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Loss of banks could hit economy of small towns across Suffolk, says MP

PUBLISHED: 23:24 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 23:24 14 February 2018

Waveney MP Peter Aldous speaking in the Houses of Parliament. Picture: PARLIAMENTLIVETV

Waveney MP Peter Aldous speaking in the Houses of Parliament. Picture: PARLIAMENTLIVETV

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A Suffolk MP worried about closure of banks in the county’s small towns has called for national action to prevent others shutting down.

The Bungay branch of Lloyds is under threat.
 Picture: NICK BUTCHER The Bungay branch of Lloyds is under threat. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he was concerned banks were closing branches in an “indiscriminate, non-strategic way that will have an adverse impact on the elderly, the disabled, those without their own transport”.

He also feared there would be harm to small businesses, and the economies of small towns and their hinterlands – especially if towns lose all of their banks.

Mr Aldous is particularly concerned about Lloyds Banks plans to close its branch in Bungay, while Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has been left “extremely disappointed” at the bank’s plans to do the same in Halesworth and Southwold.

Woodbridge has lost its Natwest branch and Beccles is due to lose its, and Saxmundham has seen its Barclays close, while Leiston has lost its Norwich and Peterborough Building Society branch.

Bungay branch of Lloyds bank.
 Picture: NICK BUTCHER Bungay branch of Lloyds bank. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Mr Aldous spoke about the issue in the House of Commons as MPs called on the Government to support measures to protect access to banking services in local communities.

He said: “My main concern is that, if Lloyds proceeds with the closure of its Bungay branch, there will be no bank left in the town, and I believe that we need policies to prevent that from happening.

“Some may say that I am a Luddite and that we cannot hold back the inevitable march of the internet and modernisation, but what concerns me is that some banks are closing branches in an indiscriminate, non-strategic way that will have an adverse impact on the elderly, the disabled, those without their own transport, small businesses, and the economies of the towns and hinterlands that will be left with no bank standing.

“In the last two years, Barclays and Norwich and Peterborough building society have closed their branches in Bungay. If Lloyds proceeds with its branch closure in May, there will be no bank left in the town. That has upset many people who transferred their accounts to Lloyds following the previous closures, and it will have a particularly negative impact on the elderly and disabled and on small businesses.”

Among his concerns is the loss of ATMs used by visitors, deposit facilities used by farmers, and the ability of towns to draw in customers from surrounding areas if the lack of a bank removes a reason to visit.

He said: “Lloyds is redirecting its customers to its Beccles branch. That may mean that people who came into Bungay once a week to go to the bank, to do their shopping and to have a coffee or a meal may now do all that in Beccles.”

Lloyds said the decision to close Halesworth and Southwold branches was not taken lightly.

The Halesworth review had shown the number of people using the branch each year is falling.

Some 70 per cent fewer customers use the branch than use a typical Lloyds branch. At present only 40 personal and business customers use the branch each week and 69pc of its customers already use other branches and other ways to bank such as via phone and Internet.

At Southwold, only 18 personal and business customers use it each week – 82pc fewer than a typical branch.

The bank was investing in expansion of its mobile branch service for Lloyds customers in rural communities and one of the mobile branches will visit Halesworth and Southwold, and this will be in place before the closures.

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