Tuesday 8 December 2020
Closure of Partick branch of TSB bank in Glasgow
The petition of residents of Glasgow North,
Declares that proposed closure of the Partick branch of the TSB bank in Glasgow will have a detrimental effect on local communities and the local economy.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges her Majesty’s Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and TSB Bank to take in account the concerns of petitioners and take whatever steps they can to halt the planned closure of this branch.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Patrick Grady, Official Report, 20 October 2020; Vol. 682, c.1033.]
A petitions in the same terms was presented by the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) [P002613]
Observations from The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen):
The Government thank the hon. Members for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) and for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) who have recently submitted petitions opposing a bank branch closure on behalf of their constituents.
The Government are sorry to hear of constituents’ disappointment at the planned closure of the TSB branch in Partick.
The way consumers interact with their banking is changing. Two-thirds of UK adults have used contactless payments, 72% have used online banking and 48% have used mobile banking, according to UK Finance. The Government cannot reverse the changes in the market and in customer behaviour; nor can they determine firms’ commercial strategies in response to those changes. Having the flexibility to respond to changes in the market is what makes the UK's financial services sector one of the most competitive and productive in the world, and the Government want to protect that.
As with other banking service providers, TSB will need to balance customer interests, market competition, and other commercial factors when considering its strategy. Although I can understand constituents’ dissatisfaction, decisions on opening and closing branches are taken by the management team of each bank on a commercial basis. The petition requests that the Government take steps to halt the planned closure of this branch, however, the Government hope that the hon. Members can appreciate that it would be inappropriate for the Government to intervene in these decisions.
However, the Government also firmly believe that the impact of branch closures should be understood, considered, and mitigated where possible so that all customers, wherever they live, continue to have access to over the counter banking services.
As the hon. Members may know, the major high street banks signed up to the Access to Banking Standard in May 2017, which commits them to ensure customers are well informed about branch closures, the bank’s reasons for closure and options for continued access to banking services. Alternative options for access might include the Post Office which allows 95% of business and 99% of personal banking customers to deposit cheques, check their balance and withdraw and deposit cash at 11,500 Post Office branches in the UK.
In September 2020, the financial conduct authority (FCA) published guidance setting out its expectation of firms when they are deciding to reduce the number of physical branches or the number of free-to-use ATMs. Firms are expected to carefully consider the impact of a planned closure on their customers’ everyday banking and cash access needs, and other relevant branch services and consider possible alternative access arrangements. This will ensure the implementation of closure decisions is done in a way that treats customers fairly. The guidance can be found at https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/ finalised-guidance/fg20-03.pdf
Should constituents decide to switch banks, they can do so through 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
The Government cannot intervene in firms’ commercial strategies in response to changes in the market. The Government understand that access to physical banking continues to be important to many communities and will continue to work with industry, the Post Office and the FCA to ensure everyone can access essential banking services.
Work and Pensions
Universal Credit uplift
The petition of the residents of the constituency of Kilmarnock and Loudoun,
Declares that the economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic has led to many more people facing increased levels of poverty and financial hardship; further declares that the Government provided welcome support at the beginning of the pandemic when it topped up universal credit payments by £20 per week; further declares that it is regretful that the Government has decided not to make permanent this increase to Universal Credit payments.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to immediately bring forward additional measures to permanently increase universal credit in response to the long-term impact of covid-19.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Alan Brown, Official Report, 20 October 2020; Vol. 682, c. 1034.]
A petition in the same terms was presented by the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) [P002607]
Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Will Quince):
The amount of universal credit paid to claimants reflects, as closely as possible, the actual circumstances of a household, which can rise and fall every month. The single, simple, taper means that payments reduce in a transparent and predictable way as earnings increase. Included in each award is a basic standard allowance that all claimants are automatically entitled to, with additional amounts added where appropriate. The standard allowance is to help meet basic living costs. There are separate rates for single people and couples and lower rates for young people. Depending on individual circumstances additional amounts can be added for housing, children, disability, and childcare costs.
The Government are wholly committed to supporting people on lower incomes and have paid out more than £100 billion in welfare support this year. This includes the £20 weekly increase to the universal credit standard allowance rates, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in March, as a temporary measure for the 2020-21 tax year for those facing the most financial disruption as a result of the pandemic. This applied to all new and existing universal credit claimants, equating to an additional amount of universal credit of up to £1,040 for the year.
The £20 per week increase remains in place until April 2021. As we have done throughout this crisis, we will continue to assess how best to support low-income families, and the Government will need to consider the latest economic position and health situation in the new year before making any decisions. Parliament will be updated accordingly on any future decisions on benefit spending.
It is important to add that beyond the rate of standard allowance, the Government are committed to helping people through other means. We have already introduced a £400 million package to help families stay warm and well-fed this winter and beyond, which included a boost to our successful holiday activities fund throughout next year. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has also completed her annual review of benefit rates and meaning for 2021-22, expenditure on social security benefit and pension rates will increase by £2.7 billion due to uprating. This includes an additional £0.5 billion on working-age benefits.
Eligible claimants who are migrating across to universal credit from income support, income-related employment and support allowance and income-based jobseeker’s allowance can also receive an additional two-week run-on of this benefit support. New claimants to universal credit are able to apply for a new claim advance in their first month if they need some financial support until the first regular payment of universal credit is made. For claimants who are already receiving universal credit, advances may be available for those who experience a change of circumstance which results in a significant increase in entitlement or a budgeting advance to purchase one-off emergency items for obtaining/retaining employment. A range of services are also available to help support claimants to manage their budget successfully.