Government to hear concerns over growing bank closures across North Yorkshire

NatWest closed its branch in Knaresborough last year.NatWest closed its branch in Knaresborough last year.
NatWest closed its branch in Knaresborough last year.
The leader of a review into access to face-to-face banking services in rural parts of North Yorkshire has promised to raise concerns with the government.

North Yorkshire County Council’s Corporate and Partnerships Overview and Scrutiny Committee launched a review into the effect of over the counter banking and Post Office closures in December 2017.

Nine months on, the committee has approved its final report and agreed to write to the Secretary of State for Business in light of such closures, stating that such closures 'poses a risk' to 'vital' small and medium sized businesses in the county.

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Committee chairman Councillor Derek Bastiman said: “As a committee, we recognise that the County Council has a leadership role to play.

"That is why, on behalf of the committee, I will be writing to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to raise these concerns and to urge them to explore new ways of working that enable the long-term sustainability of over-the-counter cash-based transactions and cash machines."

The council described small and medium-sized businesses as 'vital' to the sustainability of rural areas and added that such closures have an 'adverse effect' on older people, many of whom do not use internet banking.

Coun Bastiman added: “We are concerned about the number of people that, as bank branches close, may be left behind without access to banking services as we increasingly move towards a cashless society and use of online technologies.”

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In it's report, the committee also felt assumptions were being made about the ability of post offices to bridge the gap in banking services.

While there was no post office closure programme, post offices did close due to retirements or contractual or commercial issues and these closures were often hard to reverse.

On top of this, the lack of access to cash machines meant it was becoming increasingly difficult to undertake cash transactions in market towns and rural areas.

Coun Bastiman said: “The committee has become increasingly concerned that a series of bank branch closures in the county are making it more and more difficult for small businesses and local people to undertake cash-based over-the-counter transactions where they live and work.

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"Increasingly, they are forced to travel further afield to access the services they need."

Coun Bastiman emphasised that growing costs to small businesses associated with providing a cash machine was exacerbating the situation.

He said: “What we need is for financial service providers to work together to ensure that people are not excluded from the services they need solely because they do not use telephone or internet banking.”

The committee is also in discussions with the Rural Services Network, which champions rural services, to identify good practice which could be adopted in North Yorkshire by the banking and finance sector.