nef has long argued that we need systematic reform of our financial system to make it work for people and the planet. So far, the Election Campaign hasn’t touched on banking or finance, which means a crucial debate on the future of our economy is not being had. You can help the cause for financial reform by asking your candidates what their party plans to do to fix the banks.
Question 1: Are you committed to a diverse local banking system capable of providing the credit that small enterprises need – and will you commit to breaking up the banks in public ownership to create it?
Background: Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are committed to ‘breaking up the banks’, though neither is clear whether that means splitting investment banking from domestic banking – or something more radical. The Conservatives are committed to a competition investigation of the financial sector. We need to tease out whether, and how, they will create the new diverse banking system we need.
Fact: American local economies are sustained by 1,000 bank branches per million people. German local economies have about 500 branches per million. We have to make do with just over 200 branches per million.
Question 2: How urgently will your party set up a Post Office Bank, along the lines of the ones in France, Italy and New Zealand, to provide banking services more widely?
Background: The Lib Dems are committed to this. So is Labour in their ‘People’s Bank’ proposal, but it is not clear how much further this goes than the status quo.
Fact: La Poste, the French post bank which was founded in 2006 has 11 million bank accounts.
Question 3: How will you go about setting a financial transaction tax, along the lines of the Robin Hood Tax, which can slow down global speculation and help fund the Millennium Development Goals?
Background: The Green Party and Liberal Democrats are committed to negotiating a transaction tax, but it is not clear how far this can be done by the UK on its own.
Fact: Amount of money that flows through the system every day: $3 trillion; proportion of this related to buying goods and services: about 5%.