MP criticised following further bank closures in constituency

HSBC in Richmond is to close later this year. Photo: Google.

Rishi Sunak MP has been criticised follow an announcement that more banks are closing in his constituency.

The MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer used his March 2020 budget to promise alternative facilities for vulnerable and rural communities who rely on cash.

But local campaigners say the chancellor is letting down his own voters as HSBC announced the closure of its last two branches in the constituency.

The banking giant says its Richmond and Northallerton branches will shut this year, following Hawes, Leyburn and Stokesley which shut in the last rounds of closures.

Liberal Democrat North Yorkshire county councillor Bryn Griffiths said: “So far, the government has taken no action and just issued platitudes.

“They’re still consulting about shops offering free cash services and other solutions that don’t go far enough to help local traders and others who need to deposit cheques and cash. And in the meantime more and more high street banks are closing their doors.

“We recognise the trajectory of bank closures – but we’re in danger of becoming a cashless society before we’re ready and leaving swathes of our communities behind.

“We’ve not heard a word from our MP Rishi Sunak. So we challenge him to support our residents in bringing forward his promises as a matter of urgency.”

In response, spokesman for Mr Sunak said the MP had written to HSBC about what he described as a ‘disappointing’ decision, seeking clarification about customer usage of the two branches and particularly why the branch in Northallerton – the county town – had been selected for closure in preference to Thirsk.

Mr Sunak was also seeking more information about the specific, individual, support to be given by HSBC to help their elderly and more vulnerable customers access banking services online.

Last month a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) highlighted concerns about the government’s pledge to protect access to cash.

The report described how the decline of cash is putting banking facilities at risk and has been accelerated by the pandemic .

The PAC report summarised: “The current oversight of the cash system is fragmented.

“Unless the government acts quickly, there are clear dangers of hardship for some individuals and groups if we move precipitously towards a cashless society.”

ATM withdrawals in Richmond (Yorks) are declining by 57 per cent year-on-year according to cash machine network LINK.

Richmond (Yorks) Liberal Democrats have launched a Facebook petition calling for action at facebook.com/myhambleton and facebook.com/myrichmondshire.