Rural & Small Communities Banking Bill Passes First Stage

Luke Graham, MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, today successfully introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill to the House of Commons to amend the law relating to rural banking and small communities.

Highlighting the RBS branches marked for closure in Alloa, Kinross and Comrie, banks that have been helped by the tax payer after the financial crash and are the last remaining bank in rural communities should have a legal responsibility to ensure access to banking provisions are in place, Scottish Conservative MP Luke Graham said.

The Banking and Post Office Services (rural areas and small communities) Bill will make provisions to place the Access to Banking Standard onto a statutory footing; to place a duty on a closing bank to provide a community investment fund from those banks which has received significant tax-payer assistance in the aftermath of the last economic crash; and to strengthen the provision of post office services for rural and small communities across the UK.

The bill will also seek to establish a Community Fund of £100,000 for each branch closure of tax payer owned banks to help support the communities and customers they are abandoning.

Commenting the MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, Luke Graham said:

“The treatment of our rural communities by our banks, especially those, such as RBS, that have been bailed out by the British tax payer, just isn't right.

“In some parts of my constituency, those with no access to their own vehicle are expected to make a 50+ mile, 2 hour round trip by bus to access their bank. This is hardly going to become more bearable as we head into the cold months of winter.

“For any further closures, a rural weighting should be added to ensure the local Post Office has the resources to cope, and that local geography, weather patterns, public transport, broadband and mobile coverage is considered. It would give additional heft to hold the banks to account and rural communities are not abandoned.

“I am delighted the bill has passed its first stage, it is one step closer to securing the banking network in these rural areas.”

Mark Aldred, the banking specialist at Auriga, commended the provisions included for ATMs and deposit facilities to be continued even after then branch itself has departed, stating:

“Access to financial services, particularly for rural communities, is a lifeline. Critical to this lifeline are not just bank branches but also ATMs. Branches and ATMs don’t just give out cash, they keep communities together, providing a crucial relationship between banks and their customers.

 “We know that banks are under increasing pressure to shrink their networks, but we risk cutting too much and ending up with a situation that is difficult to reverse. Branch networks may get smaller, but we need to make the ones that remain smarter. There are lots of options that banks evaluating their networks should consider.”