Big Society is bold - but doesn't quite add up yet
Transparency and power of choice a move in the right direction
Big Society Bank must be a wholesaler not to undermine existing advances in the social sector
Commenting on David Cameron’s Big Society speech and proposals for the Big Society Bank, Charles Middleton, managing director at Triodos Bank, said: "What we’ve heard about today is a step in the right direction and it is only right that the public at large becomes more aware of the potential power that lies latent in the Big Society idea.
"By forcing high street banks to free up long-dormant deposits and kick-start lending to the social enterprise sector, the future lifeblood of the UK economy, the Big Society can now start to be realised.
"However, the detail is still lacking, and plans are not quite as simple as they appear. Talk that the bank may have to launch with reserves of just £60m*, due to high street banks’ reluctance to turn on the tap, as well as difficulties in accessing dormant accounts, highlights just some of the difficulties the coalition government may encounter in rolling-out finance to the social and charity sectors.
"At Triodos Bank we have been lending to social enterprises and charities for 15 years, and our lending and commitments to this sector now exceed £225m – more than half of what the BBA** predicts lies within the nation’s combined dormant accounts.
"While we are supportive of anything that rolls out additional funding to the social sector, we believe the Big Society Bank can only succeed if it works as a wholesaler, dispersing funds through existing intermediaries with proven and lasting experience in financing this sector. Although how this will be reconciled with the overall Big Society sway towards grass-roots, citizen empowerment remains to be seen. The government needs to look closely at the lessons learned through previous interventions and be prepared to be flexible in its operational delivery of these proposals.
"Finally, we are also supportive of the move to localise choice and power in such a transparent way. Triodos Bank is the only bank to publish full details of all its borrowing customers, including social enterprises and charities, putting power in the hands of its depositors to use their money in a more conscious way and enabling them to see the tangible and positive change their money can affect."
To find out more about Triodos Bank and its range of banking services for social enterprises and charities, and savings and investments for individuals, visit
www.triodos.co.uk or call 0500 008 720 free.
Notes for editors:
For more information please call Lisa Stanley or Will Ferguson on 0117 980 9721 or email@example.com / William.firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/domestic_politics/david+cameron+launches+big+society+scheme/3715737
About Triodos Bank
Triodos Bank only finances Loan customers creating social, environmental or cultural added value - ranging from large ethical Loan customers to smaller, innovative organisations meeting local needs. Key sectors include organic food and farming, renewable energy, social housing and fair trade. Transparency is a core value: customers are informed about the Bank’s lending and can target their savings to particular areas of investment. A range of personal savings accounts is offered and full banking services are available for businesses and charities.