MP For Glastonbury Gives Statement On Town's Banks

A statement from Glastonbury MP James Heappey for the recent public meeting on Glastonbury's Banks:

As many of you will have seen, I asked a question of the Prime Minister in Parliament last week and secured a meeting with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Harriet Baldwin) to discuss the matter further. I know that the Town Council have also corresponded with her. From a Government perspective, I’m not sure they have a dog in the fight. They cannot make a bank stay open and the Access to Banking Protocols are – at the moment – a voluntary code. It does, however, give us some leverage that these protocols are to be reviewed in April/May and our experience in Glastonbury is demonstrating their flaws. Whilst we will, of course, have the opportunity to contribute to that review it could be too late for us by then. So I have also made clear to the banks that they have an opportunity to show the protocols do work by behaving differently in their decision here.

I have met again with Lloyds this week and remain in touch with the other banks too. My sense is that they are keen to be seen to be engaging with the Glastonbury community but entirely from the perspective of ensuring adequate mitigation for their closure. I have not yet any real cause for hope that they are changing their mind although they didn’t enjoy the attention they received in PMQs and the are acutely aware of the profile the campaign is getting in the local and national media. The flash mob was brilliant – let’s keep going. If one of the banks buckles, it is unlikely to be because they have seen a new business opportunity and much more likely to be because they see a good PR opportunity.

Whilst our aim is to keep a bank, I have also met with Post Office this week to discuss the provision of services through their Glastonbury branch. Glastonbury has a committed Postmaster; I have encouraged Post Office to make sure he is fully supported in developing his business to meet the additional demands that the banks’ closures may place on it. I have also been in touch with the company who will be installing new ATMs and am pleased that good progress has been made in ensuring the High Street will retain ample places to withdraw cash. Finally, whilst HSBC has already agreed full business banking facilities can be delivered through the Post Office, Barclays and Lloyds have not. I have asked both to do so and made clear that, to me, their mitigation is invalid until they have.

Finally, since my PMQ, I have been contacted by a number of people who have had some experience of setting up a community bank after the banks have abandoned their town. It is not straight forward but it is nowhere near as challenging as one might imagine. Given the success of the Avalon Community Energy Company and the wealth of business expertise in and around the town, this remains a very credible (and potentially exciting) fall-back option.

I am here to do as you please but my strong advice is that we continue to campaign vigorously for a bank to stay. I will hold the banks to account over the Access to Banking Protocols and make clear that this episode will not help them when the scheme is reviewed later in the year. We might also consider forming some sort of pact within the community (business and residents) that guarantees any bank that stays their custom. I will continue to apply pressure to both the banks and Post Office to make sure that if the worst does come to the worst, we are fully provided for in the Glastonbury Post Office branch. And I will continue to seek out expertise for starting a community bank if it comes to it.

Congratulations on a brilliant campaign so far.