Councillor calls for end to ‘anti-social’ bank closures
But elderly people could find getting online or travelling to another branch tricky, NK Independent Town and District Councillor David Suiter has said.
“Whilst many people are able to bank online some, often elderly residents, and many others still rely on banking in person,” his motion for North Kesteven’s next full council meeting says.
“Closing the local branch will mean them having to travel substantial distances when many are unable to drive.
“Lack of access to banking services adversely affects access to credit for small and medium-sized businesses, and hits business in various other ways.”
Often situated in the heart of our town centres, once banks go, he said other facilities tend to deteriorate.
He wants the Financial Conduct Authority to have more power in stopping banks from carrying out “anti-social closures of local branches without adequate alternative provisions”.
The motion will be debated at the meeting on Thursday, December 15.
HSBC says that the number of people physically going into banks has fallen by 65 per cent, which has been hastened by the Covid pandemic. Barclays have cited similar reasons.
Town Councillor Paul Edwards-Shea, chairman of Sleaford and North Hykeham Labour Party, said he and his wife, Coun Linda Edwards-Shea are both “disappointed and concerned”.
He said residents are already expressing concerns and feared a reduction of financial services could well stall the town’s retail and leisure economy by decreasing town centre footfall, with fewer visits from local villages and residents going out of town for both bank services and shopping.
He said: "The Post Office is not always a suitable replacement for both businesses and residents.”
North Kesteven District Council Leader Coun Richard Wright said: “It’s unfortunate for Sleaford to be losing two banks from the town and I understand the concern this will cause particularly for those who rely on in-person services and are worried about how they will access banking locally in future.“This change is reflective of a wider pattern being seen across the sector and which has continued for some time. People are making transactions in different ways and managing their money online and on their phone. Many businesses and retailers including independent businesses and traders are now able to offer cash-free payment methods to meet demand, and the ability to make contactless payments and manage money online has been particularly important throughout the Covid pandemic.“It is vital that the banks involved provide measures to protect their customers who can’t easily access online banking, particularly those who are older or are vulnerable. I understand for example that HSBC has a strategy offering help to some customers affected by closures who might not have access to a device, and that Barclays is planning a pop-up cashless banking site in Sleaford for in-person advice and support.“As a council we are mindful of the need for digital inclusion and offer free, drop-in Digital Hubs weekly in Sleaford, Osbournby, Metheringham, Heckington, Ruskington and Waddington for anyone who needs help accessing services online or using devices. In partnership with Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust, we also have iPads together that can be loaned out to residents in North Kesteven aged over 60 for up to six weeks along with one-to-one support from a Digital Coach.”Coun Wright added: “Anecdotally our evidence suggests that many small and micro businesses in North Kesteven already use online banking in addition to larger businesses, and may be referred to other regional or central branches for some services. We are aware however that these two closures may still affect businesses with day to day needs such as paying in cash and they will need alternate places to do this, such as Post Office.
“As a council we will continue to invest in and support Sleaford town centre as it responds to changing consumer habits and work with local retailers and businesses, to ensure that the town continues to evolve and play an important role for our residents.”
Full details for NKDC’s digital hubs including times, locations and Christmas/New Year closing dates are here: https://www.n-kesteven.gov.uk/residents/living-in-your-area/community-digital-hubs/ or people can call 01529 414155 to enquire.
Anyone wishing to know more about the offer of loaned iPads for over 60s contact the Partnerships Team at North Kesteven District Council on 01529 414155 or email [email protected]