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How should Northern Ireland spend millions in dormant bank accounts?

The public is to be asked how Stormont ministers should spend million of pounds lying idle in dormant bank accounts across Northern Ireland.

Legislation passed at Westminster gives access to such accounts so the money can be used for the benefit of society as a whole.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson today launched a three-month consultation period seeking the views of the public on spending priorities to specifically address local needs.

A dormant account is one in a bank, building society or National Savings which a customer has not asked about or paid money into or taken money out of for at least 15 years.

It is estimated there will be in the region of £10million - £20million available in the first year of the scheme and several hundred thousand each year thereafter.

The account holder is protected - should they seek to claim their cash at any time in the future, it will be returned to them.

Use of the assets is expected to begin during next year.

Mr Wilson said: "The Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Scheme presents us with a real opportunity. It represents a new and innovative concept for the setting of local priorities for distribution of funds currently locked in dormant bank and building society accounts.

"It will benefit the community under the broad heading of social and environmental purposes, while ensuring that the right of the account holders to reclaim money remains protected."

He added: "A particular issue in Northern Ireland since the inception of the National Lottery has been the ethical difficulties that some groups have had with seeking access to funds generated by gambling.

"One of the questions being asked in the consultation exercise is how best we could accommodate such organisations."

Belfast Telegraph

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