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Douglas Ross calls for banks to open shared hubs

By Staff Reporter

Douglas Ross MP outside the building that housed the local branch of Royal Bank of Scotland.
Douglas Ross MP outside the building that housed the local branch of Royal Bank of Scotland.

MORAY'S MP has highlighted the issues associated with bank closures at Westminster.

Douglas Ross wants banks to do more to avoid closing branches and leaving customers without a banking service, which in some areas has seen them without access to cash, as was most recently the case in Lossiemouth.

Speaking at a debate he secured in Westminster to consider the government response, Mr Ross said: "In Moray, there have been 16 closures since 2016 affecting every part of the area while in Scotland there are 130 communities classed as 'cash deserts', meaning they have no access to either a bank branch or an ATM. People need banks for face-to-face interaction – if they listened to their customers the banks would know this. I've held two public meetings in Moray about this and on both occasions, communities and local representatives outlined needs for local branches to be retained but the banks wouldn't engage and didn't seem to care.

"Not everyone has access to good broadband or a decent mobile signal, to be able to use online banking, particularly in a rural community, and not everyone, particularly elderly or vulnerable customers, want to bank in this way. The loss of these facilities can be deeply damaging to local economies and to small businesses as well. Tourism will also suffer as a result of these closures as often smaller shops, takeaways and taxi firms don't accept card payment. For them, these closures are devastating."

In the UK the number of bank branches was 11,365 in 2007, reduced to 7207 10 years later. Between 2010 and 2018, in Scotland the Royal Bank of Scotland reduced their branches by 70 per cent, Clydesdale by 53 per cent and Santander by 42 per cent.

Mr Ross does not believe a mobile banking service is adequate and has suggested a permanent hub to house representatives from multiple banks instead.

He said: "Some communities are lucky if they get the mobile bank for one hour a week. There are a number of services that cannot be provided and it does not offer a real alternative to a branch. There is no privacy for customers, and in bad weather, people may have to stand outside waiting for someone else to finish their business before they can go inside. We need a banking standard in place to prevent banks from so easily writing off communities."

Mr Ross confirmed the government will now look to secure more meaningful consultations before a decision is taken including going to meet the Lending Standards Board to pass on concerns.

Executive secretary to the Treasury John Glen MP said: "We seek a solution to the issues highlighted in this important debate."

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