Financial scheme set to help people pay bills and debts

A proposed bill-and-debt payment scheme could benefit four million households without bank accounts.

Under the scheme, credit unions and Community Reinvestment Trusts would set up weekly payments for individuals without bank accounts. They would also offer budgeting and debt advice, and information on energy efficiency.

The initiative, jointly proposed by the New Economics Foundation, National Energy Action and a team at Bristol University, would charge banks and utilities a small commission for every person to whom they offered advice.

Several banks, including Barclays, Lloyds TSB and NatWest have shown interest in the scheme, said Ed Mayo, New Economics Foundation chief executive.

The authors want to pilot the scheme in Birmingham, Liverpool and Portsmouth and are fundraising for the capital needed, a sum in the region of £500,000.

"The argument always seems to be that government should do something. But this scheme washes its own face financially,

said Mayo.

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