Press Release:B&B updates: April 1999
Dear Reader of this Web Site I want to speak to readers of this Web Site who belong to the Bradford & Bingley building Society. My particular concern is Housing. If this bradford & bingley becomes a bank it will seriously damage the entire building society movement and will directly affect every person in the country wishing to take out a mortgage to buy a home. All the evidence shows that mortgages from building societies are cheaper than from banks because building societies do not have to make profits for shareholders. Homes are the bedrock of our community. People need the cheapest mortages and these are provided by building societies. Also, in the area of social housing in which I have worked the level of rents are reduced by cheaper loans from building societies. In the interests of everyone; you the member, your children and for the generations to come please use your vote to retain the mutual status of Bradford & Bingley building society. Postal votes must be recieved by Friday 23rd April 1999 Kerry Pollard MP
13.4.99 We are approaching the final weekend before the Bradford & Bingley Mutuality ballot closes for members who intend to vote by post. Ballot papers must be received by the scrutineers by 5.00pm Friday 23rd April 1999. The last practical posting day to ensure members ballot papers arrive by post is Tuesday 20th April 1999. Some people may choose to vote in person at the Annual General Meeting (26th April 1999). Would you be able to run a final news story on the issues at stake in the Bradford & Bingley vote for people who haven’t yet made up their mind? I have faxed you a list of SOBS spokespeople who could provide comment on the importance of mutual building societies: for the members and customers of societies for purchasing homes for local communities for future generations for choice and competition within the financial services industry.
14.4.99 News Story: The Bradford & Bingley vote on mutuality will affect your local area. Dear Editor Why has Martin Bell MP written to your newspaper? We believe that local & regional newspapers play a key role in keeping their communities informed of latest news and information. Your circulation area contains at least one Bradford & Bingley branch or agency and therefore many members and customers of the society. If Bradford & Bingley converted many of your readers would be affected and there is possibility that your local branch or agency would close. We have targeted 203 local and regional newspapers to cover the 1000 outlets of Bradford & Bingley and hence the membership of the entire society. Your newspaper is one of the 203. Closing date for postal votes: Friday 23rd April 1999 Please could you consider running the Bradford & Bingley story even if you only have a small amount of space for it.
15th April 1999 Dear Editor “Further to the convincing arguments already put forward for readers of this newspaper belonging to Bradford & Bingley Building society to vote to keep it’s mutual status; let me add another. If Bradford & Bingley becomes a bank you may lose your local branch or agency. 4 societies who became banks in 1997 have already closed 1 in 7 of their branches. For many people particularly the elderly or disabled the local building society branch is a Lifeline. Rural branches, smaller branches and those in deprived areas are particularly threatened when building societies are turned into banks. They are not always profitable and are closed to boost profits for shareholders. It is not too late to vote to keep Bradford & Bingley a Mutual building society. Postal votes must be received by Friday 23rd April 1999.”
18th April 1999 Subject: Bradford & Bingley Building Society: “The fight to stay Mutual.” Early Day Motion (EDM) Tomorrow, Monday 19th April 1999 MP Kerry Pollard will table an emergency Early Day Motion in the House of Commons in support of Bradford & Bingleys fight to stay a Mutual. Details An EDM allows backbench MPs to collectively make their views known to the House. MPs who agree with the EDM will usually sign up to it. Although, because of House of Commons proceedure we cannot issue the exact text of the EDM before it is tabled we can give an idea of the content. The EDM will express the fear that were Bradford & Bingley to become a bank the entire building society movement will be damaged directly affecting every person in the UK taking out a mortgage. and that homes are the bedrock of our community. The EDM affirms building societies as providing cheaper mortgages than banks because they do not have to make profits for shareholders. The EDM concludes by urging all members of the Bradford & Bingley to use their vote to keep the Societys Mutual status. “It is vital for every member to vote!” says Bob Goodall, co-ordinator of the “Save Our Building Societies” campaign “40% of members have yet to do so and in their hands may rest not only the future of the Bradford & Bingley Building Society but also potentially the entire building society movement”.
Martin Bell MP, in a letter sent to National Media and to 203 Regional & Local newspapers has already urged members to make a stand against carpetbagers not only for themselves but “for future generations to come.” Postal votes must be received by 5.00pm 23rd April 1999. Members may also vote at the Annual General Meeting Monday 26th April 1999 Contact details Unlike yourselves Kerry Pollard will not be working today. “I apologise for not being at home this afternoon to answer enquiries” says Bob Goodall but I can be reached by: pager 04325 592 741 (Following the recent British Airways “turbulent air” story Margaret and I have had to take time out ot accompany my kid brother to Heathrow to overcome his growing terror of flying to Australia to see family. Inconvenient as it is for the SOBS, “7-days-a-week” campaign, I’m sure Quantas cabin crew will appreciate it a week from now!)
