HSBC has become the first bank to agree to delay the closure of a last branch in town until alternative banking arrangements are in place.
The bank’s move means a number of communities will now not spend months bankless while a new banking hub is opened – or a cash deposit service introduced.
Last year, the banks agreed to fund the setting- up of hubs (community banks) in towns where the last branch was closing – and an independent assessor (cash machine network Link) had decided one was needed to ensure continued access to cash.
Yet the hubs rollout has been protracted as Cash Access UK – responsible for installing them – has struggled to find suitable sites. The average time for a hub to come on stream is more than a year. So far, only four have opened while 43 more are promised.
As the MoS highlighted last month, HSBC was due to close its Oakham branch in June. This would have left the town and the wider county of Rutland without a bank.
Although Link recommended a hub for Oakham, it is nowhere near getting off the ground. HSBC has said that it would now ‘pause’ the Oakham closure until a hub was in place. It also said it would suspend closures in Ripley, North Yorkshire, and Colwyn Bay, Conwy, until cash deposit services recommended by Link were established.
HSBC says: ‘We understand that closing a branch can be difficult for some customers and the wider community – especially when it is the last in the area and there is a gap between its closure and a new hub opening.
‘Wherever a hub is recommended and we have a closure, we will pause it for up to 12 months to enable Cash Access UK time to develop a hub.’