Twenty one good words in the speech that the Prime Minister has given today at the Labour Party Conference.
“I want the Post Office – to play a much bigger role, bringing banking services back to the heart of people’s communities.”
Our research shows there is an appetite among consumers and there are good ways (with careful logistics and some hard money) to make this happen, including links at local level with credit unions. The post office branch network, at 11,500 outlets strong, is greater than the combined total of 10,489 bank branches. There is an opportunity for rural communities here too.
Only four per cent of rural areas have a bank, but 60 per cent still have a post office, meaning the post office already plays a surrogate banking role in many rural communities. The Commission for Rural Communities, for example, has found that less than 10% of all cash points are sited in rural areas, with only 46% of these being free to use (compared to just under two thirds in urban areas).
New Zealand’s post office launched Kiwibank in 2002 with the offer of lower fees, better services and longer trading hours and has since become one of that country’s most popular banks.
It is not a new idea. In 1861 the British government introduced the Post Office Savings Bank, which later became National Savings & Investments, followed almost a 100 years in 1968 later by Girobank. But it would be great if these words today mark the coming of age for the idea of contemporary neighbourhood banking through the Post Bank.