A NORTHUMBERLAND MP is supporting calls for the revival of post office banks in his campaign for local banking.
In last week’s Journal, Hexham Tory Guy Opperman said he would press the ‘local’ issue when he meets finance chiefs in London in early March.
Now Jim Thompson, postmaster at Prudhoe’s main town centre post office for more than 20 years, has called for a return to Post Office girobanks.
The banks formed a financial backbone in the UK before being sold out to Alliance & Leicester under government privatisation programmes in 1989.
Mr Opperman believes smaller, local banks would give communities a better service than the large players.
“I would very much like to see the Post Office providing more banking facilities,” Mr Opperman told The Journal yesterday.
“The Post Office is a trusted brand and we need to provide access to savings and loans to as many people as possible.
“There are good examples of successes with expanding Post Office banks in other parts of the world.
“For example, the Post Office in New Zealand expanded into a full service retail bank, called Kiwibank, that has been a massive success and is now challenging their big banks.”
Two years ago Labour’s business secretary, Peter Mandelson, proposed a groundbreaking “people’s bank” run through the network of Britain’s 12,000 post offices.
It was at the time when more than 100 Labour MPs signed a Commons motion demanding the Government drop plans to sell off part of Royal Mail to a foreign operator. Mr Thompson said: “Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown gave our federation their backing when we challenged them to give us our banking arm back.
“But they never got back in at the last election.
“And now we would like to see the same sort of support from the coalition Government.
“When Mr Opperman says he is supporting the concept of local banks, we would hope to see support for post office banks as part of that. When Girobank was sold to Alliance & Leicester, that was the first big nail in our coffin.
“And it’s all gone downhill since then.”
Mr Thompson, 73, whose daughter Kim now helps run Prudhoe Post Office, added: “The Government wouldn’t have to invest a penny. Trust is what people have in their local post offices – but they don’t trust banks.
“With post office banks there would be no high-flying managers’ salaries.”
Mr Opperman is meeting Financial Services Authority chief executive Hector Sants and Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie on March 5.
Before then, the MP will be among a delegation meeting local bankers including Anthony Thompson of Metrobank, which has successfully set up in the past year.