Social Democrats launch community banking proposal

Credit unions and post offices would have the power to provide loans, mortgages, and debit cards under community banking plans put forward by the Social Democrats.

The newly formed party believes services provided by credit unions and post offices should be expanded.

Party co-leader Róisín Shortall said the community banking plans would give credit union and post office customers full current account and loan facilities, including debit cards and online banking.

She said: “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.

“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.”

The party pointed out that credit unions have €8bn in deposits in the pillar banks, which “under current legislation, cannot be used to facilitate access to credit for local communities including local businesses and the self-employed”.

Ms Shortall said there is a demand to expand the services the 380 credit unions and 1,300 post offices around the country provide. Similar proposals were put forward in a recent An Post report authored by Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Bobby Kerr.

The report said post offices will have to diversify, add services or co-locate with other businesses to stay afloat. Mr Kerr will now stay on for another six months to work on implementing the proposals.

The report, which was published last month, also recommended the introduction of a payment account system through the post office which will allow customers to avail of banking services such as ATM cards and direct debits.

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