PLANS to offer an in-person banking service when the final remaining venue operating outside of Barnsley town centre closes its doors in the summer are being explored by council bosses following a backlash.
Barclays insists its King Street branch, in Hoyland, only has a dozen regular customers but its planned closure in July - following a decade of other branch closures across the borough - will inflict ‘serious damage’ on elderly customers who are not comfortable using cash machines or online banking apps, it has been claimed.
The bank also claims almost 90 per cent of its customers have also carried out their banking by app, online or by phone but the closure means anyone needing face-to-face banking services will have to go into Barnsley town centre or travel to Sheffield.
However, the Chronicle understands the council’s now assessing future banking provisions in the town and local feedback will be sought in the coming weeks ahead of its closure.
Matt O’Neill, executive director for growth and sustainability, said: “We would of course like to see Barclays’ branch remain open, however we understand that the way people are engaging with their banks is and has been changing for a long time.
“Consumer behaviour is moving to online channels across every demographic - this change has been accelerated as a result of Covid-19.
“We recognise the way people use town centres and local high streets is changing across the country.
“As a council, we’re responding positively to this.
“In both Barnsley town centre and local centres, we’re investing.
“This is to help provide more reasons for people to spend their time on the high street - that’s about much more than shops and services.
“It’s also about leisure, hospitality, entertainment, culture and high-quality public spaces for people to spend time with friends and family.
“We’ve/ already/ invested £5m into our six Principal Towns and ten local centres to help them thrive.
“We have plans to invest another £30m into our local high streets across the borough - we’re also working to attract even more from other funding bodies.
“We remain committed to supporting Hoyland’s high street and local economy to thrive.
“Footfall figures show visits have increased since we did the town square work and began the events programme.
“We’re working on plans for a second phase of improvements right now.
“We’ll explore how banking facilities can be re-introduced back into the town and we’ll be sharing our plans with the local community in due course to invite local feedback.”
Stephanie Peacock, the Barnsley East constituency’s MP, said a number of residents have contacted her about their concerns about accessing cash and face-to-face banking services.
She added: “Between 2012 and 2022, Yorkshire and the Humber saw a 43 per cent decrease in the number of bank and building society branches.
“In Hoyland, the local Barclays announced its closure last month which I know is of great concern to many local people.
“This follows a string of other branch closures in Barnsley, such as the Yorkshire bank in Wombwell, and will leave my constituency of Barnsley East with no bank branches at all, with four closing in recent years.
“Physical branch closures are often justified by the rise in online banking, which has undoubtedly been a great convenience for many.
“However, closures risk financially excluding communities an it’s regrettable that people are now longer able to chose whether to bank online or in person.
“Over three million people, aged 55 and above, have still never been online - with those aged 75 and over most likely to be excluded.
“Furthermore, Age UK found that four in ten over 65s with bank accounts do not manage their money online.
“This amounts to over four million people.
“Whilst there has been a shift towards online banking, connectivity should not be assumed across the country.
“Rural areas, for example, are less likely to have reliable digital infrastructure, therefore impacting their ability to access online banking.”