Newsletter 20 March 2016

March newsletter - Customer Union registered; Hive launched

Welcome to our March newsletter.

First of all we are very pleased to announce that the Customer Union for Ethical Banking Limited has now been formally established as a Co-operative Society. Our union for Co-op Bank customers is officially up and running! We’ve still got plenty to do before we can properly launch the organisation. We are working on the website upgrade so that new members can sign up on line, and we are waiting for the Co-op Bank to open our account! But we are making headway.

Account closures campaign

We have been continuing discussions with the bank about the recent swathe of account closures for community groups including Palestinian solidarity groups, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and others. Unfortunately we can’t report much progress with the bank on this one so far, but we are not letting go.

On the positive side, the bank told us back in December that it was pausing account closures while it reviewed how it communicates to customers whose accounts are being closed. That pause is still in place, at least as far as we are aware – we have not heard of any more account closures since then.

But we still don’t have a satisfactory explanation of why these accounts have been closed, or a clear sign from the bank that it is changing its approach.

We expect to meet with the bank again soon and we will report back on what happens.

Co-op Bank launches The Hive to help co-op start-ups

At the end of February the Co-op Bank made a big commitment to the UK’s co-operative sector with the launch of The Hive, together with Co-operatives UK. While there are plenty of sources of advice for new business start-ups, if you want to start a new co-operatively owned organisation there are fewer options. The bank is helping to address this by establishing The Hive to help the development and growth of co-operatives and social enterprises, and has put £1.05 million into the initiative over three years. It is also making clear that this is part of the bank’s Ethical Policy commitment to support co-operatives. The Hive uses an innovative (and co-operative) peer-to-peer approach, calling on expertise that exists in other co-ops and compensating for time spent.

If you are involved in a co-op or social enterprise or want help or support setting one up, check it out at http://thehive.coop.

Looking to the future

We’re here to hold the bank to account, and we want to see it back under co-operative control. The Co-operative Group is still by far the largest shareholder with 20%. We think it’s time the Group made more use of this position in helping us call the bank to account. We met recently with the president of the Senate and National Members Council of the Co-operative Group and agreed to work more closely in future.

It’s worth reflecting that in the last 12 months the bank has signed up to the Living Wage Campaign, launched a campaign to tackle financial abuse in relationships, been recognised for its stance on nuclear weapons in the Don’t Bank on the Bomb “hall of fame”, and become the only UK bank to support the Paris Pledge to quit coal. With the launch of The Hive this starts to add up to an impressive record. Not bad, we have to say. We hope the bank can cement this by taking some positive steps to address its seemingly arbitrary account closures.

With best wishes,

Save Our Bank