I won’t be the first blogger during this particular guest editorship to remind people of the important role that co-operative values and principles have to the future of our economy. The challenges that we face mean that we need to pioneer a new way of doing business: an approach that will underpin the long term stability of this country’s economy, and ensure that all people, not just the few, will be able to share in its rewards.

An expanded role for co-operatives and mutuals will play a significant role in creating the new approach to business we so badly need. Yet for the foreseeable future, it is likely that many significant enterprises will continue to be owned by shareholders. Building a private sector more in tune with co-operative values is necessary if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. For Britain to have a successful economy and society we need an enterprise culture that acts in all of our interests over the long term. This requires a fundamental change in the way we do business.

And there is no greater sector in need of an infusion of these values than Britain’s banks. Given the unprecedented support our financial institutions have received in the past year, it is vital they recognise the obligation of their responsibility to society – whose taxes, jobs and livelihoods have been put at risk by their failure. All people should have equal access to routine financial services and credit within their means. Banks should no longer merely be able to cherry pick the most profitable customers, but ensure that their operations serve every part of the community equally.

A fourth Labour term should see the introduction of a Financial Inclusion Act, similar to the Community Reinvestment Act in the USA. This would ensure that all financial organisations must engage with, design services for, and invest in people and businesses from all geographical areas and income levels.

Vulnerable households have been disproportionately affected by rising household utility and food bills, making it difficult to build up a savings cushion to protect themselves against the recession. Many lower income households do not have the option of saving for the future and have no choice but to borrow to maintain an acceptable standard of living. Many businesses have seen their lines of credit reduced or withdrawn and are close to going to the wall. This is not a question of making cheap and easy credit available to fuel a consumer society; financially excluded households and businesses need access to fair, affordable credit to survive.

The Bankers have had their bail out – it’s now time for them to bail out the most vulnerable within our society.

This article originally appeared on LabourList.org