Local Bank Closures — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 2:30 pm, 12th June 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the Government response when the closure of the last local bank is proposed.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I am delighted to have secured this debate, because the closure of our local bank branches in Moray has been an issue of significant concern for some time. I want to start with a roll call. Since 2015, we have seen 16 bank closures in the following towns in Moray: Cullen, Dufftown, two in Aberlour, three in Keith, two in Buckie, Elgin, a further two in Lossiemouth, two in Forres, Burghead and Fochabers. Those bank closures have affected communities in the north, east, south and west of Moray—no part of our area has been unaffected. The issue continues, with growing frustration for my constituents in Moray and constituents across Scotland and the UK.

In the UK, bank branches have reduced from 11,365 in 2007 to just 7,207 10 years later. In Scotland, between 2010 and 2018, a significant number of branches closed. RBS reduced its branch network by 70%, Clydesdale bank by 53% and Santander by 42%. Which? estimates that there are 130 communities in Scotland alone that are described as cash deserts. That means they do not have access to either a local bank branch or an ATM.

The banks have their reasons for doing this. They explain that footfall is decreasing, that more people are taking up online banking and that people can use different methods to deal with their banking needs. I disagree with that for a number of reasons, but an email I received from a constituent summed it up perfectly. The constituent comes from Portknockie, and wrote:

“I support you in calling banks to account. We know that bank closures in Moray have been severe and that banks have not even followed their own protocols when closing branches.”

She continued:

“I use online banking and am fortunate to have both the skills and fast broadband which make this possible, but I think that it is wrong that banks are acting on the assumption that everyone has these and increasingly that they have smartphones and good mobile signals. I have a smartphone but the mobile signal where I live in Portknockie is so poor that SSE were unable to install a smart meter.”

Yes, the banks do have many reasons for suggesting that these closures are the right way forward, but I believe that this constituent and many more who contacted me ahead of this debate are absolutely right. People are not unaffected by these closures. A large number of people in our communities either do not have access to fast broadband, to allow mobile banking, or simply do not want to use it, but wish to continue the face-to-face contact that they value with their banks.