Public overwhelmingly opposed to RBS sale, new research shows

November 5, 2015

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  • MPs debate the future of RBS in Parliament today
  • Open letter published today calls for a review on government policy, signed by academics, NGOs and politicians from across the spectrum
  • New research reveals 3 out of 4 people with an opinion oppose the sale of RBS
  • 82% of Brits agree that RBS should work in the public interest
  • 67% agree that the government should launch a full, independent review into the bank’s future
  • New campaign launched to force government review on RBS and to keep bank branches open

New research released today shows that the British public is strongly opposed to the Government’s firesale of the taxpayers’ stake in bailed-out bank RBS – on the same day that MPs debate the future of the bank in Parliament.

Of those with an opinion, the sale of RBS shares was opposed by 3 out of 4 people. The research also showed that 82% of people agree that the bank should serve the public interest, and that 67% of the public agree government policy on RBS should be reviewed.

The poll also demonstrates widespread support for the break up of RBS, with 58% agreeing the bank should be restructured to serve local and regional economies. [1]

Releasing the research, Campaign Manager for Move Your Money, Fionn Travers-Smith, said:

“The British public is overwhelmingly opposed to the reckless firesale 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.

“This isn’t just about the £14 billion loss at a time of austerity, scandalous though that is. We could be using NatWest & RBS to rebuild our economy, support rural communities, and to work for the people that saved the bank when it was on its knees.”

An open letter signed by academics, NGOs and politicians from across the political spectrum was also published today, which calls on the government to end the RBS sale and to launch a full review. [2]

The intervention adds to a growing body of criticism that attacks not only the timing and cost of the sale, but also the wisdom of selling off the bank at all. In July a public petition calling for an end to the sale of RBS, and in favour of a full review on the bank’s future, earned over 119,000 signatures. [3]

The research was launched on the same day that MPs hold a parliamentary debate on the future of RBS, which calls on the Government to stop selling the taxpayers’ shares and to hold a full review of the bank’s future instead. [4]

Travers-Smith continued:

 “There is no evidence that flogging the bank off will benefit the British economy or society in the long-term, and the Government has not even considered alternative options – despite the majority of the British public supporting alternative uses of RBS, and the Government’s own banking commission calling for “all the options” to be reviewed. [5]

“The Government must bow to public pressure and open a full, independent and public review on the future of the taxpayers’ stake in RBS immediately.”

Today’s research comes just one week after new analysis revealed that taxpayer-owned RBS is the worst bank for branch closures. [6]

Over the last two years, RBS was responsible for 1 in every 3 bank branch closure, and 1 in every 2 “last bank in town” closure – despite promising never to close a last bank in town.

In total, there are now 1,500 communities in the UK without a bank branch, with closures only likely to continue under the bank’s current ownership model.

In response, Move Your Money is launching a new campaign to oppose all new NatWest and RBS branch closures, and to achieve a Governmental review on the future of taxpayer-owned RBS. [7]

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Fionn Travers-Smith of Move Your Money is available for comment and interview on 0300 321 3243 or Fionn@moveyourmoney.org.uk

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[1] Populus interviewed a random sample of 1002 GB adults aged 18+ over the telephone between 2  – 4 October 2015.  Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.  Further information at www.populus.co.uk.

The full survey results can be viewed at: Populus – Move Your Money Survey
And an in-depth analysis of the results can be viewed at: MYM RBS Poll Analysis

The questions, and their results, are listed below.

Question 1: Are you aware or unaware of the government’s decision to sell the publicly owned shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) back to the private sector? 

Aware                53%
Unaware           47%

Question 2: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the government’s decision to sell these shares back to the private sector on the basis of the current conditions of the sale?

Agree                 21%   (Strongly Agree 8%; Slightly Agree 13%)
Disagree            58%   (Strongly Disagree 44%; Slightly Disagree 14%)
Neither              20%

Question 3: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements:

a. “To gain the best deal for the taxpayer and the economy, the government should hold a full independent review to study all options for the public shareholding of RBS”

Agree                67%    (Strongly Agree 45%; Slightly Agree 23%)
Disagree           10%    (Strongly Disagree 5%; Slightly Disagree 4%)
Neither             21%

b. “As the public is the majority shareholder in RBS, the bank should operate in the public interest”

Agree                 82%  (Strongly Agree 65%; Slightly Agree 17%)
Disagree            6%    (Strongly Disagree 3%; Slightly Disagree 3%)
Neither              11%

c. “Instead of selling the Royal Bank of Scotland back to the private sector, the government should restructure the bank to serve local economies and regions throughout the United Kingdom”

Agree                58%  (Strongly Agree 37%; Slightly Agree 22%)
Disagree           16%  (Strongly Disagree 9%; Slightly Disagree 7%)
Neither             24%

[2] Open letter published here: Joint Statement on the RBS Sell Off

Signed by:

Professor Malcolm Sawyer; Professor Victoria Chick; Professor Jonathan Michie; Professor Christine Oughton; Professor Prem Sikha; Professor Laurence Scialom; Ann Pettifor; Paul Moore; Beth Stratford

Baroness Susan Kramer; Jon Cruddas MP; Kate Osamor MP; George Kerevan MP; Caroline Lucas MP; Pippa Bartolotti

Friends of the Earth; Unite the Union; New Economics Foundation; Move Your Money; We Own It; Positive Money; Brixton Pound; Finance Innovation Lab; New Weather Institute; Common Weal; Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen; FairFin; Community Reinvest

[3] The public petition gained 119,561 signatories, and can be found here:
 http://action.sumofus.org/a/rbs-sell-off

The petition reads “George Osborne: Don’t sell off RBS at a massive loss to taxpayers. Review all the options and leave no stone unturned to get the best deal for taxpayers and the economy”

[4] The debate is convened by the Backbench Business Committee for Thursday 5th November at 10:30am, and includes a substantive motion that reads:

“That this House calls on the Government to consider suspending the further sale of its shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland whilst it looks at alternative options; believes that this should take place in the context of a wider review of the UK’s financial sector; and believes that such a review should consider the case for establishing new models of banking, including regional banks.”

[5] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f1d1e35a-0bf9-11e3-8f77-00144feabdc0.html

[6] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/saving/article-3295385/NatWest-RBS-close-165-banks-town-two-years.html

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