Mayor of Alnwick slams decision to close Lloyds and Halifax bank branches

The decision to close the last remaining bank branches in Alnwick has been slammed by local politicians.
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Lloyds Banking Group will close its Lloyds and Halifax branches on Bondgate Within on January 15, 2025.

As an alternative, LINK – the cash machine network – is planning to set up a banking hub which customers of any of the major banks can use to deposit and withdraw cash over the counter.

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Mayor of Alnwick, Cllr Geoff Watson, branded the move ‘financial vandalism’ and warned it would have a ‘seriously detrimental’ impact on residents and businesses.

The Alnwick branches of Halifax and Lloyds are to close. Picture: GoogleThe Alnwick branches of Halifax and Lloyds are to close. Picture: Google
The Alnwick branches of Halifax and Lloyds are to close. Picture: Google

He said: “This decision is indicative of the breathtaking arrogance of the banking sector in the UK. During the financial crisis the taxpayers, who are the bank's customers, bailed them out and prevented them from going bust.

“They are now treating those same customers with contempt. The idea that providing a 'banking hub' to replace a local bank is a joke.

“For years the banks have encouraged their customers to bank online, reduced the bank opening hours and are now using the lack of bank visits as an excuse to close branches and increase profits for shareholders at the expense of customers.

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“I will be writing to our MP on behalf of the residents and businesses in Alnwick to ask what she and the government intend to do to prevent this financial vandalism.”

Mayor of Alnwick, Geoff Watson. Picture: Alnwick Town CouncilMayor of Alnwick, Geoff Watson. Picture: Alnwick Town Council
Mayor of Alnwick, Geoff Watson. Picture: Alnwick Town Council

The closures will leave the Post Office as the only banking facility in the town, although it does not offer a full range of services.

Barclays, which closed its Alnwick branch last year, continues to offer a ‘pop-up cashless banking site’ at the Playhouse.

Local MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to express her concerns.

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In her letter, Ms Trevelyan writes: ‘My constituents and I are concerned that the protection of ‘the last bank in town’ is not being applied – as well as the lack of community consultation seemingly required of banks before they take these decisions.

‘North Northumberland is an incredibly rural area. The nearest alternative branches are now more than 20 miles away.

‘Post Office services, while invaluable, are not a full replacement when town after town after town loses their banks too.’

The news was described by Cllr Gordon Castle, Alnwick ward member on Northumberland County Council, as ‘a real body blow’.

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He added: “It’s a move in the direction of the cashless society which is a particular problem in rural areas. I think it is premature.

“Alnwick is the service centre for a wide area, where people from villages all around come to bank. Now, what is there to come to? It will potentially have a damaging effect on Alnwick businesses.”

Fellow ward member, Cllr Martin Swinbank, added: “It’s disappointing for a lot of customers. A lot of people have moved onto online banking, but there are a lot of older people in Alnwick and it is difficult for some people to use the technology – they may not even have it.

“There is also a trust issue as well, particularly with banking, and I think that is an important consideration for some of the older generation.”

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Lloyds Banking Group says the decision is based on declining usage, with the number of transactions by personal customers having fallen by 58% at the Lloyds branch, and 52% at the Halifax, over the last five years.

A Lloyds spokesperson said: “As many customers now choose to bank through their mobile app or online, visits to our Lloyds Bank and Halifax branches in Alnwick have fallen over recent years.

"Customers can use the local Post Office for everyday banking which is a short walk away from both branches, and access cash at the nearby free-to-use ATMs. Customers can also manage their money online, by calling us, or at the new banking hub once it is up and running.”

Banking hubs are a shared banking space, similar to a traditional bank branch, but available to everyone.

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The hub will consist of a counter service operated by Post Office employees, where customers of any bank can withdraw and deposit cash, make bill payments and carry out regular banking transactions.

In addition, there will be private spaces where customers can speak to community bankers from their own bank for more complicated matters that require specialist knowledge or privacy.

The banks will be working on a rotating basis, so there will be staff from different banks available on different days.

The banking hub will be delivered by Cash Access UK. Over the next few weeks, it will begin to engage with the local community and will start to look for potential sites.

The hub will likely open in 12 months’ time.

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Nick Quin, Head of Financial Inclusion, LINK, said: “Access to cash and basic banking continues to be vital to millions of people across the UK. The hub will make a real difference to the local community and allow people to access vital services.”

The nearest alternative Lloyds and Halifax branches are in Ashington and Blyth.

Newcastle Building Society’s branch in Alnwick will continue to offer financial services.