Thomas Attwood, Birmingham’s first MP, was a local or country banker. In 1790 Parliament had authorised the Bank of England and country bankers to issue notes of low denomination and in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, communities across England used country bankers’ notes almost as much as they used coins and Bank of England notes.
Benjamin Disraeli said that Attwood was a ‘provincial banker labouring under a financial monomania’ because of his repeated and forceful proposals that Britain should have a government issued paper currency not tied to gold. Attwood’s second theory (QE?) was that the government should counter economic depressions by increasing the money supply.
Hexham’s Conservative Guy Opperman MP, shocked by the near collapse eight years ago of Northern Rock, ‘the bank’ of the North East, became determined to counter the domination of the ‘casino’ banks and to breathe new competition into the banking industry. He said:
“People want a community lender based in their community. I am absolutely certain once we are properly up and running that large numbers of people will make the decision that some or all of their money should be in our organisation rather than a large multinational bank based far away.
“Why would you want to bank with a casino bank in Frankfurt or Shanghai or London when you could trust your money to a community bank?”
And coming full circle, the new leader of Birmingham Council, John Clancy, has consistently argued for “a ‘confident act of economic self-determination’ in this city. Investment can begin at home, close to home, using local wealth and sources of finance”.
Regional development banks and municipal banks have been at the heart of his calls over the last 16 years for radical reform of banking and strategies for regional growth to rebalance the economy, geographically and in terms of what is made, serviced, created and done as an economy – keeping regional wealth circulating within and around the regions and not disappearing down a banking and financial services black hole to the South East.
Thomas Attwood: applause.