Alternatively, the government could consolidate Northern Rock and its holding in Bradford & Bingley into one institution. When all debts are paid back, the institution could be converted into a building society. This should be straightforward, as the government already owns the share capital. The new body would operate in the same manner as any other building society.

OK, launch it as a mutual.

A starting point will be the future of Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley. While the government was absolutely right to nationalise these as a short-term measure, any long-term solution for these companies should be based on some key principles.

• Taxpayers must not be out of pocket as a result of the change.

Erm, how does that work then? Either the government (ie, the taxpayers) gets to get the money back by selling the institutions at some point (or retaining a shareholding at least) or they can be mutuals owned by the customers. But we can\’t manage to do both.

If it\’s mutualised and handed over, there can be no repayment….unless we\’re going to suggest that the customers buy if from the government. And I really don\’t see people being willing to stump up a couple of thousand pounds as a fee for being able to get a bank account.

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