Thursday, 25 October 2018

Questions (84)

Niamh Smyth


84. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Finance if the diminution of banking services in rural Ireland will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40596/18]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I should stress at the outset that the Government has no formal role in the commercial decisions of the banks as to their future business model and whether or not they will close particular branches.

The Deputy will no doubt appreciate that the provision of services by banks, including the location of branches, is a commercial decision for the Boards and management of the institutions.

That said, I expect that any bank closing branches will do everything that it can to mitigate the impacts of the branch closures on local communities, including technology and the use of alternative means of service delivery. I also expect that the bank will ensure that customers are kept informed about developments and provided with the appropriate assistance to move branches, switch to other banks and avail of alternative means of accessing financial services. The Central Bank will also have a role in ensuring that consumer protection rules are followed.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Report on Local Public Banking by my Department and the Department of Rural and Community Development has now been published.

Specifically, the Report examined  a proposal from Irish Rural Link and the Savings Bank Foundation for International Cooperation for 8-10 local public banks, starting with a pilot local public bank in the Midlands. The suggested locations in the proposed pilot in the Midlands are already serviced by existing banks, credit unions and post offices.

The Report concludes that there is not a compelling case for the State to establish a new local public banking system in Ireland using €170 million of Exchequer funds, based on the proposed model.  However, as set out in the Report, my Department will commission an independent external evaluation to establish whether the objectives of local public banking, are necessary, and if so, could be achieved by other possible means in Ireland. The Terms of Reference for this evaluation are currently being progressed.

Question No. 85 answered with Question No. 60.