Barclays Bank: Communities across Harrogate district react to potentially 'devastating' closures

The Knaresborough, Pateley Bridge and Boroughbridge branches are to be closed
The Knaresborough, Pateley Bridge and Boroughbridge branches are to be closed
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Business leaders and councillors have spoken of the potentially 'devastating blow' if bank closures are to go ahead in three towns across the district.

Barclays today announced that Pateley Bridge, Knaresborough and Boroughbridge branches of the bank are to close their doors.

MP for Skipton and Ripon,Julian Smith, and Chairman of the Nidderdale Chamber of Trade, Keith Tordoff

MP for Skipton and Ripon,Julian Smith, and Chairman of the Nidderdale Chamber of Trade, Keith Tordoff

A spokesperson for Barclays said: “The size and shape of our branch network is dependent on how and why our customers use them and is therefore subject to change. At the end of 2018, we had 1058 branches in our network – the largest branch network on the UK high street.

"Where we do take the difficult decision to close a branch, we work closely with the local community to understand their needs and whether there is an alternative solution we can provide.”

“The number of physical Barclays branches will reduce overall but our branch network and the colleagues who work in them remain a vital part of our offering. With customers visiting our branches less and less each year, we must constantly assess how and why our branches are used and make decisions based on that insight.”

If the doors to the Knaresborough branch close on May 17, it could potentially be 'horrendous news' for the town, said Stephen Teggin, President of the Knaresborough Chamber of Trade.

He said: "That they could up and leave is just a devastating blow to Knaresborough.

"It seems to be only the main cities and towns which seem to have banks staying open at the moment.

"It's horrendous that this has happened, which also means the loss of another ATM as well. We often have people coming in large numbers for event days in Knaresborough, and we want to see more of these happening. But the machines can quickly run out of cash, and that can effect the takings at businesses in the town."

He added: "The Post Office does a great job with this and it's a very easy system to use, but this is going to mean more pressure on them with more businesses now needing to come in."

"I think we will be okay, but how long can the Post Office sustain an increase from these businesses needing to come in?"

Mr Teggin added he was due to meet with representatives of the bank next Tuesday, to see if an alternative option can be found.

After years of bank closures in the town the announcement was 'disappointing news', leaving the centre 'worse off,' said Knaresborough Town Councillor, Ed Darling.

He said: "Over the last couple of years we have already seen the closures of three banks in our town centre and now to have a fourth leave will impact on services for residents and visitors.

“I understand the point that we need to use facilities in order for them to be viable but I also think that banks should explore more effective partnership working models to diversify the services offered from their branches and appeal to a broader customer base.

"Many people have also commented to me about the limited opening hours of Barclays. It seem self-evident that if you open for fewer hours you will get fewer customers."

Mr Darling also said that talks are currently underway with ATM provider, LINK, to attempt replacing those lost over the years.

He also said: “The fact that customers can instead use the Post Office is rather ironic as our town’s only Post Office often has queues trailing out the door and regularly has a queue forming before it even opens on a morning.

“On learning of the news, I immediately wrote to Mr Steve Mullins, Barclay’s Community Banking Director for Yorkshire, to ask that he reconsiders the position of closing the branch."

'The lack of consultation' over the decision to close Pateley Bridge's last bank on May 15, along with letters and a notice announcing the news being issued on the same day, has been described as 'hit and run tactics' by the Nidderdale Chamber of Trade.

Chairman Keith Tordoff said he has met with representatives of the bank and urged them to 'think of the needs of the community.'

Along with starting a petition to the Government, to attempt preventing the closure, they have also met with Skipton and Ripon MP, Julian Smith, to flag the impact the decision could have on the area.

He said: "I think this is a major problem, we only have one cash point in the town, which can break down, and is often known to get busy during periods like the bank holiday.

"People often ask why High Streets are dying off and it's because the infrastructure is eroding, with things like banks closing."

"The people here in the town have given them years of loyal custom, but there is no loyalty being shown here."

It's expected it could cause difficulties for businesses across the area if the closure goes ahead, including farmers who would have to travel further for services such as cashing cheques to pay for expenses.

Steps could have been taken to support the branch from reaching this stage, if the community had been better informed, says Mr Tordoff.

He said: "If they had told us and asked for support we could have done something about this. Why did they not come to us months ago?

"We could have said to people how much it would help, and the difference it could make, if they went through the doors of the bank."

Mayor of Pateley Bridge, Coun Chris Skaife, was among the first in the town to see the closing notice on the bank, and has raised concerns over the 'hole' it could leave in the area.

She said: "Not everyone is computer literate, or has access to a computer and the closures will impact the older generation and rural communities in particular.

"In relation to social isolation there are many people who don't speak to anyone else during the day. That time in the bank gives them a chance to get to know staff.

"The loss of a bank, I feel, is going to leave a hole in the life of the area."

She added: "Transport has been diminishing in the area, and for people to do their banking could now mean having to get to Ripon or Harrogate.

"Not everyone in the area will be used to making that journey."

Barclays has said that customers will be contacted by post with further details. It has also said there will be no job losses, with staff 'redeployed to other branches.'
A spokesperson said: "Where we do take the difficult decision to close a branch, we work closely with the local community to understand their needs and whether there is an alternative solution we can provide.

"These solutions will be specific to each area but may include arrangements with the nearest Post Office or pop-up branches as well as Barclays Collect for businesses, Video Banking, fully automated facilities or ATMs. Many of our customers are digitally savvy and are quickly adapting to these changes, but we know that for others it will take time.

"This is why we continue to invest in our Digital Eagles who work closely with customers in communities across the UK to help them access and feel confident in using our digital services, including those communities where a physical branch may close The closure of a branch does not mean a loss of bank support for our customers - we remain committed to supporting businesses and will continue to have business relation managers in our communities, supporting SMEs."