Call for meeting with senior treasury minister over Wakefield district bank closures

A call has been made for Wakefield Council’s leader to meet with a senior treasury minister over the rapid loss of bank branches.
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Figures show that the number of branches across the local authority district has reduced by half in the past eight years.

Only Wakefield, Pontefract and Castleford now have in-person banking services.

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Earlier this year, Halifax bank announced the closures of its branches in Normanton and Ossett.

Former HSBC bank building, on Ropergate, PontefractFormer HSBC bank building, on Ropergate, Pontefract
Former HSBC bank building, on Ropergate, Pontefract

The announcement has led to Julie Medford, Labour councillor for Normanton, to propose a motion calling on the council to take action.

Coun Medford said that, since 2015, the Wakefield parliamentary constituency has seen bank branch losses of 41 per cent.

The Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency has lost 57 per cent, Hemsworth 83 per cent, and Morley and Outwood 55 per cent.

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The motion says there is “extensive and understandable concern” in Ossett and Normanton over impacts for businesses and those reliant on in-person banking transactions.

Councillors are being asked to vote in favour of the motion which calls for a council leader Denise Jeffery and Michael Graham, cabinet member for regeneration and economic growth, to meet Bim Afolami, the economic secretary to the Treasury.

The motion also calls for a letter to be sent to Mr Afolami asking for steps to be introduced to make the banking industry engage with local authorities over any future planned closures.

Councillors will consider the motion at a meeting on November 29.

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Analysis from consumer champion Which? shows a sharp decline in the number of bank branches open in areas across much of the UK compared to seven years ago.

According to figures up to the end of April 2022, six banks have been shut in Wakefield since the start of 2015, leaving 11 remaining in the area.

Separate figures from LINK, a cash machine network, show there has also been a decline in the number of free-to-use ATMs across the UK in recent years.

The data shows that between the start of 2018 and March 2022, the number of ATMs in Wakefield dropped from 105 to 87.

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The increasing use of online banking and contactless payments have led to concerns some will be left behind, or unable to access key services.

Which? chief executive, Anabel Hoult, said at the time: “While the pandemic has accelerated the move to digital payments for many consumers, many are not yet ready to make that switch and require protection from an avalanche of ATM and bank branch closures that have left the UK’s cash system at risk of collapse.”