He never writes, he never calls. Now more than a week since I emailed Stephen Hester chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland and still no reply. Of course I did not really expect an answer from him, still less that he would buy the idea of transferring £500 million RBS bonus payouts to a philanthropic fund for affordable housing.
Mr Hester has other things on his mind.
Newspaper reports say RBS is considering selling off the troublesome investment arm of the business, making perhaps 5,000 people redundant. But that won’t stop the bonus bonanza this year. According to the Financial Times RBS is determined to go ahead with the bonus payments (whatever David Cameron might say) and the top man at RBS investments, a nicely named John Hourican, stands to gain £4 million.
The injustice is staggering. The arrogance is breathtaking. We own 83% of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Which is why we have both a right and a duty to keep up the pressure on our bank. At first I was astonished at the response my blog produced [see last post Royal Housing for the Poor], mainly from young people (no other post has attracted so many hits, Facebook comments and tweets, not even the local protest against Tesco). But I think there are two main reasons: people want banks to be made accountable and they are angry at Britain’s growing inequality. There is a pent-up fury at the unfairness of a system that allows banks to ruin the economy and then pocket the bailout money.
Some encouraging thoughts. Both Malcolm Chisholm MSP and Mark Lazarowicz MP have responded sympathetically and tweeted their support for the idea of asking RBS to invest in a philanthropic fund for building homes (and boosting the economy in the process).
From Alex Neil, Scottish Government cabinet minister with responsibility for housing? So far just a confirmation that his office has received my email. (Mr Neil also has plenty of other things on his mind right now – not least his leader’s claim that an independent Scotland would not be responsible for the cost of bailing out RBS).
So what next? On Facebook one comment suggests taking the protest to SEAD, Scottish Education and Action for Development, who held the RBS shareholder “counter conference” to raise awareness of the bank’s involvement with Dirty oil.
But if we are to hold our RBS accountable, if we want to turn our publicly funded pirates into philanthropists, it will take action and energy and relentless determination. Are we up for it? If you are reading this please leave a comment, or write to your MP and MSP. Oh yes, and send a copy to Stephen.Hester@rbs.co.uk