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Lack of banks in region's towns could 'divert business elsewhere', MP says

PUBLISHED: 14:12 14 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:35 14 June 2019

The former Lloyds bank in Bungay, which closed in May 2018. Picture: Nick Butcher

The former Lloyds bank in Bungay, which closed in May 2018. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

Vulnerable people could be compromised and towns unable to compete if the lack of banking facilities in rural areas is not rectified, according to an MP.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous has raised concerns over the lack of banks in Norfolk and Suffolk's small towns. Picture: Courtesy of Peter Aldous' officeWaveney MP Peter Aldous has raised concerns over the lack of banks in Norfolk and Suffolk's small towns. Picture: Courtesy of Peter Aldous' office

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he was worried the affect a lack of banks could have on small market towns such as Bungay, where there are no longer any 24/7 cashpoints.

Bungay's last bank, Lloyds, closed in May last year following widespread cutbacks that also affected Halesworth - now down to zero banks - and Southwold.

More than 12 months later, the town's post office remains the one place where cash can be withdrawn - but only during the working day.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate held at Westminster Hall, Mr Aldous argued the availability of cashpoints had become a "postcode lottery" along the Suffolk-Norfolk border.

The former Lloyds bank in Bungay closed in May 2018. Picture: James CarrThe former Lloyds bank in Bungay closed in May 2018. Picture: James Carr

"In Bungay, there are no 24/7 cashpoints," said Mr Aldous. "When the extremely popular Sunday street fairs take place, there is a major drawback for traders without card machines.

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"Likewise, nine miles away in Halesworth, in the constituency of Therese Coffey, there are no such facilities.

"However, if I go eight miles west to Harleston in the constituency of Richard Bacon, there are three cashpoints within 100 metres of each other."

Having spoken in parliament on numerous occasions about the plight of British high streets, Mr Aldous highlighted the importance of adapting to change.

"That revolution is happening where high streets face the challenge of reinventing themselves," he said. "To be done successfully, it is important that business shouldn't unwittingly be diverted elsewhere.

"To try to stop the change would be futile, but we can manage it properly so the vulnerable aren't compromised and towns such as Bungay can compete with their neighbours.

"Bungay and towns like it serve a large rural hinterland from where many residents - once a week - come in to shop, go to the bank and socialise over a coffee or meal. Take away the bank and they might go to another market town.

Mr Aldous, 57, also raised concerns over the "much quicker than anticipated" transition to an "almost cashless society".

He added: "The breakneck pace of change causes difficulties for the elderly, disabled and particularly those on low incomes for whom cash provides the best means of managing a tight budget."

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