The banks are crap – so do something about it!

Banking

Once again we have news that some bankers have been playing the system to suit their own advantage. Incredibly it appears that traders from at least one bank were gaming the system that had actually been set up by the last Government to save banks! We have had further thoughts today from the Bank of England about clawing back bonuses for up to 7 years if the long-term effects of their actions were not merited.

So 7 years after our economy was almost brought to its knees we seem to be having the same old headlines which show that the sharks are still as greedy and self-indulgent as ever. The myth is still being peddled that if ‘We” do not pay enough “They” will take their skills elsewhere. After more than 7 years there is no proof that this ever has or ever will happen. The only move from some of the bigger sharks like Bob Diamond and Fred the Shred is out of the business although I understand that Diamond is working in developing countries these days.

So “They” haven’t changed and seem high unlikely to do so. Greed appears to be in the banker’s DNA. So if that is the case what are “We” going to do about it?
Primarily we can seek out ethical financial institutions and try and put our money with them. Erica and I are not rich and never will be but we have put some small amounts aside for our old age with:

• Triodos an international bank with ethical loan and investment policies.
• The Furness Building Society – the only Mutual Building Society from the North West of England with a branch in Liverpool (in Castle Street just opposite the Town Hall)
• Lodge Lane Credit Union where I have been a member for some time and Erica has recently joined and we have opened accounts for our 2 grandchildren.

When we get their annual reports or newsletters we get some satisfaction from knowing that not only are we well looked after but also that our money is circulating ethically to local people communities and businesses. This is particularly true of the Credit Union which we know does a tremendous amount of good throughout its South Liverpool Common Bond.
So dare I ask what you are doing in a similar vein?

Well a lot of you haven’t joined a Credit Union. Nationally the Credit Unions have about 1 million members so that is about 1.3% of the population. It is a tiny proportion of the population compared to the Irish Republic and much of Scandinavia. Perhaps there is an image problem here? Many of the middle class chatterati assume that Credit Unions are for poor people. Well it is true that people on low incomes have the greatest difficulty in getting affordable loans but the credit unions can and do take money from people at all income levels. Lodge Lane CU does not give interest on deposits but does pay an annual dividend which is consistently better than the rate the banks give in interest on immediate access cash accounts. We are currently talking to them about a big marketing campaign in our Ward which we will help with in a number ways.

Come to think of it you probably haven’t joined a building society either of which there are about 50 still in existence most of which still operate with a true mutual ethos as well as a mutual structure.

Have you thought of moving your account at all? None of my three alternative financial institutions have current account facilities so I took the advice of moveyourmoney and challenged my bank charges and threatened to move. In fact I did not move but I have saved £18 per month that I was being charged for services that I didn’t use and didn’t need.
If you are a councillor have you looked at the possibility of moving some of your cash holdings to the Public Sector Deposit Fund and some of your treasury and pension holdings to the Local Authority Property Fund? Both of these accounts are run by CCLA which is effectively a mutual for Churches, Charities and Local Authorities. It gives better than average industry returns because its costs are relatively low and you know that its investments are ethical. (I declare an interest as an unpaid director of the part of CCLA which oversees these funds).

Have you looked at getting money from and putting money into community led activities which avoid the bankers altogether. I have been reading up recently about crowdsourcing and similar activities which have been successfully used by organisations like the Flyover Festival to attract revenue and capital from people using IT based methodologies. I am not an expert in this area but have been mugging up on it recently to try and get my head around it. It does appear however that by leaving out the middleman in a controlled environment lenders van get more interest and borrowers pay less interest – Simples!

I hope that this does not come over as a harangue but more as a plea. If we all did just some of the actions discussed above then we would not be relying on the Government to legislate or top bankers to find morality. WE would together have changed the financial system for the better and the more of us that do this the bigger the change.

To make things easy for you I provide links to the website of the places that I use so you can start taking action at the click of a button!
Make a difference today by doing something and not whingeing about something!

CCLA http://www.ccla.co.uk
Move your Money http://www.moveyourmoney.org.uk
Furness Building Society http://www.furnessbs.co.uk
Lodge lane Credit Union http://www.lodgelanecu.org.uk
Triodos Bank http://www.triodos.co.uk

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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