The Humble Petition of the people of North East Hampshire,
That Lloyds Bank have proposals to close the Odiham High Street branch on 8 March 2017; that this high street branch is particularly highly valued; especially by older residents and small business owners who often pop in to manage their finances; and that if accounts are moved to Fleet, this becomes a four hour return journey by public transport, which is clearly not in the best interests of our community
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges HM Government to take all possible steps to urge Lloyds Bank to reconsider this decision and to make sure that the banking industry considers the social implications of their actions
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr Ranil Jayawardena , Official Report, 21 February 2017; Vol. 621, c. 991.]
Observation from the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Simon Kirby):
The Government thank Ranil Jayawardena MP for his petition on the closure of the Lloyds Bank branch in Odiham and Steve Double MP for his petitions on the closure of the Lloyds Bank branches in Mevagissey and St Blazey.
The Government are sorry to hear about the disappointment of the residents of Mevagissey, St Blazey and Odiham at the closure of the Lloyds branches. Although the Government can understand their concerns, decisions on opening and closing agencies are taken by the management team of each bank on a commercial basis. Banking service providers will need to balance customer interests, market competition, and other commercial factors when considering their strategies and the Government does not seek to intervene in these decisions.
In March 2015, the major high street banks, consumer groups and the Government signed up to an industry-wide agreement to work with customers and communities to minimise the impact of branch closures and put in place alternative banking services.
This agreement—the Access to Banking Protocol—commits the banks to:
work with local communities to establish the impact of the branch closure, prior to its closure
find suitable alternative provision to suit individual communities
put satisfactory alternative banking services in place before a branch is closed. Options for this will include free to use cash machines, the proximity of alternative branches, and Post Office branches and mobile banking arrangements.
The British Bankers’ Association appointed Professor Russel Griggs to carry out an independent “one year on” review of the Protocol. The review was published in November 2016 and made a number of recommendations to improve how the Protocol operates. The Government welcome the review and are pleased to see the industry commit to further improvements to protect those affected by closures. While the decision to close a branch remains a commercial judgement for banks, the impact on communities must be understood, considered and mitigated where possible.
Residents may find it helpful to know that, in January 2017, the Post Office announced that it had reached an agreement with the banks that will allow more banking customers to access a wider range of services at the Post Office than ever before. The new arrangement allows individual and small business customers to withdraw money, deposit cash and cheques and check balances at all 11,500 Post Office branches in the UK. While the range of services offered by the Post Office may be more limited than that offered in a traditional bank branch, the services provided through the Post Office’s extensive network ensures that essential banking facilities remain available in as many communities as possible. The Post Office estimates that 99% of personal and 75% of business customers will be able to carry out their day to day banking at a Post Office as a result of the new agreement.
If other banks in the wider local area have more extensive facilities, the people of North East Hampshire and St Austell and Newquay may wish to consider moving to an alternative bank; if so, they may be interested in using the Current Account Switch Service (CASS). The switch service is free to use, comes with a guarantee to protect customers from financial loss if something goes wrong, and redirects any payments mistakenly sent to the old account, providing further assurance for customers. This means that customers are more able than ever to hold their banks to account by voting with their feet, and that banks are incentivised to work hard to retain their existing customers and attract new ones. More information about CASS is available at: www.currentaccountswitch.co.uk.