North Yorkshire county councillors are to voice frustration to Government ministers and MPs over declining access to banking services in market towns and rural areas.
Deputy chairman of the council’s corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee Councillor Bryn Griffiths said despite its ongoing efforts to address the issue “we seem to be hitting our head against a brick wall”.
Highlighting the rapidly falling number of bank branches in the county, Cllr Griffiths said since officer had drawn up a list of North Yorkshire branches for the meeting, in Stokesley alone, Barclays, HSBC, Nat West branches had closed.
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In Richmondshire, Nat West and Yorkshire Bank have closed their branches in Richmond, while HSBC has shut its banks in both Leyburn and Hawes.
The committee heard the future of small and medium-sized businesses in rural areas was being threatened by closures of banks, as it created extra costs for the local economy and for business owners, making it more difficult to manage cash flow and hitting productivity.
Members said many elderly people wanted face-to-face services, and rural residents who did not use internet banking had been left facing lengthy trips to withdraw money.
The meeting was told while the British Bankers Association had agreed a protocol which committed banks to work with local communities to establish the impact of the branch closures, these impact assessments failed to take key factors such as the ability of post offices to take on services into account.
Members agreed to continue investigating ways of localising banking services, including whether post offices had the capacity to offer more banking services and whether town halls or community libraries could be harnessed in any way.
Councillor Caroline Goodrick said: “We need to find a way to deliver this into smaller communities, and I don’t see how we can do it without running something like a mobile service, a bit like the mobile post offices.”
The meeting was told suggestions to create local services not run by an individual bank to enable people to access their bank accounts had drawn concerns from banks, who said cartel-type rules prevented them from collaborating with other banks.
In addition, members heard post offices were providing some banking services, but funding streams limited that and calls for mobile libraries to be utilised would be reliant on security being significantly increased.
They also agreed to write to Secretary of State for Business,Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove as well as North Yorkshire MPs to raise issues over whether banks were meeting their “social responsibilities”.