A Knaresborough Councillor has won a special dispensation to speak at Harrogate Borough Council’s ruling Cabinet about bank closures in Knaresborough after appealing to the authority’s Leader. It is thought to be the first occasion on which an emergency item has been brought at the request of a backbench councillor.
Councillor Ed Darling, who represents the centre of the historic market town, made the unprecedented move after the Halifax announced it was closing its branch, also the last bank in Knaresborough.
The meeting, which will happen on Wednesday evening (5 February 2020), will hear from Councillor Darling about the difficulties Knaresborough residents will face if the bank is closed.
Councillor Darling said:
It is important for the Borough Council and its Cabinet to hear about what this planned closure means for Knaresborough, its residents and visitors alike.
If the branch closes it will leave a town with a population of 15,000 people without a bank. This surely cannot be right.
The bank is in the market square where we have held our amazing market for 700 years. People shopping there use the bank for cash to shop at the market.
Fifty-three per cent of the customers are aged over 55. This blow will disproportionately affect the elderly and those with mobility problems. Furthermore the bank hosts the town’s only talking cash machine ideal for those with sight problems.
At a time when we should be encouraging localism and persuading people to leave their cars at home it seems to be a complete contradiction to tell people they have to travel miles to get to a bank.
My aim is to unite Harrogate Borough Council behind local people and our MP Andrew Jones so that we say to the Halifax with one voice that they need to think again and talk to local people about their banking needs. Closing the branch – the last bank in Knaresborough – without even a consultation with residents is simply not on.
A Halifax spokesperson said:
We have made the difficult decision to close Halifax Knaresborough on 13 May 2020 due to the changing ways customers choose to bank with us, which means the branch is being used less often.
We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause; customers can continue to bank locally by visiting the nearby Post Office, which is less than half a mile from the branch. The nearest alternative branch is Harrogate.
Halifax have releases the background information on their decision:
- The way that customers choose to bank with us is changing. Customer behaviours continue to rapidly evolve. At the same time technology and the competitor landscape are both advancing at an accelerated rate. Customers are increasingly utilising digital channels for their everyday banking needs, making it easier for them to manage their finances in a way that suits them. As a consequence, the number of customers visiting our branches is steadily declining.
- 67% of our personal customers in Knaresborough already use other branches and other ways to bank such as online and telephone banking.
- The nearest Post Office is Knaresborough, 49 High Street which is less than half a mile away and we will be talking to customers to let them know about the services they offer. The nearest free to use ATM is 0.06 miles (ca. 97 m) away.
- Customers will have their accounts realigned to Harrogate branch, which will not change the way their accounts are managed. They can use any branch for their banking needs, as well as using the other banking options available to them. The nearest alternative branch is Harrogate which is 3.6 miles (5.79 km) away.
- We have not made any compulsory redundancies following branch closures and continue to aim to avoid compulsory redundancies by seeking redeployment in the first instance.
The Knaresborough Chamber of Trade and Commerce have set up a petition with over 1,000 signing https://www.change.org/Save-Last-Bank-Knaresborough
Bill Taylor, Knaresborough Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said:
We are very concerned about the closure of the last bank in Knaresborough. It provides counter services and has two ATM’s. Although there is obviously a move to a cashless society, there is still a need for cash.
On market day for instance many stalls still only take cash, often as a way to avoid the overhead of charges associated with a card transaction.
We want people to shop local, and we need to provide services and facilities for them to want them to do that. We need to be careful that people can easily go elsewhere.
There is a move to online and telephone banking, but there is still a demand for banking in person – many of the older residents in of Knaresborough still use the branch regularly.