There has never been a greater need and demand for full-service community banking in Ireland. Post-recession, many people would rather bank with publicly-owned, or community owned, institutions. Across the country, households and small businesses are finding it difficult to secure loans, including for mortgages and business investment. A new report outlining the opportunities for local banking, done in consultation with Irish Rural Link, points out that ‘improved access to finance will be vital for a continuous economic recovery and development – especially for the local Irish SME sector and the local population across the country.’ The Social Democrats agree.
Ireland has about 380 credit unions and over 1,100 post offices across the country, giving them a physical presence in towns and villages in every county. We propose an ambitious project where the State and Central Bank of Ireland would work with both networks to build a strong community banking sector in Ireland.
This would result in credit union and post office customers having full current account facilities, including debit cards and online banking. Enhanced loan facilities would be provided by credit unions (on an opt-in basis by branch). In addition, we propose a feasibility study for post office branches to offer enhanced services, potentially via the broker model used by the Royal Mail in the UK.
The proposal would have numerous benefits, including:
AS PART OF THE REQUIRED PROJECT, THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS PROPOSE:
Enhanced services for credit unions, to include:
Enhanced services for post offices, to include: