News that, as part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’, the UK government is to set up a bank to finance voluntary groups and social enterprises out of the money held in dormant bank and building societies has been welcomed by observers in the sector. Cameron unveiled his plans for a ‘Big Society’ in a speech in Liverpool. Voluntary groups, he said, should be able to run post offices, libraries and transport services and shape housing projects; he spoke of the concept as a ‘big advance for people power’.
The Big Society Bank is likely to have assets of between £60 million and £100 million by its planned opening date next April, according to the government’s advisers on the project. But the British Banking Association has estimated that dormant accounts contain £400 million, and some third sector finance specialists estimate the sum could be ten times that.