Wednesday 21st April 1999 Subject:Bradford & Bingleys fight for its Mutuality Storyline: Members have one last opportunity to vote by Post on Thursday 22nd April 1999 But members will now need to do the following: At this stage, the self-addressed envelope sent with the ballot papers should NOT be used if you want your vote to reach the scrutineers in time. How to still have your say! Members still wishing to vote need to post as early as possible this Thursday using a Ist Class stamp. It is advisable to use a fresh envelope and copy the address from the self-addressed envelope. If you stamp over the self-addressed envelope there is a chance that the encoded information on the envelope will still route it second class and it will not arrive in time. Postal votes must be received by 5.00pm Friday 23rd April 1999. Members are able to vote in person at the Annual General Meeting to be held on Monday 26th April 1999 at Bingley, West Yorkshire. Note to the Editor The former Bishop of Southwark Rt Rev Ronnie Bowlby has urged members to retain the Societys Mutual status.
23.4.99 1) Bradford & Bingley can trace its roots to the 1850s. It is the 2nd biggest building society with a customer base of 4.2million. It has 1000 branches and outlets and 8000 employees. 2) If the vote goes against us all is not lost. It is non-binding because the resolution has not been put by the board. There would be an need for a second ballot with the following criteria: For conversion to go ahead it would have to be supported by 75% of savers with a minimum turnout of 50%. *50% of borrowers who vote would also have to vote in favour. If either did not occur conversion would not proceed. *This is the key! It would not be hard to convince a majority of mortgage customers on a second ballot that the increase in their mortgage that would come with plc interest rates would very quickly outstrip any one-off windfall. 3) Michael Hardern has just forced Britannia Building Society to re-ballot their members in the election of directors after his sudden change of mind and withdrawal midway through the contest. It will cost members another £1million. The rules need to be changed to avoid this frivolity. Currently Societies can be held to ransom. Societies could be protected if a significant number of members were required to back a resolution or a realistic % of the membership. Hardern was supported by 50 members out of Britannia’s 1.25 million membership or 0.004%. This is clearly wrong!
25th April 1999 Subject: Result of the Bradford & Bingley Mutuality Ballot A statement by Bob Goodall, Co-ordinator of the “Save Our Building Societies” campaign. “Although there are some news reports today saying that the carpetbaggers have won the mutuality vote it is important to emphasise that it remains a secret ballot with the result to be only announced tomorrow, Monday 26th April 1999 to members of the society at their Annual General Meeting. “The result of the ballot tomorrow is non-binding on the board as the resolution has not come from them. The responsibility of the board under law is to run their society as well as possible. (If the result is unfavourable they are not even required to hold a second ballot if they do not think it is in the best interests of members.)” “For a conversion to go ahead the Building Societies Act 1986 requires that it has the support of 75% of savers on a 50% turnout and that 50 % of borrowers who vote, vote in favour. This so the final decision reflects the wishes of members as much as is at present possible,which may well not be the case if it was decided on a vote on a members resolution alone (This requires a simple majority on any turnout, however low.)” “An important point to make is that in this vote savers and borrowers were sent the same ballot papers. This means whatever happens tomorrow at the very worst from SOBS point of view the board of the society would choose to hold a second ballot to differentiate between the various types of members and what they want.” “Our campaign believes that it will then be relatively easy to convince mortgage customers at least to vote against conversion because they will end up paying hundreds of pounds extra every year if Bradford & Bingley becomes a bank. Even if they alone as a group voted against conversion it would not proceed.” “Members of Bradford & Bingley need not be apprehensive about the result tomorrow. One way or the other the society is likely to remain a Mutual building Society.”
Result of Bradford & Bingley vote on Mutuality 26.4.99 Bob Goodall Co-ordinator of the “Save Our Building Societies” campaign responds: “Naturally we are disappointed at this defeat on the first stage of the conversion battle. “The Board of Bradford & Bingley need to keep their nerve and not buckle under the pressure of the carpetbaggers. They should continue to robustly put across the pro-mutuality message in preparation for the second ballot- which we will win!” Note to the Editor Under the Building Societies Act 1986 before conversion can take place 75% of savers have to vote in favour on a 50% turnout. Additionally 50% of borrowers who vote, must vote in favour. Since savers & borrowers were sent the same ballot paper a second ballot is unavoidable so as to see what both groups want- as required under law. Mortgage customers will vote against conversion to stop their mortgages increasing with plc status. That will be enough to defeat conversion. After all “turkeys do not vote for Christmas”?
27.4.99 Urgent! For the immediate attention of the Board of Bradford & Bingley Building Society 11.00am 27.4.99 Dear Board Member My understanding is that the board of a society are required by law to run the society in the best interests of members. You believe that this means retaining your Mutual status. Following the vote may I suggest that the 62% falls far short of the 75% threshold required by law for conversion. Given the convincing arguments for mutuality we would expect a majority of borrowers to vote against conversion. Bradford & Bingley does not have to become a bank! On current information the second ballot for conversion would be defeated. You yourselves believe that conversion will lead to job losses, branch closures, higher costs for mortgage customers and lower savings rates. This is not in the interests of members. Failing a pro-mutual message for the second ballot please will you remain independent and allow both sides to put their arguments without a recommendation so it remains a level playing field. Rather than supporting the call for conversion which you know is not in the best interests of members. (Some directors might still wish to support the call for retaining Mutual status on an individual basis.)
