Act now before last banks leave the district, councillors urged

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The closure of the last bank in a Dales town could mean it is only a matter of time before one of the largest districts of North Yorkshire is left with no branches at all – with catastrophic consequences for tourism, councillors were warned last night.

Barclays confirmed earlier this month that would close its branch on the Market Place in Hawes, in June. The building was the former premises of the Wensleydale and Swaledale Bank, which was acquired by Barclays in 1899.

The closure follows the loss of the HSBC branch in the town – the former Midland Bank – three years ago, leaving only the community-run Post Office for financial transactions.

Councillors in the Richmondshire district were told last night that the latest closure might not be the last, and were urged to throw their weight behind campaigns to keep the high streets of market towns alive.

The council leader, Yvonne Peacock, said she would lobby the Government to overhaul the business rate relief scheme, designed to reduce the burden on small businesses.

“It may not help Hawes but it might help other market towns survive,” she told a meeting of the council.

The move by Barclays means that Richmondshire, which covers 500 sq miles of North Yorkshire, including the north-eastern section of the Dales, has banks remaining only in Leyburn and Richmond itself.

The withdrawal of facilities would affect not only older members of the population who preferred not to do their banking on the internet, but also traders who relied on banks to supply change and deposit their takings, Coun Peacock said.

“This is serious. Some of our shops are one-man bands. They can’t close up to drive for miles to go and get change,” she told The Yorkshire Post.

“My worry is tourism. The first question people ask is, ‘Where’s the nearest bank?’ If the answer is Leyburn, they’re not even going to bother coming to Hawes.

“Banks are absolutely crucial to the lifeblood of these communities. We’ve now only got a few left, and if we don’t do everything we can, we might lose those, too.”

She told councillors: “We all have a duty to make banks and other service providers reconsider the negative impact their decisions have on business and tourism.”

The closure at Hawes is among several announced by Barclays, which is shutting other branches in Knaresborough, Pateley Bridge, Grassington and Boroughbridge in May, and one further east, in Bough, next month.

Separately, Santander announced last month that it was closing branches in Birstall, Cleethorpes, Driffield, Goole, north Leeds, Otley, Ripon, Selby, Skipton, Wetherby and Yeadon.

The consumer group Which? has calculated that about 60 bank branches are closing every month, with the bailed-out RBS shutting the most.

It said 2,868 branches closed between 2015 and the end of last year, with the number accelerating in recent months.

Among the Yorkshire towns now without banks is Hebden Bridge, where Barclays and Lloyds closed within a year of each other.

Banks and building societies had 20,583 branches in 1988 according to parliamentary records. It is estimated that the number is now as low as 7,500.