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Petitions

Volume 724: debated on Tuesday 13 December 2022

Petition

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Observations

Treasury

Planned closure of Lloyd’s Banking Group’s Immingham branch

The petition of the residents of Immingham,

Declares that the planned closure of Lloyd’s Banking Group’s Immingham branch will result in the town losing the last bank that not only serves the town of Immingham but also the surrounding villages. Access to cash continues to be vitally important to a significant proportion of society, particularly the older generation who tend to have less access to online banking.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges Lloyds Banking Group to cancel the closure of the branch and to seek to create a shared banking hub in Immingham where multiple banks can operate to serve the local community of over 20,000 people and businesses

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Martin Vickers, Official Report, 15 November 2022; Vol. 722, c. 630.]

[P002780]

Observations from the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith):

The Government thank my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) for submitting the petition on behalf of his constituents regarding the closure of the Lloyds Bank Immingham branch.

The Government are sorry to hear of his constituents’ disappointment at the closure of the branch. The way consumers interact with their banking and make payments is changing, bringing significant benefits to those who choose to opt for the convenience, security and speed of digital payments and banking. In 2021, 86% of UK consumers used a form of remote banking, such as an app, online or on the phone, according to UK Finance. The Government cannot reverse the changes in the market and in customer behaviour, and nor can we 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, Lloyds Banking Group will need to balance customer interests, market competition and other commercial factors when considering its strategy. Although the Government can understand constituents’ dissatisfaction, decisions on opening and closing branches are taken by the management team of each bank on a commercial basis. The Government hope that the hon. Member 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 appropriate access to banking services.

Guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority sets out its expectation of firms when they are deciding to close their branches or 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 consider possible alternative access arrangements. This will ensure that the implementation of closure decisions is done in a way that treats customers fairly. The guidance has recently been strengthened to enhance protections for customers that rely on branch services.

Alternative options for access can be via telephone banking, through digital means such as mobile or online banking, and the Post Office. The Post Office banking framework allows 99% of personal banking and 95% of business customers to deposit cheques, check their balance and withdraw and deposit cash at 11,500 post office branches across the UK.

Lloyds has published an information pack for its customers on the Immingham branch closure. This informs customers of alternative ways that they can access cash and banking services, such as via free-to-use ATMs located at a local Tesco store on Washdyke Lane, 0.02 miles away; Manby Road service station, 0.43 miles away; or the local post office branch on Kennedy Way in Immingham, 0.1 miles away. The nearest alternative Lloyds branches are located in Grimsby, 7.8 miles away; and Cleethorpes, 9.8 miles away—to which there are regular bus services.

Firms are also working together through the cash action group to develop new initiatives to provide shared services, such as bank hubs. This includes a process for LINK, the operator of the UK’s largest ATM network, to assess a community’s needs in the event of a closure of a core cash service or request from a local community. As part of these arrangements, LINK has independently assessed the access to cash needs of the local community ahead of the closure of the Immingham branch and did not recommend an additional new service. To inform its recommendations, LINK takes account of relevant information such as the size of the population, number of shops, demographic data and the nearest alternative services. If you would like to contact LINK about this decision and access to cash in your constituency, then you can contact LINK at: accesstocash(5)link.co.uk.

In recognition that cash continues to be used by millions of people across the UK, particularly those in vulnerable groups, the Government are currently taking legislation through Parliament as part of the Financial Services and Markets Bill to establish a new legislative framework for protecting access to cash. The Bill will establish the FCA as the lead regulator for access to cash and provide it with appropriate powers to seek to ensure reasonable provision of withdrawal and deposit facilities. The Bill provides the Treasury with powers to bring operators of cash access co-ordination arrangements, for example that may assess the cash needs of local communities with a view to ensuring that appropriate cash services are in place, within scope of the FCA’s powers. As part of its responsibilities, the FCA will also be granted powers to address any local deficiencies in the provision of access to cash facilities that it has identified and considers to be significant. This will allow for consideration of local circumstances in all parts of the UK.