Banks, bonuses and the Big Five

David Cameron announced in PMQs that the cash limit on bonuses will be restricted to £2k next year. Photo: PA

We don't change bank accounts very often.

In fact, the average customer changes banks once every quarter of a century.

So Labour this week have launched a two-pronged assault on the banking sector.

An assault intended to break the strangle-hold of the 'Big Five' and to show voters that Labour is on their side - not on the side of big business.

Leader, Ed Miliband, hopes it will be as politically expedient as his promise in September to freeze energy bills.

In response, David Cameron announced in PMQs that the cash limit on bonuses will once again be restricted to £2,000 next year.

The cash limit does not apply to bonuses paid in shares - which can be clawed back.

In the Commons, Labour have chosen to discuss bank bonuses for their Opposition Day debate.

Ed Miliband speaking during today's PMQs. Credit: PA

RBS - which is still 80% owned by taxpayers - can only pay bonuses in excess of a year's salary with permission from shareholders.

In this case, the shareholder is George Osborne.

This afternoon's vote will not be binding on Government - but Ed Miliband is trying to cement a view in voters' minds that Labour - not the Government - is on the side of consumers.

The Treasury insists they have had no application from RBS to increase bonuses beyond 100% of salary so the matter "is not an issue."

The Government is contesting the rules in any case - which were imposed by the EU against the Treasury's wishes.

In the Commons, the Prime Minister would only say that the overall bonus pot at RBS should be smaller - not whether individual bonuses could be more than 100% of salary.

But you can see the pattern here: vote against the Labour motion this afternoon and the Conservatives will appear to be backing big (and unpopular) bonuses.

Support the motion, and RBS will claim that its turnaround will become that much harder because it can't pay staff bonuses it's rivals can.

Because whatever happens to bonuses - they will always seem obscene in a country where the average salary is around £26,000 per year.

The second part of Mr Miliband's plan will fall in place later this week.

He will propose setting a maximum cap on the UK market share any one bank can hold.

His office says reports that the cap will be set at 25% are "wide of the mark" but nonetheless it appears a limit on the size of a bank will be one of his key proposals.

He's due to make a big speech on the economy on Friday - and, at a time when the economy is improving and the Tories are eating into Labour's poll lead, Mr Miliband needs to find a new political message that will resonate with voters.

And after a stumble during PMQs when he suggested there is a difference between a quarter of a million and 250,000 - he's having a tougher time in 2014 than he had at the end of 2013.