Post Office Bank a remedy for financial exclusion
by Gill Montia
Almost a million of the UK’s poorest people could be lifted out of financial exclusion if a new, simple-to-use bank account is launched by the Post Office.
So says Consumer Focus, the statutory body that represents consumers’ interests in post office services.
The Government has already outlined plans for the Post Office Bank (already designated “the people’s bank”), which will eventually offer current accounts; children’s savings accounts; business accounts; mortgages and weekly budgeting accounts.
Meanwhile, research from Consumer Focus indicates that 71% of financially excluded Britons are seeking an “easy to use, convenient to access” bank account, with 72% of those questioned saying they would consider opening such an account if it was available at any Post Office branch.
Nearly half of respondents said they distrusted High Street banks and some reported problems meeting banks’ identification requirements when trying to open an account.
According to Consumer Focus, financially excluded people often struggle to access mainstream financial products such as bank accounts and low cost loans.
As a result there are “real costs” to individuals and their families as they are, for example, more likely to use sub-prime credit and pay sky-high interest rates.
The UK has almost the same number of Post Office branches as bank and building society branches combined and the watchdog’s spokesman, Andy Burrows, comments: “This is a golden opportunity for the Government to lift thousands out of financial exclusion.”