The Humble Petition of residents of the United Kingdom,
That Lloyds Bank have proposals to close their Yateley branch on 29 August 2019; further 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; further that there has been an increase of branch usage in the last year by businesses, proving the demand for a high street branch; and further that if accounts are moved to Camberley or Fleet, this becomes between a one-and two-hour 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, 3 July 2019; Vol. 662, c. 1311 .]
Observations from The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen):
The Government thank the hon. Member for North East Hampshire (Ranil Jayawardena) for submitting the petition on behalf of his constituents about the planned closure of the Yateley branch of Lloyds bank.
The Government are sorry to hear about residents’ disappointment at the planned closure of this bank branch.
Lloyds Banking Group, like all banking providers, needs to balance customer interests, market competition, and other commercial factors when considering their branch strategies. Decisions on opening and closing branches are taken by the management team of each bank on a commercial basis, and the Government do not intervene in those decisions.
However, the Government do believe that banks should act in the best interests of their customers and are committed to increasing competition and encouraging innovation to ensure all bank customers can benefit from better products and services. The Government continue to engage actively with the banking industry and consumer groups on these issues on an ongoing basis.
In May 2017, the major high street banks 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 high street 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 carry out their everyday banking 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, Post Office 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, 92.9% 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.
The Government cannot reverse the changes in the market and in customer behaviour; nor should 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.