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House of Commons Hansard
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Petitions
11 March 2019
Volume 656

Petition

Monday 11 March 2019

OBSERVATIONS

Treasury

Closure of St George’s Cross branch of the Bank of Scotland

The petition of Residents of Glasgow North,

Declares that proposed closure of St George’s Cross branch of the Bank of Scotland 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 the Bank of Scotland 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, 4 February 2019; Vol. 654, c. 134.]

[P002323]

Observations from theEconomic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen):

The Government thanks the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), who has recently submitted a petition opposing a bank branch closure on behalf of his constituents.

The Government are sorry to hear about residents’ disappointment at the closure of the Bank of Scotland branch in St George’s Cross.

All banking service providers need to balance customer interests, market competition, and other commercial factors when considering their strategies. Decisions on opening and closing branches and agencies are taken by the management team of each bank on a commercial basis, without intervention from the Government.

However, the Government do believe that banks should act in the best interests of their customers and are committed to increasing competition to deliver better financial products and services for all bank customers. The Government continue to engage actively with the banking industry and consumer groups on these issues on an ongoing basis.

Since May 2017, the major high street banks have been signed up to the Access to Banking Standard, committing to work with customers and communities to minimise the impact of branch closures and put in place alternative banking services. The Standard commits banks to ensure customers are well informed about branch closures, the bank’s reasons for closure and options for continued access to banking services. These options should include specialist assistance for customers who need more help. The operation of the Standard is monitored and enforced by the independent Lending Standards Board, ensuring that banks are held accountable for the way they treat their customers when a branch closes.

In addition, since January 2017, the Post Office has had an agreement with the banks that allows more banking customers to access a wider range of services at the Post Office than ever before. The arrangement allows 99% of personal and 95% of small business customers to withdraw money, deposit cash and cheques and check balances at more than 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. Since 2010, branch numbers have been at their most stable for decades and 99.7% of the national population now lives within three miles of a branch. Furthermore, almost 93% of the national population live within one mile of their nearest post office branch. Almost 98.7% of the rural population lives within three miles of a post office.

Both initiatives have the Government’s full support, and banks are aware that the Government expect their involvement to be genuine and unqualified.

Should constituents wish to switch banks, the Government have made it easier to do so than ever before 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.

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. However, the Government will continue to take positive action to maintain access to vital banking services and ensure banks support communities across the UK when their local branches close.