Ministers must commit to shared banking

Before the banking crisis we had major banks closing branches, often the last one standing, in deprived communities including Liverpool Kensington that are receiving regeneration money and beginning to look up.

Also suffering were rural communities, estates and poorer suburbia. Now that the banks are strapped for cash and look likely to be making losses rather than profits, we would be daft not to realise that once the immediate panics, absorbing all their time, are out of the way they will return to branch closures big time, probably worse than before.

What is criminal, however, is that a government pumping all this money in and professing to be supportive of regeneration, communities, financial inclusion and carbon reduction has sought nothing from the banking sector in terms of a commitment to branches in vulnerable communities.

If a government can’t do it when it is in the driving seat as major shareholder what hope is there? The minimum needed now is a commitment to trial shared branching in a batch of communities vulnerable to branch loss and the Campaign for Community Banking Services, which has the support of a score of national consumer and charitable organisations, stands ready to make available its expertise and experience to help.

What is particularly surprising is that the banks themselves are not doing this – a successful trial of shared branching in vulnerable communities could open the door to more widespread use of the idea which could save the banks multi-millions at a time when they need it most.

The government has the opportunity: let’s see it used before it is too late!


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