Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, will today unveil plans to transform post offices into branches of a new nationalised bank.

A government led by Jeremy Corbyn would put £2.5bn into the “Post Bank” to save the high street and protect face-to-face banking. Britain has lost two-thirds of its bank and building society branches in the past 30 years.

The Post Office has a sprawling but struggling network of more than 11,500 branches. The state-owned business faces pressure from online delivery services such as Amazon and the wider decline of the high street but made a profit of £35m last year, up from £13m in 2016-17 — the first year that it had been in the black for 16 years.

Ministers have been criticised for letting the Post Office shrink, with branch closures and the crippling loss of lucrative government contracts. Under McDonnell’s proposal, Post Bank would have the biggest network of all the high-street banks.

He said: “Poor access to local bank branches hurts our town centres and local communities, particularly affecting elderly and more vulnerable customers, as well as damaging the ability of local small businesses to invest.

“Post Bank will provide an essential public service, making sure everyone has access to face-to-face, trusted and affordable banking on their high street or in their local community.”

The proposal would be on top of the £370m of government funds being ploughed into protecting village post offices and modernising old-fashioned branches.

McDonnell’s effort to take on high-street banks comes a day after he backed a direct action campaign against Barclays. Momentum, the pro-Corbyn pressure group, sent activists to 40 branches yesterday to protest against its investment in fossil fuels.

“Governments cannot stand by while the finance sector profits from destroying the planet,” McDonnell said.

The Sunday Times, March 31 2019, Gabriel Pogrund

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