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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 September 2007, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Anxious scenes at bank branches
Customers of Northern Rock bank lined up outside branches for a second day on Saturday, fearing for their savings following its request for an emergency Bank of England loan.

BBC News joined queues in north London, Sheffield and Leeds.

GOLDERS GREEN, NORTH LONDON
By Christine McCarthy, BBC News

Tempers among customers were close to boiling over in the September heat outside the Golders Green branch by mid-morning.

Some had queued for nearly three hours, intent on withdrawing their money.

Customers outside Northern Rock, Golders Green, north London
People lined up for hours to get into the Golders Green branch
Despite reassurances that their money was safe, most said anxiety over their savings was too great to wait and see.

Retired couple Brian and Corinne Goodman said: "We want to withdraw all our savings. This is the day we could come and we're worried that if we leave it until Monday, by that time we could be broke."

The Mill Hill couple have been with the bank for three years.

"We are furious," said Mr Goodman.

"The chancellor has tried to placate us but we are a bit sceptical."

Mary, 60, from Finchley, another retired customer, said she had placed her savings with Northern Rock ready to put down a deposit on a house.

"I just have this nagging doubt it's not going to be all right and I couldn't sleep last night so I've come down to take it all out."

Feelings ran high among those closest to the front of the queue, where staff were permitting just five people at a time to enter the premises.

Customers outside Northern Rock, Golders Green, north London
Police attended the scene to keep the peace
Assistant manager Sharif said the branch would be able to see only 50 more people, and they were given numbered tickets.

He said the rest would be offered "alternative" means of transaction, with online forms being prepared for distribution.

But one 36-year-old woman said she had come down in person because she could not get through to the bank by phone or on the website.

"I will come back Monday if I can't get through now," she said.

At the front of the queue people were becoming more irate and anxious. Police arrived at 1300 BST to "prevent a breach of the peace".

A woman at the front said: "This should have been handled better by the bank, their attitude [in making people queue] has made people more nervous and caused more panic."

She had been waiting since 0800 BST to withdraw her savings.

"I don't believe a word they say and the government is not doing anything," she said.

Customers outside Northern Rock, Golders Green, north London
Staff were limiting the numbers allowed in to the branch
One woman and her daughter disagreed on whether they should have turned up to collect the mother's savings.

"I think it is only making matters worse if all these people take out their money," the mother said.

"I think if everyone else is here, we should be and I think it is sensible," her daughter said.

A 32-year-old arts professional in the queue said although his own savings amounted to less than 2,000 - and would be covered by the financial services compensation scheme - he was still planning to take his money out.

"It's a confidence issue," he said.

"I recognise this might be making things worse, but at the same time I have anxiety and concern even if it might be irrational."

SHEFFIELD CITY CENTRE
By Mark Simpson, BBC News

Police officers and an ambulance crew were called as the race to withdraw money from Northern Rock threatened to get out of hand in Sheffield.

What began with one worried pensioner camping outside the city centre branch at 0600 BST on Saturday, soon turned into a 150-strong queue.

Crowds outside a Sheffield branch of Northern Rock
The crowd outside the Sheffield branch became increasingly impatient

They included wealthy businessmen, retired couples and an 11-year-old girl keen to retrieve 20 her grandmother had put into an account for her.

The doors opened at 0900 BST, and by six minutes past the worried pensioner was looking much happier, leaving the branch clutching a substantial cheque.

Like most of the other customers, he had come to clear his account.

So why the panic? Especially when Northern Rock, the chancellor of the exchequer and a number of financial experts have all said that customers' savings should be safe.

"The captain of the Titanic also said 'don't panic' and look what happened there," said one middle-aged woman as she waited defiantly in the middle of the queue.

Just ahead of her, an elderly woman fainted after becoming too hot. An ambulance crew was quickly on the scene and took her to hospital.

Just before midday, the police arrived. After consultations with Northern Rock staff, an officer spoke to the crowd using a loudhailer.

