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VOLUNTEER MOVEMENT IN NORTH…

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' BANKS FOR THE PEOPLE." «

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BANKS FOR THE PEOPLE." « PROSPECTS OF THE MOVEMENT. INTERESTING INTERVIEW. A representative of the Recorder," in the course of an interview with Mr. Henry C. Devine, organising secretary of the Co-operative Banks Association, of which Mr. R. A. Yerburgh, M.P., is the chief spirit, has obtained some interesting particulars concerning the movement. Asked what are the objects of the association, Mr. Devine said: — They are, to explain to the people the advan- tages of safeguarding their own savings and creating a national system of popular credit. All temporary advances for economical and pro- ductive purposes could then be made by them- selves to themselves," and thus their own" monetary capital fructify under "their own" control. What are the advantages of such a system in towns, and cities? Amongst other benefits, small tradesmen, artizans, clerks and workers generally (including coster-mongers and such-like) could obtain ad- vances from their own banks at moderate rates of interest to effect economies, and also aid them in earning livelihoods. All classes of wage-earners need occasional financial accommodation, as evidenced by the large number of petty usurers who flourish in working- class quarters, and the slate and various ele- mentary forms of loan clubs, which mostly meet in the unthrifty atmosphere of the public-house, and in any case are not as democratic and per- manent in character as the People's Own Banks which we advocate. Are these societies equally applicable to country districts? Most certainly! They are capable of doing as much or more good there than anywhere else. The need of cheap credit for the productive and economic purposes of farmers, small cultivators, allotment holders, and the labouring classes generally is very great. Big tenants as a rule can obtain monetary advances from Joint Stock Banks at a fair rate of interest, thereby earning a more substantial living than would otherwise be possible. The object of the Co-operative Banks Associa- tion is to help smaller people to obtain similar advantages, by association. Are you sure that there is a. need for such monetary credit? There is no doubt about it. The large number of Bills of Sale in the names of farmers, dairy- men, market-gardeners, conclusively proves the necessity for reasonable methods of obtaining credit amongst the agricultural population. In addition to assisting those already on the land, People's Country Co-operative Banks would be a means of increasing the number of small hold- ings, of the nature of those promoted by Lord Carrington on his estate in Lincolnshire. Besides the tenants, landlords and large farmers would also benefit, the first by prompt payments of rent, the second by the increased amount of strong, willing, able labour in their neighbour- hoods. Co-operative banks, in creating the necessary financial credit, would go a long way towards stemming the prevailing drift into towns, and raising the independence and morale of rural communities. If established genemlly they would be a great aid to farm labour rs to add to their small wages by the purchase of pigs, poultry, etc., repaying the outlay out r f profits. How do you propose that the working capital foi these various town and country requirements of the industrial populations should be obtained? By the people taking up shares in their own banks (payable a few pence per week) and this share capital, the additional credit it will com- mand and a certain proportion of their deposits, would form a fund, or rather series of funds, which would prove a veritable boon and blessing to thousands of thrifty, honest persons of all classes. Are the banks to become branches of one central establishment, or will they be organically independent ? Each will be separate so far as the control of its local affairs are concerned. They will be governed on what I may call home rule principles. Co-operative as opposed to commercial capital- istic methods will be adopted, and the Executive Committees and Councils of Financial Super- vision will be elected by the members at general meetings on the "one man one vote" principle! At the same time they will all be affiliated to- gether in order to obtain the expert advice, and every other benefit which membership of a national organisation can confer. How many banks are affiliated to your associa- tion already? Seven, up to date, but we are still in our early days, and this number will without doubt be con- siderably added to during the next twelve months. Where are they? Town banks in Newport (Mon.), Bethnal Green, Stepney and District, Yardley (Birmingham) and Hull. Country banks: Scawby (Lincolnshire), Hedge End (Hampshire). How are the financial interests of the members of these banks safeguarded? By affiliation to the Co-operative Banks Asso- ciation, who exercise a supervision over their accounts. By registration under the Friendly or Industrial and Provident Societies Acts, involving presentation of effectively audited accounts to the Chief Registrar. Also by their own Councils of Supervision, and bye-laws re- quiring money to be banked weekly, and fidelity guarantees of officials. And you find these effective? Yes! There are no insuperable difficulties in protecting Popular Provident Trusts. Our Co- operative Banks welcome the fullest investigation of their methods of finance. Every town bank publishes a balance-sheet weekly for the mem- bers' inspection, and sends a copy of the same to the Central Association. Who compose the Central Association? Every one sufficiently interested in this demo- cratic reform who contributes an annual sub- scription of 5s. and upwards towards their work of Economic Education, Organisation, and Supervision. How is it governed? By a Council of sixteen elected by the votes of the members at the annual general meetings. Who constitute the Council at present? The Chairman, Mr. R. A. Yerburgh, M.P., whose expenditure of time and money in stamp- ing out usury and encouraging the industrial classes in town and country in improving their position and prospects, is well known to all. The Hon. Treasurer, Mr. Henry Robson, of Messrs. Renton, Bros. and Co., who is a staunch sup- porter of all genuine efforts to promote self-help. Dr. J. B. Paton (of Nottingham), whose name is a household word, long linked with every project for the moral and material welfare of the masses. The Right Hon. Horace Plunkett, M.P., Lord Stamford, Mr. Geoffrey Drage, M.P., Mr. V. V. Branford, M.A., Mr. Thomas Farrow and others of all parties. What is your opinion of the general prospects of the movement in this country? Well! It has taken a big step forward during the past twelve months, which, of course, is very gratifying, but while an organiser of a new national ideal should never be discouraged by discouragement he should also never be satisfied by success. It is well that the movement should grow steadily and surely rather than with too great a rush, and as there is no patronage about it—through recognised working class channels. I should like to see members of Trade Unions, Friendly and Co-operative Societies get a greater grasp of the possibilities of co-operative credit, and of the personal and collective benefits it is so capable of bestowing. As was remarked in a recent article in the Speaker," credit is all-important to co-operative production, and the earliest step in co-operative enterprise should be the creation of Co-operative Banks." The people ought not to be satisfied until they establish for themselves a Co-operative Bank in every district throughout the land, to encourage and utilise their own savings and credit. We don't advocate mere miserly savings or loan clubs. The banks would be the enemies of prodigal wastefulness on the one hand, and centres of enlightenment regarding wise spending on the other. Before many years they will undoubtedly spread over the whole country like a wide tidal wave, operating as a powerful incentive to democratic thrift and self-government, and thus contributing to produce what all patriots desire to see—a prosperous, virtuous, and thriving people.

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