Assets bank policy fears

The Government's decision not to legislate to make banks surrender their dormant funds will result in less money being released for community projects, financial experts have warned.

In its response to the House of Commons Treasury Committee report on unclaimed assets, the Government said that introducing reserve powers to establish a compulsory scheme would "not be a good use of Parliament's time". Instead, ministers said financial services organisations should manage the release of funds voluntarily.

But Peter Graham, client services director at accountancy firm Grant Thornton, said: "A voluntary system will not raise as much money as a compulsory system. Finding dormant assets is far from straightforward, and with a voluntary system there is a danger banks might allocate the search to their 'D-teams'."

The Government wants to use unclaimed assets for spending on youth facilities. But the Commission on Unclaimed Assets has suggested that some money should be put towards a social investment bank to finance the third sector.

Toby Eccles, secretary to the commission, said a voluntary system must have sufficient teeth to ensure compliance. He said failure to achieve this could have a significant impact on the distribution of funds.

John McFall, chair of the Commons Treasury Committee, said he was disappointed by the Government's decision not to introduce legislation. "The assets scheme should not merely be considering the views of the banking sector," he said. "The Government must also ensure that the funds available for disbursement are maximised."

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