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Benefits and salaries hit by bedlam at bank

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Long wait: Queues in the Ulster Bank have been steady since the IT failure

Long wait: Queues in the Ulster Bank have been steady since the IT failure

Declan Roughan

Long wait: Queues in the Ulster Bank have been steady since the IT failure

Thousands of consumers face pay day misery as the Ulster Bank crisis shows no sign of ending.

Workers who are paid monthly were due to receive their wages today, but the bank has admitted that ongoing computer problems mean many will not receive their cash.

The Belfast Telegraph can also reveal that the number of social security claimants hit by the debacle has now soared to 110,000.

The bank is also coming under growing pressure to open all its local branches this weekend to help clear the backlog.

Problems began last Tuesday after a computer glitch led to direct debits not going in or out of accounts and customers not able to view transactions online.

But worried consumers have expressed renewed concerns over the protracted systems failure.

It is day 10 of banking chaos for Ulster Bank customers in Northern Ireland, although it is almost business as usual at sister companies RBS and NatWest, who were also initially hit by the fiasco.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ulster Bank chief executive Jim Brown conceded that some people will not see the money credited to their account today. He said that the focus was on making “customers have access to their money, payroll and welfare payments”.

“In terms of salary and welfare payments, if customers come in to the branch with their payslip, we can pay them while we work through the backlog,” he added.

Mr Brown said that it would be “early next week” before the banking system is fully operational.

For the first time ever, the bank opened eight of its branches in Northern Ireland from 10am until 1pm last Sunday in order to help customers whose accounts had stopped working.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said that a substantial number of branches should open late this weekend.

“They have got to stay open until 8pm or 9pm to allow people who are working to get in, if that’s what is required to deal with the situation,” Mr Wilson said.

“It’s also important for them to have a sufficient part of their network open so that people don’t have to travel miles.

“Otherwise, some people could find themselves in the situation where they can’t get money out to buy the petrol to travel the 20 miles to the nearest Ulster Bank.”

Chief executive of the Consumer Council Antoinette McKeown called for Ulster Bank to open its doors again this weekend.

“The Consumer Council is now demanding that Ulster Bank commit to opening all branches on Saturday and Sunday to deal with the growing desperation of customers,” Ms McKeown said.

Last week the Social Security Agency said 27,000 vulnerable people on benefits were affected by the debacle — but that number has risen to 110,000.

“Since the Ulster Bank’s IT problems arose last week, senior officials at the Social Security Agency have been in continual contact with the highest level of management in the bank,” a spokeswoman said.

“Benefit customers experiencing problems accessing their accounts are asked to bring ID to their local branch in order to access their money.

“The Social Security Agency continues to pay all the benefits which are due to recipients across Northern Ireland to the Ulster Bank accurately and on time.”

How the ongoing fiasco has affected your plans

Case studies

  • Frank Anderson (33), a lorry driver from Belfast, said his pay did not go into his account this week: “I phoned the bank and I was told to bring in my payslip and they would give me the money, but that’s a complete nuisance,” he said. “This crisis is a joke, particularly as no-one really knows what’s going on. After things are back to normal I’m switching because you can’t stay loyal to a bank that won’t tell you anything.”
  • Father-of-three Nigel Irwin, from Lisburn, said he had been waiting for a week for his wages: “I haven’t been able to pay my credit card bills and I’m a bit uptight about it because I can’t afford any charges,” said the 41-year-old maintenance engineer. “My wife Janice is an Ulster Bank customer too and we’re really worried about her salary not going in on Friday either. We’re supposed to be going on holiday on Tuesday, but we can’t if this isn’t sorted out because I won’t be able to pay for the hotel. How am I going to tell the kids we’re not going away after all?”

Mr Irwin, whose children are aged 14, 11 and six, said he was running out of gas and electricity as well as food. He said: “This has really put a spanner in the works. I don’t even have enough money for this week’s shop.”

  • Claire Johnson (22), a constituency assistant, was supposed to get paid on Tuesday, but no money went into her Ulster Bank account: “I’m going to Spain on holiday this Saturday and I’m really worried about it,” she said.

“The bank told me to take cash, but I’d like to be able to take a bank card as well, just in case.”

  • Belfast domestic and mother-of-two Annette Hutton (42) said she is living off her husband’s income as she didn’t get her wages: “Our mortgage was due out and we’re weren’t able to pay it,” she said.

Belfast Telegraph