Our Money is a grassroots campaign for a community bank for the North/Northern Ireland, a bank that lets us take back control of our finances, a bank that serves the needs of people who live in the real world.
The banking crisis hit in 2008 and ever since there’s been a recession, the biggest since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In fact, some people call what we’re going through the Great Recession.
Many of us were affected by the aftermath of 2008, which was more of a bank meltdown than a bank crisis. The world of finance might be a black box of mystery to most of us but since 2008 we discovered, to our cost, that none of the so-called financial experts were any wiser than we were.
And who was hit hardest? The 1% of the population made up of the bankers, the corporations, the wealthy elite whose reckless behaviour caused the crisis? No. Those culprits have simply become wealthier since 2008 and have reaped the benefit of continued excessive salaries and bonuses, as well as the most enormous government bailouts in human history. So, who? The people hit the hardest was all the rest of us, the 99% of the population.
The people in Our Money are among the 99%. We want a radically different type of banking. We want a bank that puts the financial needs of local people first rather than the needs of corporations or the super-wealthy. We want a bank that keeps local money local by investing deposits and profits in the local economy and lending only to people living in the region. We want a bank that’s owned by us, that’s embedded in our communities and builds personal relationships with us, not one that’s owned by shareholders and has no local connections. We want a bank that makes lending and investment decisions locally rather than one that makes decisions without any understanding of the local needs and makes lending decisions and makes far-flung speculative investments. We want a bank that doesn’t operate based on bankers’ bonuses and commission-based sales targets. We want all of these things and the community banking model can make it possible.
A community bank would be required to apply for a licence from the Bank of England, to be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, and to abide by the strict rules of the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the FCA. All of this is entirely achievable under the model provided by the Community Savings Bank Association (click to find out more). A community bank would complement the Credit Unions, and would be able to work alongside them, with the bank taking care of everyday banking services and the Credit Unions taking care of savings as they already do now.
Believe it or not, community and public banking is very common in other places across the world. In Europe, millions of people are customers of community banks, from Germany to Italy to Spain to Holland to Switzerland. So, community banks are not new or radical in most other places. They’re just new and radical for us. But they would benefit us in the same way as they do their customers in other countries.
We don’t need anybody’s permission to start our own bank. We don’t need the powers from on high to give their blessing. We can make it happen ourselves through widespread public support, through people like you joining the campaign and pledging your support.