Santander Closures and Local Communities — [Philip Davies in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 1:56 pm on 14th February 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus 1:56 pm, 14th February 2019

The hon. Gentleman makes a vital point. Many people want face-to-face interaction. For some people, the person they speak to when they go to the bank might be the only person they speak to all day, so it helps with combating loneliness, which we all know is so important. The hon. Gentleman makes the very valuable point that these staff get to know people; they create a relationship with their customers and look out for them on a personal basis.

As for the post office offering, one in three rural post offices closed between 2000 and 2009, and that decline has continued. We have to understand that post offices cannot always and will not always be able to accommodate all those who want to use them. It just seems to me that this is such a short-term approach, because if we have no post offices, if we have poor broadband and if we do not have mobile coverage, the digitisation method and post offices do not support all customers but support only a proportion of them. It is really important that Santander tries to explain to customers who do not have those points of access how it will still be a banking provider that those customers would want to deal with.

Protecting our high streets is also incredibly important. My high streets across Angus and in constituencies across the country are struggling very much. Post offices and banks are central to our high streets. They ensure that we have continued footfall day after day. When these sites are lost, the potential for these areas is hampered. Let us take the town of Kirriemuir in my constituency as an example. Kirriemuir was nominated in the Great British High Street Awards 2018; in my eyes, it was robbed, because it did not win. The area has a fantastic variety of high-quality local businesses. Numerous initiatives, supported by local residents, benefit the community. I am thinking of the efforts of the Kirriemuir and Local Business Association and Kirrie Connections. That is a high street shop, but in fact it is a dementia hub, which I visited only last week. People go there to spend time with those who are going through similar experiences to them.

I had the pleasure of being there when the judges were in Kirriemuir and looking round the town, which has so much pride in its offering. But now, it has lost its last bank. It will lose its ATMs. Businesses are forced to react because, as hon. Members have said, where will customers get their cash? Will investors be put off from coming to the town? Where will local businesses deposit their takings? When I was going round as part of small business Saturday, businesses raised with me time and again the fact that there are more card transactions because less cash is available and the fee on those card transactions is absolutely hammering them at a time when things are very difficult on our high streets. In addition, what of those constituents who want to use only cash? I understand that elderly people do not want a bank card or credit card; they want to pay only with cash. Why should we suggest that they should not be able to do so, if a bank and an ATM are removed?

At a time when we should be doing everything for our high streets, we should be encouraging more footfall and not increasing the pressures, difficulties and uncertainty. One suggestion has been put forward time and again by my constituents: why cannot banks operate out of one building? Why can we not have a banking hub whereby all banks are located in one building? That means we keep a set of premises going, we keep choice for constituents and they do not have to travel as far as they might have to if a bank closed down.