Harrogate district bank closures take away "vital services" for the elderly

With the Halifax announcing plans to close its Knaresborough branch - the last remaining bank in the town - later this year, Supporting Older People is pleading with the bank to reconsider.

Thursday, 6th February 2020, 12:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th February 2020, 1:00 pm

UCI cycling 'brought Harrogate £17.8 million' to its economyThe group’s director, Kate Rogata, told the Harrogate Advertiser that bank closures hit older people the hardest and said they are constantly being let down by those providing such services.

She said: “So many banks are closing and are using the option of online banking services as an alternative, but that’s simply not feasible for a lot of older people.

“Of course there are the odd few who are technologically savvy but a lot of them struggle just getting on the internet, so this is a real kick in the teeth for them.”

Knaresborough Town Crier with members of Knaresborough Chamber of Trade and disgruntled bankers who are angry about the Halifax closure. Picture: Charlotte Gale Photography.

Kate said that closures like this are particularly damaging to those who are lonely and struggle to travel very far.

She added: “For some older people, face-to-face contact with someone at the bank can often be the only contact they have all day - maybe even all week in some cases.

“They are taking away vital services from lonely old people who often go days without speaking to someone. How is that fair?”

The charity is hoping that the Halifax will reconsider its decision to close in Knaresborough, which the bank said was because “customers are using it less often”. But it is not just the Knaresborough Halifax branch which is the issue - banks have been announcing closures all across the Harrogate district in recent years.

At the end of last year, TSB announced it is set to close its doors in Harrogate this November, also citing low customer numbers and decreasing transactions as reasons for the closure.

Harrogate is one of the 82 TSB branches across the country which are set to close as part of its plan to “re-shape its branch network”.

And residents in Pateley Bridge have already lost all of the banks in the town, after the last remaining one, Barclays, closed last year.

They now have to travel to branches in Ripon or Harrogate or simply use online or telephone banking services.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones raised the issue in the House of Commons last week.

He asked for a debate on bank branch closures and how people can continue to access banking services, calling the decision to close the Halifax in Knaresborough “a very troubling development”.

He also issued a statement last week asking for a meeting with the Halifax’s Managing Director, Russell Galley to discuss the plans - which also include closing the cash machines.

He said: “Knowing that there are often queues outside Halifax at weekends I do wonder if the people who did the review have any first-hand experience of the branch.

“I want the top brass at the Halifax to know just what a problem this is going to cause and to rethink their closure plans.”

Residents across the district have commented on the closure and expressed concern for the future of banks across the area.

But following the announcement of the TSB closure late last year, the Harrogate Advertiser contacted other banks with branches in Harrogate to ask for an update on their future in the town.

Nationwide, Co-Op Bank, Santander and Skipton Building Society all responded, saying they had no plans to close their Harrogate branches.

Judith Rogerson, who was the Lib Dem candidate at the General Election, and her Lib Dem colleagues have also spoken out, saying they “totally condemn” the proposal.

They said: “We are outraged that a town the size of Knaresborough of over 15,000 people and growing by at least another 1,000, will be without a bank. Surely the Government should be stepping in to prevent this from happening.

“Due to Climate and Air Quality issues we are being encouraged to travel less, use our cars less yet all Knaresborough residents requiring to use a bank will have to travel to Harrogate, just adding to congestion. This is not just a slap in the face - it is outrageous.

“This adds to the fact that most of our large villages are also being deprived of not just banks but Post Offices and medical centres, with little if no public transport thus increasing the reliance on cars.”

Following Knaresborough Town Councillor Ed Darling (Cons, Knaresborough Castle) raising the issue with Harrogate Borough Council, the item was added to the agenda for the full cabinet meeting last night.

He said: “It is important for the Borough Council to hear about what this planned bank closure means for Knaresborough.

“If the branch closes it will leave a town with a population of 15,000 people without a bank. This surely cannot be right.”

A spokesperson for the Halifax said: “We have made the difficult decision to close Halifax Knaresborough on May 13 due to the changing ways customers choose to bank with us, which means the branch is being used less often.

“We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.”