tax their speculators but failed to do so on the grounds they would emigrate elsewhere - so this must be the next best thing!

    As far as I am concerned someone has to pay for the mess we are in and this must fall to the banking industry.

  • Comment number 97.

    There are plenty of people who could be described as livid in the UK. Not least the people who have lost jobs, are in danger of losing homes, who have already seen their tax bail out many banks, who have continued as if nothing has happened, particularly in relation to their annual round of bonuses, which show no sign of the restraint being foisted upon government and local authority spending, or upon the taxpayer in general.

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    Just so fewer people miss it muti-nationals are in line for a huge tax cut. The banks in particular will benefit.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/tax-city-heist-of-century

    Think the £800 mil is just a cover, pretend the cons are tough on banks.

    May I ask what tax help is available for small businesses?

  • Comment number 100.

    'A senior banker said "this feels a bit like the last soldier killed before the armistice - if there is an armistice."'

    That's grossly insulting to the memory of the war dead, from the Great War to this very day. How can sitting in a plush office during the day, and swilling champagne at night, compare with such sacrifice? For the benefit of bankers...that's a rhetorical question.

    The reason for this levy (which is too cosmetic) is the utter failure of banks to reciprocate the bailout by taxpayers, whether by supporting struggling businesses and homeowners or by showing restraint rather than greed. No one cares if British banks shift their senior staff overseas in a hissy fit. I moved my banking to Santander from RBS after shoddy treatment and the Goodwin debacle. So, please get packing....you will not be missed and probably dodge most tax anyway.

    If the government doesn't act, then investors will act....by withdrawing their business as the banks suffer deserved reputational damage.

 

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