UNITE condemned George Osborne as “reckless” yesterday after he announced the immediate sale of the government’s stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
UK Financial Investments (UKFI), through which the Treasury owns its 79 per cent share, is seeking to flog off £2 billion worth over the coming fortnight.
Unite national officer for finance Rob MacGregor said the government’s plans were “recklessly irresponsible.”
Pointing to the vast sums of money set aside for compensation payments and legal battles, Mr MacGregor said that the scandal-hit bank had yet to convince workers and the public that it had learned the lessons from the 2008 crash.
RBS’s share price is lower than it was when the government bailed it out, setting up the taxpayer for a £15bn loss. Mr Osborne intends to sell three-quarters of the shares by 2020.
The government has already sold most of its 41 per cent stake in Lloyds Banking Group and now owns less than 14 per cent — just as the bank is becoming profitable.
Lloyds announced a significant profit for the second quarter of this year, has resumed dividend payments to shareholders and is set to return £3.5bn to shareholders by the end of 2015.
Mr Osborne said he was determined to “continue to return Lloyds to the private sector and reduce our national debt.”
Economist Andrew Fisher called on the government to use the shares to force changes in the way banks operate.
He said: “Banks that owe their continuing existence to public funds should be acting in the public interest — investing in the productive economy, reducing the margins between their lending rates and savers’ rates, and ending the fat-cat bonus culture at the top, while underpaying and laying off cashiers at the other end.”
Mr Fisher said that these changes would require a government which acted in the public interest and that only Jeremy Corbyn was offering that.
The Financial Times reported yesterday that Mr Osborne wants to flog off £32bn worth of public assets by the end of the financial year, breaking even Thatcher’s record.
On the chopping block are vital and profitable services including the Met Office, Ordnance Survey and air traffic controller Nats.