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Again, I concur with my colleague’s point. Branch closures mean not just a lack of personal banking but, as I will explain, a knock-on effect for post offices. There is certainly a knock-on effect for businesses that cannot leave money on their premises overnight.
It is worrying that post offices are being used as a substitute for banks, but post offices are being utilised more and more as branch closures take their toll. Those post offices are doing a fantastic job, some of them in very deprived areas where banks have closed and they are the only means whereby people can pay bills or get money out. However, the post offices and the banks are not being treated equally. That point has been made by the National Federation of SubPostmasters, which I have met and on whose behalf I will host an event in the Parliament. The sub-postmaster now gets less money when someone deposits money with a post office instead of with a bank.
The most worrying aspect of the inequality is the cost of operating ATMs. Banks and building societies are exempt from rates for ATMs, but post offices are not. They are required to pay the rates, and those costs are increasing. A real fear that I have heard from sub-postmasters and others is that post offices, which are becoming a lifeline for our communities, will not survive, because of a lack of support and moneys and because of increasing charges. What will happen then? The banks have a moral responsibility to look at the knock-on effect that they are having on post offices. I know that the issue has been raised at Westminster by colleagues there.
This is a very worrying time, because people should be able to access their banks in person. Not everybody does internet banking. I do not do it, because I like to talk to somebody in person, or I will phone. Many people do not like internet banking, and many do not even have access to a computer on which to do internet banking.
The bank closures are having a huge knock-on effect on communities and local businesses. For example, there are loads of small and medium-sized enterprises in my area that cannot bank their money and have to find a post office to deposit it in.
I hope that, in her summing up, the minister will answer some of the questions that have been raised by me and colleagues, and I hope that she will raise them with the banking industry. The banks have a social responsibility to the people they serve—businesses and local communities—and they should recognise that.