Northern Ireland

New scheme set to aid church mutual savers

PMS name plate
Image caption Thousands of PMS members have been unable to retrieve their savings

Presbyterian church congregations owed money by the collapsed Presbyterian Mutual Society are to be asked to defer getting some of their money back, in order to help smaller savers.

Following pressure to increase its contribution, the church has agreed to back the voluntary scheme.

Congregations with large PMS deposits will be asked to defer getting part of their payments.

Earlier, a judge authorised the church to donate £1m towards the PMS bail-out.

At a meeting of the church's general board in Belfast on Thursday, it was agreed to make the payment directly from central funds using what it described as "the only sizable cash reserve it has of an undesignated nature".

A church spokesman said the £1m payment would leave approximately £200,000 in the account to meet the possible tax implications of such a payment.

Increased amount

A rescue package of more than £200m has already been put together for the PMS, including contributions from the British government and the Stormont Executive.

The church said the voluntary contribution scheme would assist the administrator to pay an increased amount to small savers when the bail-out package has been finalised.

The expectation is that the administrator will be able to repay the deferred amount to those who agree to take part - if or when the society's property assets are sold off over the next seven to 10 years.

The success of the scheme will be tied to a long-term recovery in the property market.

In his High Court judgement, Mr Justice Deeny held there was a moral obligation on the church to honour its pledge to contribute to the government-established bail-out.

"Only members of the Presbyterian Church could be members of the Presbyterian Mutual Society," he said.

"It would be paradoxical if the general body of taxpayers funded all of the assistance without any contribution from the church."

The church had to apply to the court because its funds can only be used for charitable purposes.

The PMS crashed in November 2008, owing almost 10,000 investors money.

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