LOVE 'em or loathe 'em, we cannot function as a society without banks.

And to those small towns and villages, and the four hundred thousand customers that have recently lost or are soon to lose their high street bank, I can only offer my sympathy and a few words of protest.

However, what really sticks in my craw is the enormous sums of money these banks are tipping into the pockets of their chief executives.

It used to be the Fat Cats of the privatised utilities in the 1990s who grabbed the headlines. Now that role appears to have been taken over by the Fat Cats of the High Street Banks.

One bank in particular has paid its chief executive £637K to join the bank, £320K in moving expenses, £225K for being a Canadian and a basic salary of £850K. That adds up to... well, a lot of money.

The bank obviously then felt that their chief executive might well be paying ... well, a lot of tax.

So, rather than advise him to employ an accountant at his own expense, they suggested, "Look, mate, here's £15K. See what kind of accountant that will buy. We don't want the British taxpayer to benefit from your pittance of an income."

And there's more.

This person has a share option that could net him £3.4 million, £425K paid by the bank into his pension plan and £5K (or a car of his choice - despite the fact that he has a chauffeur-driven bank car).

He also has the usual medical and other benefits (whatever they might be).

Ah, I hear you saying, what if the bank sees the error of its ways and sacks him? Wouldn't that be the end of the matter?

Don't be silly. He would then be entitled to two years' pay in lieu of notice, the paltry matter of £1.7 million, poor soul.

You have to feel sorry for him, don't you?

Quite naturally, this state of affairs has ellicited a roar of disapproval from others. These comments include words like stunned, insulting, out of touch with reality and exorbitant.

I suspect, though, that the bank will attempt to ride out this particular storm and retreat behind its bureaucratic facade.

I would suggest to this particular bank that the four hundred thousand customers they've just managed to lose at a stroke could be the tip of an iceberg that could just lose the bank the confidence of millions of other customers.

They'll be scanning the financial horizon and predicting the precarious position of their own branch.

If I were them I'd be making arrangements with other banks with a less aggressive closure programme. It doesn't take a lot of effort to change banks - it's all done for you these days, even direct debits and the like.

What does the Government have to say on the matter? A Treasury spokesman has been reported as saying: "We have consistently said that wage restraint has to be set at all levels."

'Nuff said, eh.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.