Mike Ward
Mike Ward has little trust in the reassurances made by the bank

The good news was that the branch was staying open until 1400 BST, two hours later than scheduled.

The bad news was that the last 30 people in the queue would not be served and would have to come back on Monday.

Voices were raised as some people complained noisily, but staff came out and did their best to calm people down, with the help of the police.

Some refused to leave and stayed in the hope that the branch would stay open beyond 1400 BST, but it was all in vain.

They included Mike Ward, a 61-year-old Sheffield artist, who has his life savings with Northern Rock.

"I wasn't worried until yesterday when the TV started putting out experts who each had a 'but' at the end of their interviews.

"It's no use the chancellor saying our money is safe."

The reassurances from the government also did not convince Matthew Leese, a 31-year-old accountant from Sheffield.

Mathew Leese
Mathew Leese believes Northern Rock has worse problems to come

In his view, there are even bigger economic problems to come.

"I don't have faith about what's being said about the security or safety of Northern Rock's immediate future. In hindsight they have been very irresponsible and reckless in their mortgage lending."

Among those who closed their account was Neil Hyatt, 32, who is a university lecturer. He arrived at 0900 BST, and was served just before 1300.

He admitted afterwards that deciding what to do about his account had been a dilemma.

"It's difficult to get a clear and honest picture for the man in the street. You just have to make your own decision."

As for the staff at Northern Rock, they had to cope with all the customers' worries - while having to deal with their own anxiety about the security of their jobs.

One bank official spent the day walking up and down the long queue, offering advice, handing out information leaflets and listening to people's concerns.

So how was her day?

"Don't ask."

LEEDS CITY CENTRE
By Andy Williams

About 200 people were gathered in a queue outside Northern Rock bank on Briggate in Leeds city centre.

Some had been waiting for two hours.

Representatives from the bank had been talking to dismayed customers, and handing out leaflets outlining their rights under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Two police community support officers marshalled the crowd as it snaked across the pedestrianised shopping street.

Customers outside Northern Rock, Leeds city centre
Staff sought to reassure customers waiting to get into Leeds Briggate branch
From time to time they shifted the queue out of the way of the growing number of Saturday shoppers, resulting in minor jostling as people lost their places.

Apart from these small incidents the mood was calm as customers waited to talk to the bank, either to ask for advice or to close their accounts and take their money home with them.

Linda Jarman, from Leeds, said: "I came to find out if my money was safe. I'm worried about my money because I'm of pensionable age next year.

"The manager has come out to talk to us and he's given us all leaflets telling us about our rights. Actually I've just decided to go home.

"I've been here half an hour, but I've decided not to go in and close my account. I'm actually one of the lucky ones.

"I've got 30,000 in, and so according to this leaflet the financial services compensation scheme would give me 100% of my first 2,000, 90% of my next 33,000, and I stand to lose 900.

"So I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that I'm not going to lose it."

Betty Herman, from Wakefield, said: "I'm panicking, and for peace of mind I would like to get my money back. I've been here about three quarters of an hour, but I brought my chair, so I've come prepared.

"The bank worker who came out was really nice. I asked if I could ask him some questions, and he said that he couldn't tell me what to do.

Customers outside Northern Rock, Leeds city centre
People were told the bank would not shut until they had all been seen
"He also said that he wouldn't be closing until he's seen to us all, so that will give people confidence. They're not going to be turning people away."

Mr and Mrs Choudhury, from Leeds, had been waiting for about an hour.

"We've come to get our money. We've got our life savings in the bank, and you know, we're worried that we'll lose them. We've come to close our account," Mr Choudhury said.

Helen Plum, a shop worker in chain store Zara opposite the bank, had been watching the crowds gather since she started work.

"There've been people queuing up outside all morning.

"I've got a mortgage with Northern Rock, and also a loan. I've had the mortgage for around five years, and I don't really know what's going to happen," she said.

"I'm not worried too much because there's nothing I can do. I can't take the money out because it's a mortgage.

"I owe them money, so I'm not sure what will happen if they go bust. I'm not sure who I'll have to pay."




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