Halifax branch closures: Neighbours campaign to save town’s last bank branch as council promises to take action
Hazel Rowley and Alan Wright started a campaign after Halifax announced plans to shut the branch in Normanton, Wakefield, next year. Since July, Hazel and Alan, who live on the same street in Kirkthorpe village, have collected more than 3,500 signatures outside the bank on High Street.
A further 800 people have have also signed their online petition. The number of branches across the Wakefield local authority district has reduced by half in the past eight years. If the closure goes ahead, only Wakefield, Pontefract and Castleford be left with in-person banking services.
Hazel, 67, said: “It’s been heart-breaking to see to see the upset this is causing for the most vulnerable people who rely on the bank. Many are elderly and disabled. One blind lady in her in her 90s broke down in tears.
“She won’t be able to get on a bus to travel to Wakefield or Castleford. It has caused so much worry and upset. We knew we had to do something to try to stop this but we have been really surprised by the reaction.”
Halifax, part of the Lloyds Banking Group, say customers now choose to bank online or through their mobile app and visits to the branch have fallen over recent years.
Alan, 67, said: “There are a lot of people who don’t even have mobile phones. They wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to online banking. We spoke to one man who was going into the bank who had been scammed online and was desperate to speak to someone in person.
“I don’t think Halifax realise the upset this causes so many people. We feel the people running the banks are not seeing the full picture. They couldn’t care less about pensioners and the disabled.”
Hazel and Alan’s campaign was highlighted during a councillors’ debate at County Hall, in Wakefield, about the rapid loss of bank branches across the district.
Julie Medford, Labour councillor for Normanton, proposed a motion calling on the local authority to take action.
She said: “It is absolutely amazing what they have done. They have told me some very sad tales of the people who have come to them desperate to sign this petition. They tell me people were begging them to keep the bank open. People were saying they would not be able to cope if the bank closes. The closures will affect older people who are more likely to be digitally excluded.”
Coun Medford added: “People needs banks. The banks can afford the rent. They are letting people down.”
Figures show that the number of branches across the district has reduced by half in the past eight years. Councillors of all parties voted unanimously in favour of the motion which calls for council leader Denise Jeffery and Michael Graham, cabinet member for regeneration and economic growth, to meet Bim Afolami, the economic secretary to the Treasury.
The motion also calls for a letter to be sent to Mr Afolami asking for steps to be introduced to make the banking industry engage with local authorities over any future planned closures.
Coun Charlie Keith, said: “We have lost sight of the end user. The customer should be king. The banks don’t want your business, they just want your money. These people are oriented by profit and profit alone. They don’t care about you, the end user.”
Coun Steve Tulley said: “It is another part of the community that we are losing. But people have stopped using them because they are taking them away from us.”