The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, made a passionate speech in the House of Lords this week addressing the impact of bank closures in rural areas and market towns.
Our Diocese is mainly rural and takes over an hour to get from East to West. The internet and connectivity can be an issue for some communities which then has an impact on small rural businesses and charities.
In the market town of Watton, a new banking hub has opened, which is proving very popular with local people. The new banking hub opens five days a week, with a counter service operated by the Post Office where customers of all major banks can carry out their regular cash transactions. It also offers a community banker service where customers can talk to their own bank about more complicated issues.
Bishop Graham said; “The community bankers work on rotation, with a different bank available on each day of the week. NatWest, HSBC and Barclays each take one day, so in a sense, this is an invitation for other banks to take up the other two days.”
Meanwhile, in the historic market town of Wymondham, three major banks have closed within the past 12 months, including NatWest, HSBC, and Barclays. The parish church treasurer now has a 26-mile round trip to bank the cash collection and cheques given to the church for its mission and use.
Bishop Graham added; “The sad reality is that the withdrawal of banks from market towns has disadvantaged sections of our community, especially those who want to speak to a human and not a robot, those for whom trust is a hard-won necessity, those with sensitive things to discuss and that group of people who are not savvy with the internet or have poor connectivity and so are digitally disfranchised.”
During his speech, Bishop Graham endorsed the role of community banking hubs and asked the government when and how they were going to roll out more of them.