JUST like the Government which is belatedly aware of the retail crisis facing town centres across the country, the same can also be said of the Treasury Committee at Parliament as it launches an inquiry into the withdrawal of banking services and their impact on the nost vulnerable customers.
Yet, while the investigation being headed by Nicky Morgan, the former Education Secretary, is clearly motivated by the best of intentions, there does, in fact, need to be immediate action before even more banks and ATMs close and compromise still further the future of those high streets which Ministers are now trying to save with various measures.
A sensible starting point is the conclusions made by University of Sheffield graduate Luke Graham, now a Tory MP in Scotland, when he explored the impact of branch closures on rural areas. As well as having a detrimental impact on local residents, and those who haven’t the time, money or public transport to travel to the nearest town to access their money, he discovered that bank lending to small and medium enterprises fell by an average of 63 per cent in those postcodes which lost a branch. He said that this figure rose to 104 per cent in those areas where the last bank in town shut.
Given that Mr Graham now proposes a law change which would compel those banks subsidised during the financial crisis a decade ago to pay an upfront levy of £100,000 levy to the local community whenever they intend to shut a branch, and that there should be a legal obligation on them to demonstrate that alternative arrangements are in place, this should be the immediate starting point for the Treasury Committee’s deliberations.