Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Initially, I was going to articulate my arguments using the notes that I have in front of me but I have decided that I am sick of this nonsense—I am sick of getting a letter at the last minute from a major corporation or a bank telling me about the devastation that it is going to cause in my community. I am sick of getting an email telling me that it is only 0.8 miles to the nearest branch in Sauchiehall Street—most members will work out that Sauchiehall Street is not in Paisley. It was such a cut-and-paste effort that the bank had not taken the time to tell me that there was a Paisley south branch in my own home town.
I am angry about this because we are now in a position in Paisley where we have only one Bank of Scotland branch and one Royal Bank of Scotland branch. At one point, the Bank of Scotland had a south branch and two central branches plus one in the west and one in the east. Now we just have that one Bank of Scotland branch.
How are many of the older people in my community going to cope? Let us talk about the community in the south end of Paisley. There are three or four blocks of high flats that are full of families that have been in there since the day the flats were built, so there are now many older people there, and many of them have mobility issues. One of the blocks in particular has been adapted for older people with mobility issues. They bank in their local branch and they know the faces of the staff there, because they have seen them numerous times. They do not know one end of a computer from the other, so the banks should not ask them to do online banking.
The banks should also not ask them to go to the local post office. Many members have had subpostmasters come to us and say that they are struggling to make a living with the services that they offer. Every time a bank branch closure happens, the bank says that the only way forward is for people to get services at their local post office, but the post office network is under pressure, too, like the bank branch network. The banks should not say that every time they decide to make a commercial decision to close a branch—and it is a commercial decision. We bailed out the banks, but we are the ones who are still suffering after all these years.
It is the older and disabled people in the community in my town who are going to suffer. Paisley, which is the biggest town in Europe, let alone in Scotland, is going to have all the major banks within 200m of one another. Where is the logic in that? Where is the support that we have often asked the banks for? We have supported them. I have said to many of my constituents, “If they don’t support you and our community, don’t support them. Change your bank, because it’s a lot easier now than it was in the past.”
I have changed my bank. When the bank that I banked with for years was pulling out of Paisley, it told me that it had a lovely branch smack in the centre of Glasgow. I said, “Well, sorry, that’s it. We’re having a parting of the ways.” I went to a branch of a Scotland-based bank that had spent £400,000-odd on its headquarters in Paisley. I decided that, if it was going to invest in my town and show that there is a future in it, I would back it.
For far too long, the banks have thought that they can dictate to us. People get emails at the last minute. The emails are an afterthought. The banks do not even try to engage with the community and talk to it. They leave it to the parliamentarians at the last minute. We end up dragging them in, having the meetings with them and saying, “This community can’t have this.” I went through that with the Bank of Scotland in the east end of Paisley, which has a similar demographic of older people. We bring the banks in, and at that point they say, “We’ll listen to you and do what we can,” but they are just doing a tick-box exercise. They have no interest.
These institutions are purely in it for themselves. They need to remember that we are their customers and that our communities are the ones that are suffering. With regard to my branch, I ask the bank at this late stage to look at the matter again, look at the people it serves and make a different decision.