POLICY: BETTER BANKING SECURES MANIFESTO COMMITMENTS
With all three of the major political parties having now released their manifestos for the coming General Election, the work undertaken by the Better Banking Campaign over the past few months has secured some key commitments:
Labour have committed to:
• Require banks to publish information on how they are serving poor communities, and explore ways of supporting community lenders through regulation (this is how the Community Reinvestment Act works in the US).
• “Clamp down” on extortionate loan charges, and oblige banks to offer everyone a bank account.
• “Explore options” for implementing a tax on banks to fund a credit union and CDFI network, provided through the Post Office, to ensure everyone has fair access to credit.
The Conservatives have pledged to:
• Require credit card companies to provide clearer and more consistent information to customers, and a set up new Consumer Protection Agency would have the power to curb excessive credit and store card charges (currently however it is unclear if this would be extended to other forms of finance).
• Introduce a “social responsibility levy” on financial institutions, which would be used in part to pay for a national financial advice service.
• Set up a “Big Society Bank” which would use dormant bank accounts to fund third sector activities.
• Enable Post Office Card Accounts to offer Direct Debit discounts.
The Liberal Democrats have promised to:
• Introduce an obligation on all companies to provide an “Operating and Financial Review” report on their social and environmental performance.
• Make the diversity of financial services a regulatory issue.
• Impose a maximum limit on credit and store cards (although this would not as yet be extended to high-cost lenders) and end unfair financial transactional charges so that consumers cannot be charged more than the costs a bank incurs.
• Implement a 10% tax on banks until retail and investment banks are split, with the proceeds going towards general taxation policy (including a rise in the income tax threshold which would benefit low-income tax payers).