Blog | Co-operative | Financial inclusion

New Community Bank of Wales gaining interest

Many banks across Wales are closing, leaving people and businesses without essential financial services. A new co-operative bank could be the answer.

By Jo Brown · April 1, 2019

See this page in: Cymraeg

A new Community Bank of Wales could be on its way.

Banks are closing, leaving many people and businesses across Wales without essential financial services. The answer could be a co-operative one; a new bank established on a ‘one member, one vote’ basis.

First Minister Mark Drakeford made a commitment to establish a Community Bank of Wales in his leadership manifesto. In response to the need for better banking services, he made a pledge to set up a bank that will ‘offer current accounts to all local residents, regardless of income or wealth.’

Many communities are now without a bank, especially in rural areas. Businesses are having to close early to deposit their takings at a bank because the nearest one is now much further away, and despite the move to internet banking, many people still want face-to-face services too. In the current system, it also appears that poorer people still pay more for banking services. So, it seems obvious that the solution should be co-operative, a bank designed with the focus on putting people first.

Designed to put people first

The aim is that the new Community Bank will begin to operate before the end of the Assembly term in May 2021. It is vital that customers and members are involved in designing the new bank – their new bank – from an early stage. There is lots of work to do before 2021 – to understand the market and what services could be offered before an application for a banking licence can be made. But that work has begun.

The intention is that the new bank is different – first and foremost it would be run by and for its members. It would be a living wage employer, independent, based in Wales, and work without the big bonus culture that is ever-present in the current banking world. It would work with community groups and credit unions to reach all parts of the country – to add to what is there, not duplicate or compete with like-minded organisations.

A group of organisations and activists, that includes Cartrefi Cymru Co-operative and the Robert Owen Community Bank, have been campaigning over the last few years for a public bank in Wales. Much of the credit for continuing progress of the new bank goes to that group, for the fact that many of their ideas are now Welsh Government policy.

Wales is not alone on this journey. The CSBA, the group currently working with the new Community Bank for Wales, has been set up to ‘rebuild a network of independent, local banks in the UK and is working with people taking this exciting idea across the UK, organisations such as the South West Mutual.

To stay in touch with developments in Wales, follow @banccambria on Twitter.