Wiltshire Publications

Westbury – a town with no banks – could a ‘banking hub’ be the answer?

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MPS are urging banks to create local ‘banking hubs’ in towns where there is no bank, and the mayor of Westbury, cllr Mike Sutton, has welcomed the idea for the town.

Westbury’s last bank, Lloyds, closed its doors in February this year, not long after the closure of Barclays early last year, leaving the town without a bank. At the time, it was also left without a main Post Office when the Co-op supermarket, who housed the facility,  closed in 2016. 

A report published by Parliament’s Treasury Committee last month concluded that banks should fund ‘shared hubs’, to prevent loss of the  ‘last bank in town’ or to help protect vulnerable people from being  impacted by banks relying on the digital age.  

They would work by having one building with different banks taking it turns to use the facilities on alternate days. 

Westbury currently has three un-occupied previous bank buildings, which could be used for the scheme. 

The report concluded that, “In these “last bank” cases, the banks should be required to make provision for “banking hubs”. The “hub” should be properly funded, with an agreed private and business banking provision set by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Treasury.”

These hubs are already being set up across the country with three of the biggest banks, Lloyds, NatWest and Barclays creating banking hubs for small businesses in Birmingham, Manchester, Crosby, London, Leicestershire and Bristol. 

Mayor, cllr Mike Sutton said, “The idea of a banking hub in Westbury is to be welcomed as those persons who do not use electronic banking, of which there are many, have been greatly inconvenienced, but I wonder just how committed are banks to the idea and how much they are in touch with events on the ground locally. 

“When Lloyds bank shut recently they said people could use the local post office even though it had been shut for 18 months and a replacement had not yet been agreed.

“Local and rural businesses rarely make any money out of a post office and the advantage to them is in some increased footfall and if they were to take on some banking services, it would need to be financially viable. 

“We would need to see from the banks if it is just rhetoric to soothe local opinion, or whether they intend to back it up with financial support from their considerable profits. As yet, they have been silent on the detail. Westbury would certainly benefit from such a proposal but we await the detail if and when that is published.”

Commenting on the Report, Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the Treasury Committee said, “The financial inclusion of vulnerable consumers – and we can all be vulnerable at some point in our lives – should be of the utmost priority for financial services providers, the government, and financial regulators.

“It can no longer be an option for banks to ignore financial inclusion.

“A patchwork of improvements and adjustments have been targeted at some groups of consumers, but the basic level of access is still not universal. There are significant areas of concern where vulnerable consumers are effectively excluded from participating with financial services providers.

“This report makes a series of recommendations to government and the regulator for how consumers’ access to financial services can be improved.”