North West councils in partnership to form community bank

Small businesses, and residents, will soon be able to benefit from a ‘community bank’ as plans to form a new mutual society take another step forward.

Preston City Council has joined forces with Wirral and Liverpool councils on the registration of the new mutual society.

North West Mutual Ltd was approved under seal by the Financial Conduct Authority on May 28.

Preston City Council leader Cllr Matthew Brown welcomed the initiative, which will see a main branch and satellite branches opened at key locations across the city, and throughout Wirral and Liverpool, in the first step towards creating a customer-owned bank dedicated to, and based in, the North West.

The aim is to help small businesses and the most vulnerable people struggling to access the banking services they need that aren’t available to them via the usual high street route.

Cllr Brown said: “A central part of the Preston Model is establishing a regional cooperative bank, owned by its customers.

“Working alongside great partners like Wirral Council and Liverpool City Council, this is a big step forward now the ‘North West Mutual’ has been registered with the FCA.

“The closure of many high street bank branches over the last few years has had a substantial effect on small businesses in Preston.

“Residents may have also struggled to open bank accounts due to complex personal circumstances, and this initiative will be there for those families, too.”

He added: “North West Mutual will be a community bank with the social mission of serving the everyday financial needs of ordinary people, community groups and small- and medium-sized companies across Preston.”

Cllr Janette Williamson, cabinet member finance and resources and deputy leader of Wirral Council, said: “The closure of many high street bank branches continues to have a significant effect on small businesses and residents in Wirral.

“Many small traders in our borough, who work mainly with cash, struggle to deposit their money – which can disadvantage them either in costly daily travel to deposit to a high street branch or in insurance to keep their money at their premises overnight.

“Alongside our partners in Preston and Liverpool we are stepping in to support the provision of service that Wirral’s local economy needs.

“With the enormous task of rebuilding local businesses and confidence after the pandemic, we need a strong financial institution backing our region more than ever.”

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: “The COVID-19 crisis has exposed what we already knew to be the huge inequalities across our city, and this economic crisis is exacerbating the situation.

“More and more people are having to use bank accounts to access welfare support such as Universal Credit and it is vital they don’t get financially penalised for doing so.

“It is getting increasingly hard and more costly to access cash – you have to travel further to a branch and using a local ATM often incurs a charge, adversely affecting those who can afford it the least.

“The current banking system is failing the poorest and it is right and proper that we step in to maintain access to services which should be universal – not just banking, but also loans and mortgages.

“We are making good progress on this but clearly it is really important that this is a robust enterprise and we have to meet the same tests as high street institutions.”