Campaigners for banking reform argue that the public is opposed to the fire sale of the government stake in the bank, which fell for the first time in August when the chancellor sanctioned the sale of shares at a £1bn loss to the taxpayer. The stake was reduced from 79% to 74% and the government has stated that its objective is to sell off its entire holding in RBS, which was rescued by £45bn of taxpayer funds during the 2008 and 2009 crisis.
The government’s stake in RBS and the future of UK banking will be discussed in the Commons on Thursday, in a debate scheduled by the backbench business committee and proposed by Labour MP Kate Osamor.
The campaigners – including from Move Your Money – want the state-owned bank to be directed to support rural communities and play its part in boosting the economy. They cite a petition calling for an end to the RBS sale which received 119,000 signatures.
A spokesman for Move Your Money said: “The British public is overwhelmingly opposed to the reckless fire sale of RBS back to the people who caused the financial crisis. Public opinion cannot be clearer on this issue – we own RBS, so it should work for us.”
A survey by Populus in October found that just over half of respondents (53%) were aware that the government was selling off the stake in RBS. Of those with an opinion, the sale was opposed by three out of four people.
An open letter has also been written to Osborne by campaigners for banking reform, including from the trade union Unite and economics professors, calling him to rethink his approach.
“[On Thursday], MPs will debate a motion to suspend the sale of RBS shares pending a full consideration of the other options, including turning it into a network of regional banks.
“We fully support this motion and urge the government to undertake a proper, independent review of how the public stake in RBS should be dealt with to best support the government’s stated objectives of getting the best value for the taxpayer and maximising support for the economy,” the letter says.
“In our view, the only way to make good our investment in RBS is to treat it as an opportunity to fix our broken banking system.”
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