AN ENTIRE town has been left in the lurch by a major bank after it revealed its plans to close their last local bank branch.
National Westminster Bank, commonly known as NatWest, will cease operations at its Bakewell branch in Derbyshire on February 22.
The branch is the last to go of any bank in the UK’s original national park, the Peak District, which spans some 555 square miles.
NatWest is understood to have shut down 1,329 branches across the country since 2015, more than any other operator.
Tory MP for Derbyshire Dales, who is pushing for the branch to remain open, told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the Commons on Wednesday: “As disturbed as I was [that] British politicians were being debanked by NatWest, you can imagine my horror that an entire town, Bakewell in Derbyshire Dales, is being debanked by NatWest.
“And in the whole of Derbyshire Dales and the Peak District, there isn’t a bank [branch] left.
More bank branch closures
“Can you share my concern please that as we are the national shareholder of NatWest, why are they ignoring my vulnerable, elderly people and also businessmen – it is a big, thriving market town.”
Mr Sunak said in response that all banking customers “wherever they live should have appropriate access to banking and cash services”.
He added: “I know there has been an assessment on access to cash in her area and the financial services sector will provide a new cash deposit service for her community and everyone can access the post office for regular banking services.”
Come February, the closest branch to people in Bakewell will be nine miles away in the town of Matlock, or 13 miles away in Chesterfield.
NatWest said it decided to close the branch because only six customers still visited the site on a regular weekly basis.
A spokesman explained: “As with many industries, most of our customers are shifting to mobile and online banking because it’s faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives.
“We understand and recognise that digital solutions aren’t right for everyone or every situation, and that when we close branches we have to make sure that no one is left behind.
“We take our responsibility seriously to support the people who face challenges in moving online, so we are investing to provide them with support and alternatives that work for them.”
A “banking hub”, similar to a traditional bank branch but available to everyone, is expected to be built and will continue some services to Bakewell customers, according to the UK’s main ATM network, Link.
More than 5,760 bank branches have shut their doors since 2015, according to the consumer group Which?
Nineteen UK bank branches will close in December alone, including 11 Barclays branches, three Bank of Scotland branches, two Virgin Money branches, and one NatWest and one Lloyds branch, according to Link.
The news comes just one week after Natwest confirmed it was planning to axe another 19 branches.
And struggling Metro Bank will axe 800 jobs – 20 per cent of its workforce – and reduce its opening hours in a new cost-cutting drive.
The lender has about 2.7million customers and 75 branches across the UK.