“Although it may appear to some to be like a Saul-to- Damascus conversion in reverse we believe that in their hearts the directors of Bradford & Bingley are still committed to mutuality.” “ Conspiracy theorists say Bradford & Bingley were secretly pro-conversion all along but this really does not make sense. They would never have spent millions of pounds opposing conversion backed up with a massive effort by their staff if this was true.”
29.4.99 Dear Reader of this Web Site Reports of Bradford & Bingley’s demise are premature Before conversion can occur 75% of savers on a 50% turnout and a majority of borrowers must vote in favour. At Bradford & Bingleys AGM the vote in favour of the members resolution was 62% and 60% of borrowers voted against conversion. If this was repeated at the formal conversion ballot it would fail on both savers and borrowers criteria. So where is the problem for the board of B& B? You could say the vote went their way at the AGM. Although they have to recommend a pro-conversion resolution before the Building Societies Commission will allow them to put it to the membership so long as they do not try too hard to convince members to convert, the society should remain a mutual. A strong pro-mutuality message has already been put across and hopefully some of it will be remembered by members at the second vote. I’m not entirely sure what is going on. I am waiting for the dust to settle and to see what the board do before making the next move myself. I have to believe that the board remain pro-mutual and the very last thing I want to do is take them on unless it is absolutely necessary. The board have enormous corporate resources at their disposal to put over a message to members; one way or the other. Their true intentions and consequent actions are key to the final outcome. Bob Goodall Co-ordinator
30.4.99 To put it bluntly the future of Bradford & Bingley is in the hands of 9 people (the board) “As I see it, over the next few weeks there is a need to lobby the board of Bradford & Bingley, in effect to run a “Hearts & Minds” campaign. It is only if the board now decide to mount an aggresive pro-conversion campaign that we will have a problem. The only chance of conversion occuring is if the board were to pull out all the stops to overturn the very strong pro-mutual message they have already put across and which members particularly mortgage customers are bound to remember. Otherwise as it stands at the moment, if the voting pattern at the AGM is even closely repeated at the formal conversion ballot, conversion will fail on both the savers and borrowers criteria.” Bradford & Bingley has an excellent chance of retaining it’s Mutual status and therefore continuing to offer the best rates of interest to saver and borrower.”
3.5.99 Bradford & Bingley: The fight-back begins. Storyline: Staff Power! The pro-mutual message must still continue to reach members. We can no longer rely on the board of B & B with their considerable resources to do this. Following is is one of the key ways the pro-mutual message can still be put across. SOBS believe the Bradford & Bingley Trade Union, (known as the Union for Bradford & Bingley) has a key role in resisting conversion by acting as the voice for outraged B & B staff, communicating the compelling reasons for mutuality to members of the society through for instance the media. Bob Goodall says “Conversion needs to be resisted in an organised way. The pro-mutual lobby need to be aware that Bradford & Bingley members will now be starved of the reasons to remain a Mutual and instead will be bombarded with the arguments to convert. Unless some balance is maintained we will lose Bradford & Bingley. This will take a lot of organised effort. The Union as well as other organisations can provide this” The Union need to repeat the arguments already clearly put across by the board in defence of mutuality. The board may now not be able to do this, nor the staff openly but organisations like the Union, can! Bob Goodall says “The reality is conversion will not occur if the rank and file B &B staff at branch level oppose it. The branch staff are the closest people to the members of the society who they see and talk to every day. This is vital. In addition to the membership of the society it should never be forgotten that the staff are the other vital half of the B&B partnership.
Staff need to flex their muscles and recognise the power they have. Although they cannot openly give a pro-mutual message to customers which runs counter to that of their board what they can do is get their union to speak up for them and keep the membership informed of the arguments. Otherwise from now on members may only get to hear of the case for conversion. Not the other side. It may become seriously one-sided. “The best thing for every member of staff at Bradford and Bingley to do in the next week in the interests of members will be to lobby their union to mount a vigorous and determined defence of the societys mutuality on their behalf.” “In the next year, and I hope this will not become true the Trade Union may also have to advise and if necessary protect staff who are brave enough to oppose conversion.” Note to the editor “It is clear that there are a number of organisations (with the ability & organisation to mount a campaign) who will be opposed to the loss of mutuality of Bradford & Bingley because of what this will lead to . These include the Trade Union which represents the interests of Bradford & Bingley staff. Combined these organisations can be very influential as to the final outcome; whether mutuality at B & B is retained. The board of B& B will no longer be campaigning to protect mutuality, rather they will be pushing conversion. “Members of staff are deeply concerned about job losses following conversion with good reason. The union can use the power of its organisation and contacts with other unions and political clout to stand up to the carpetbaggers.” The chances of retaining mutuality will be increased if we build a successful coalition of organisations opposed to demutualisation.
Bob Goodall Co-ordinator "Save Our Building Societies" campaign