Today we report that yet another bank is due to close – this time, the Co-operative in Commercial Road, Portsmouth.
It’s become a regular issue now, across the News area. From Hayling to Lee-on-the-Solent and at all points in between, towns and villages are losing their branches and while Commercial Road has its fair share of the major players, this closure means that the Co-operative Bank will have no branches left in the city, with the nearest in Chichester.
Of course, we accept that banks are commercial entities and, like all businesses, must do what they can to maximise profits. But for too long that view has been left unchallenged by the government.
Yes, banks are businesses, but they perform, as do privatised utility companies, what can classed a vital public service.
We’ve seen the knock-on effects of a branch’s departure – in Eastney, for example, shops have closed and others reported that the area is quieter since the long-standing Lloyds there was shut.
And that’s in Portsmouth, with plenty of branches in Southsea and the city centre within a couple of miles. Pity those people in Emsworth, or Lee-on-the-Solent who find themselves with no easy alternative.
So what is the answer? Firstly, we’d like to see legislation brought in that forces a bank to introduce a mobile facility at least once a week if it closes its last branch in a town or village, and to maintain an ATM. That’s not difficult – and even makes business sense to retain customers.
Secondly, perhaps the Post Office network could play a larger part in what could be termed ‘daily’ banking. Post offices are hoping to survive into the future by moving into existing shops, such as village stores, and small supermarkets. Already it is possible to withdraw cash – it would be good to see the remit extended into paying bills and transferring money. There’s a need for more publicity on this.
We should accept that not everybody – and certainly not at present – will make the jump online. Those who can bank on their phone may find it easy, but those who do not wish to should not be penalised. It’s time to make banks work for us.