- Fewer than one in 10 believe that the Government should sell its stake in RBS in the near future
- Most Britons don’t believe a privatised RBS would work in the public interest
London, UK, 14 February 2019 – Fewer than one in 10 Britons believe that the UK Government should sell its stake in RBS within the near future, and over 1 in 10 think that a privatised RBS would work in the public interest, according to new polling released today by research and campaign group Positive Money.
The poll, commissioned by Positive Money and undertaken by YouGov in February 2019, asked 2,000 British adults to choose between a number of options for the UK Government’s majority stake in RBS. Fewer than one in ten (9.04%) believed that the Government should sell its stake in RBS in the near future (i.e. within the next year) and get what money it can for it, even if it means doing so at a loss.
Over a third (34.36%) of respondents said the Government should hold on to its stake in RBS, in the hope that the value of the shares in the bank recover, and then they can sell it for a higher price later on (i.e. when the price goes up). Meanwhile a further third (31.77%) believe the Government should hold on to its stake in RBS for the foreseeable future (i.e. longer than one year) and run it as a nationalised bank, while 3.53% opted for none of these options and 21.3% said they don’t know.
Asked whether RBS would be run in the interests of the public if it returns to private ownership, only just over one in ten (11.68%) said they think it would, while nearly three in five (58.14%) said they think it would not, and 30.18% said they don’t know.
The results show that there is little public support for the Government’s current policy towards RBS, which was brought under majority public ownership during the 2008 financial crisis. Though the Government currently holds a 62.3% majority stake in RBS, it has been selling its shares since 2015, and in October’s Budget the Treasury announced plans to fully return the bank to private ownership by 2024.
However, the sell-off is not a done deal, as the Government still needs to prove to the National Audit Office that the sales represent value for money. In November 2018 the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated that the Government’s current privatisation plans would mean a loss of £28.5bn, as the share price is currently around half what was originally paid.
The polling comes ahead of RBS’ annual results on Friday, after which the Government is said to be considering a partial sell-down of its stake. At the bank’s AGM last week, shareholders also voted to accelerate the privatisation of RBS through a £1.5bn share buyback scheme.
Positive Money have also today launched a public petition addressed to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, demanding the Government cancels any further sale of RBS shares, and keeps the bank under public ownership with a mission to serve the public interest.
Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money, said:
“As well as representing terrible value for money, selling off RBS now would be a totally wasted opportunity to reform Britain’s broken banking model. Doing so would show that the government has no interest in creating better banks that serve the public interest, ten years on from greed-driven banks being bailed out after they crashed our economy.
“The power that banks like RBS have over our economy means that they should be held responsible to the public they profit from. But as our polling shows, the majority of people recognise that a privatised RBS would fail to work in the public interest.
“Instead of pushing ahead with this ideologically motivated sell-off, the Government has an opportunity to ensure that in the future RBS works in the public interest. A huge number of improvements are possible, from shifting its lending towards SMEs, to expanding access to banking services in communities which are currently under-served.”
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th – 11th February 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money is available for briefings and interviews. Please call 07908 037569 to arrange.
About Positive Money
Positive Money campaigns for a money and banking system which supports a fair, democratic and sustainable economy. Set up in the aftermath of the financial crisis, Positive Money is a not-for-profit company funded by charitable trusts and foundations, as well as small donations from its network of over 65,000 supporters.