Belfast Telegraph

Where has our £10,000 gone, asks accountant as Ulster Bank crisis paralyses his business

By Claire McNeilly

An accountancy firm has hit out at the troubled Ulster Bank after £10,000 apparently vanished from its business account.

Saintfield-based R Savage and Co is without banking facilities for a fourth week following a systems failure that has brought financial misery to almost 600,000 people across Ireland.

Senior partner Noel Gibson told the Belfast Telegraph that his firm's cash flow has been strangled by the bank's inability to resolve its problems for 23 days.

And he listed a litany of difficulties brought to bear on the business by the crisis that began with a computer meltdown at the parent company on June 19.

His comments came on the same day the Royal Bank of Scotland issued details of a refunding process for charges incurred by its own customers and those of other banks. It is believed the RBS programme will apply to Ulster Bank account holders. A bank spokesman last night said it was still working on its “plans for remediation”.

Mr Gibson, whose firm has been a loyal customer for 17 years, slammed the “lack of any direction from the top in solving this crisis”.

He said: “We are now into week four of a debacle that is having a disastrous impact on our accountancy firm, as well as our clients.

“Various lodgements that we have made to our business account since June 20 still haven’t registered — and £10,000 is currently missing.

“Direct payments of wages to staff weren’t processed, so they had no money at the end of last month and we had to make arrangements for them to collect cash from our local bank and give them time off to lodge the money in their own bank accounts. Standing orders to suppliers appeared to have been paid on July 6, but were subsequently reversed from our account

“We have been also unable to process any payments to HM Revenue and Customs online.

“HMRC makes direct payments to our account for tax refunds that we in turn pay to clients, and at present we do not know which ones are missing from our account.”

He added: “Checking into these things and making alternative arrangements all takes time — time that we can ill afford.”

It is understood no-one will be expected to pay bank charges and customers will be reimbursed for fees incurred; for example, for late mortgage payments.

Redress for other issues may be dealt with through the bank's normal complaints procedures.

Financial specialist Martin Lewis advised customers to keep a note of every charge incurred. “The advice is coming from me to say note down everything that you believe it has cost you because of this,” said Mr Lewis.

“I think they (RBS) are trying to be relatively proactive, as proactive as a bank ever gets.

“Of course that doesn't help all the people who are currently suffering the issues right now.”

David Cresswell from the Financial Ombudsman’s office also urged people to track all costs and gather as much evidence as they can. In a statement, Ulster Bank said: “While our focus remains on restoring normal service for our customers, we are committed to finalising our plans for compensation in the coming days, albeit that the same principles will apply.”

The bank has said most problems would be resolved by its July 16 deadline, although its website no longer stipulates a date.

On Monday, the Ulster Bank said it will open 10 branches on July 12, a traditional bank holiday in Northern Ireland, for the first time ever.

Ulster Bank branches staying open on the Twelfth are:

Andersonstown: Anderstown Road

Bangor: Main Street

Belfast: Donegall Square East

Coleraine: The Diamond

Connswater: Arches Retail Park

Cookstown: William Street

Lisburn: Bow Street

Waterside: Londonderry

Newry: Hill Street

Omagh: High Street

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