High Street Banks Cash in with [Pounds Sterling]34bn Profits

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Byline: JONATHAN PRYNN

HIGH street banks are set to reveal record profits totalling more than [pounds sterling]34billion, a rise of about 15 per cent.

The profits have been condemned as "grotesque" by critics who said the banks are still not providing a good enough service to customers.

MPs are also preparing to launch an investigation into whether banks are fuelling poverty by abandoning some of the most deprived areas.

Some Labour backbenchers want Gordon Brown to impose a windfall tax on their profits.

The banks begin reporting their 2005 results on Wednesday, when Northern Rock is forecast to reveal profits of about [pounds sterling]500 million, up from [pounds sterling]431 million in 2004.

However, most City interest will focus on the "Big Five": Barclays, HBOS, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland. Analysts expect all but Lloyds TSB to reveal big surges in profits. HSBC is due to set a new record for a British-based bank on 6 March with pre-tax profits close to [pounds sterling]11.5 billion.

The combined profits - greater than the national output of Croatia - will trigger dozens of huge cash bonuses. …