My hon. Friend makes an extremely useful point, and if he will bear with me, I may come on to say more about some of the areas that are suffering the most from these bank closures.
As my hon. Friend has perhaps alluded to, we need to recognise that for many—the elderly, people with caring responsibilities, and small business owners—high street banks’ programmes to close many of their smaller branches and centralise everything in the centre of large towns create havoc for individuals and businesses and damage local communities.
My interest in this issue was prompted by a spate of branch closures in the Hoole area of Chester. Last summer, NatWest announced it was closing its branch there. The excuse was that the branch was underused. Yet I and my team undertook a scientific survey of usage by standing outside and counting people going in over several hours that flatly contradicted the suggestions made by NatWest. HSBC had already gone in Hoole, and it was followed more recently by Lloyds, leaving only a Barclays branch as the so-called last branch in town. Bank branches around Chester had been closed previously, including in the Boughton and Saltney districts.
All our banks are now in the centre of Chester, which has several profound effects. First, it increases traffic into the city centre. Ours is already a congested city built on the beautiful River Dee, but when the Romans founded it and when it became a bustling market town in the middle ages, nobody thought to design it with the needs of 20th and 21st-century car use in mind. Keeping satellite branches is, strangely, good for the environment. More importantly, satellite branches support local businesses.