Home > What happened at the Just Banking Conference?
The Just Banking conference, held in April 2012 at the University of Edinburgh, brought together over 400 academics, campaigners, policy-makers and citizens to address these urgent questions:
How can we handle banking crises without burdening the taxpayer, or better still, avoid them altogether? The Bank of England estimates that the total cost of bailing out the UK financial system was £1.3 trillion, more than ten times the entire NHS budget.
How can we increase the bank finance available for the real economy, and decrease the amount pumped into asset price bubbles? At present only around 8% of lending by banks goes to productive investment in the sectors that contribute to GDP. The rest goes into property (pushing up house prices) and speculation, including speculation on basic commodities (pushing up food prices for the world’s poorest).
How can we make high street banks invest in local economies and long-term value? When banks do get around to financing the productive sector, they too often support huge companies with dubious environmental and human rights records, rather than the small businesses that create two thirds of our jobs. Many commentators now argue that banks are failing to support sustainable local economies because they have consolidated beyond the point that allows them to be responsive to local needs.
The conference opened with an evening lecture from Adam Posen, member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, and a lively panel discussion with Ann Pettifor, Richard Werner and Tony Greenham. This was followed by a full day of presentations and seminars with thought-leaders from the UK and beyond.
Jim Mather – Former SNP Minister Patrick Harvie – Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party Stephen Boyd – Assistant Secretary to the STUC Kathy Galloway – Head of Christian Aid Scotland & Member of the Church of Scotland’s Commission on the Purposes of Economic Activity Chris Hewett – Fellow of The Finance Innovation Lab and Associate at Green Alliance Shelagh Young (Chair)
Breakout session: Challenging the power of the bank lobby
In 2010, city money made up over 50% of all Conservative Party donations. Current transparency measures do not enable public scrutiny of lobbying. Finance Watch estimates that the amount spent on financial lobbying in Brussels is over €300m. What can we do to tackle the power of the banking lobby?
Dr William Dinan Director and Co-Founder of Spin Watch
Greg Ford Head of Communications, Finance Watch
Willie Sullivan Scottish Director of the Electoral Reform Society and Vice Chair of Compass
Sarah Cowan Campaigns and Activism Coordinator at Oxfam Scotland
Discussion chair: Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser at Unison
Breakout session: Relocalising and diversifying our high street banks
A sustainable, inclusive and vibrant local economy needs a financial service sector that is responsive to local needs that can support small businesses and social enterprises, and that can provide basic banking facilities to all, regardless of income, literacy and ethnic background. But have our banks become too consolidated to play that role?
Britain has five banks that account for 90% of personal banking. Compare this to Germany, which has hundreds of local savings banks and credit unions accounting for 70% of banking. The UK has just 170 bank branches per million inhabitants, compared to 480 in Germany, and 1010 in Spain.
Is there a case for forcibly breaking up the banks? For creating a new network of Post Banks? For a ‘universal service obligation’ which would mandate the affordable provision of basic accounts to all individuals?
Sargon Nissan Fellow at Jubilee Debt Campaign
Rod Ashley Chief Executive, Scotwest Credit Union
Danielle Paffard Co-founder, Move Your Money
Discussion chair: Tony Greenham, Head of Finance and Business at NEF
Breakout session: Finance as a force for good
How can governments intervene in the banking sector to channel finance away from environmentally destructive industries and destabilizing speculative activity, and towards projects with real environmental and social value?
How can we stop speculators pushing up food prices? How can we change the system of incentives that encourage destabilizing and risky behaviour?
Is banking sector intervention enough? What about the pensions funds & the insurance companies that act as if the long-term doesn’t matter? Is it realistic to expect similar government intervention in these high-impact sectors or are there other alternative/complementary answers to dysfunctional markets?
Victoria Chick Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University College London
Raj Thamotheram President at Network for Sustainable Financial Markets
Prof Richard Werner Director of the Centre for Banking, Finance and Sustainable Development, University of Southampton
Discussion chair: Hilary Wainwright, Co-editor of Red Pepper
Breakout session: Fresh thinking on finance, money and debt
This is the session for really thinking outside of the box, and discussing alternative models for money-creation and investment, that would fundamentally transform the role of banks in the economy.
Through its privileged role in creating and allocating 97% of the money in circulation, the banking sector wields enormous power over both the health and direction of our economy. Should banks retain the power to create and allocate debt-money? Or should we move the power to create money into the hands of a transparent and accountable body? What might be the role for complementary currencies?
Are interest-bearing bank loans a necessary or desirable model for financing projects with social and environmental value? What about shared equity-based investment models, and peer-to-peer finance?
Ben Dyson Founder of Positive Money
Prof Molly Scott Cato Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at Roehampton University
Saftar Sarwar Islamic Finance Council UK
Chris Cook Senior Research Fellow, University College London
Discussion chair: Michael Northcott, Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh
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