Residents of Kirkthorpe, West Yorkshire, have banded together in a noble attempt to prevent the closure of the last remaining bank in Normanton. The local branch of Halifax, a beacon of financial services for the town, is on the verge of shutting down, sparking outrage and concern among residents. A petition against this decision, initiated by neighbours Hazel Rowley and Alan Wright, has already accumulated over 4,000 signatures, illuminating the widespread discontent and fear of losing this invaluable resource.
The Impact on Vulnerable Customers
At the heart of this protest is the concern for the most vulnerable customers in society. Rowley and Wright argue that Halifax's decision to close its physical branch overlooks the needs of the elderly and disabled members of their community. In an age where digital literacy is not a universal skill, many of these individuals depend on in-person banking services. Transitioning to online banking may pose a significant challenge, deepening the digital divide and marginalising those who are already vulnerable.
Halifax, a stalwart of the UK banking industry, counters this argument by citing the decline in branch visits as a primary reason for the proposed closure. They attribute this trend to the rising popularity of online banking, which has seen a significant surge in recent years. However, while digital banking may be a convenient option for many, it is far from a universal solution.
The plight of Kirkthorpe's residents has not gone unnoticed by the political arena. The issue was recently debated by Wakefield's councillors, who unanimously supported action against the closure. They have proposed reaching out to Bim Afolami, the economic secretary to the Treasury, to seek his intervention. In addition, they intend to request a mandate requiring the banking industry to consult with local authorities before proceeding with such closures.
The Wider Picture
The predicament of Normanton's residents reflects a larger trend across the Wakefield district. Over the last eight years, the number of bank branches in the area has halved, painting a grim picture of the future of in-person banking services. Should the Normanton branch close its doors, only three towns - Wakefield, Pontefract, and Castleford - will retain their branches, drastically limiting residents' access to in-person banking services.