'We need a bank in every village' - New plan to save services
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We need to protect rural banking services - that’s the message coming from a Norfolk MP.
North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker is introducing a bill to parliament that would ensure banking services, like cash withdrawal, are offered through high street Post Office counters after a bank branch closes in the area, with regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority.
“When a bank branch leaves the community it's not just residents who are affected, it is the small businesses, the elderly and vulnerable people,” Mr Baker said.
“Vulnerable or disabled people can’t always travel to the closest branch 10 miles away and instead turn to more predatorial types of lending - like payday loans - and not everyone has access to online banking.”
Many banks already offer services through the Post Office when they close a branch, however, there are no measures in place to stop them from cancelling their contracts.
Mr Baker pointed to Barclays, who in 2019 threatened to withdraw services, a decision they reversed after mass public outcry.
Mr Baker said he had received support from the Post Office and across parliament.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, also offered support for the bill, stressing how important branches are for older people.
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Ms Abrahams said there has been a “tsunami of branch closures” in recent years, and the rapid move to online banking had a detrimental impact on older customers.
“Closures in rural counties, where there may be a lack of public transport, make it even harder for customers to access their money.
“The government should give serious consideration to making the Post Office Banking Framework compulsory."
Ms Abrahams added a firm step like this would be essential without action to tackle branch closures directly, but said a wide range of options was needed to help people access their money.
The Banking Services (Post Offices) Bill will go before the House of Commons on March 2.
The Age UK Norfolk helpline is open 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday. Call on 0300 500 1217 or email email@example.com
Have you suffered as a result of a local bank branch closing? We would like to hear from you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org