Last of the ex-building societies
The Government’s decisive intervention to nationalise Bradford and Bingley is welcome. It contrasts with their dithering about Northern Rock. Then they seemed more worried about breaching the new Labour commandments against nationalisation than doing what everyone else could see was both inevitable and about as far removed from 1945-style nationalisation as possible.
But this nationalisation is another nail in 1980s deregulation. Bradford and Bingley were the last of the demutualised building societies to remain independent. Every other one has now been swallowed by a previously existing bank.
In almost every case a British town or city has lost an important source of local finance and good jobs in the process. B&B’s headquarters are (were) in Bingley. Halifax stands to lose badly from the takeover of HBOS with the political pressure more on the BOS bit than the H side of the operation.
Of course not every building society has come through the credit crunch unscathed. Some tiddlers like the Catholic Building Society have had to be absorbed, but the model clearly endures. We were told that their mutual status held them back, and they needed the freedom to be a bank.
It is good to know that I was right to vote no to turning the Abbey National into a bank, though I confess to having banked the windfall.