THE removal of an ATM facility in a town centre will penalise locals and visitors – and it looks like banking services could have broken their own rules, says a local councillor.
Lloyds in Fore Street had been the last remaining physical bank in Looe when it closed at the beginning of 2023. Now, the hole in the wall operated by the bank has also shut, leaving the town without anywhere to withdraw cash that is available round the clock.
A community banking hub is set to open at some point this year to compensate for the loss of services in Looe – but in the meantime the latest move puts people at a real disadvantage, says Cornwall and Town Councillor Armand Toms.
“Many locals struggling with their finances use cash to control spending. Visitors may wish to do the same, or need cash to pay for parking,” said Cllr Toms.
“Older people especially, who may have no internet or mobile phone, need cash to survive. For me this is an important issue for this community.
“Did Lloyds fully consider their customers when they closed the branch and now the ATM, especially when the Banking Hub is not yet functioning and may not until late 2023?
“Cash will now only be available from the Post Office and the small ATMs in stores.”
Prior to the closure of Looe’s Lloyds branch, the then mayor Edwina Hannaford had expressed concern about the reliance of tourism on cash, and the difficulty of carrying out internet banking for those at sea, as well as the infrequent local transport to the nearest alternative bank branch.
Cllr Toms now says he will put in a complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which issues guidance to the banking industry around the closure of branches and the removal or reduction of services.
The FCA, which is there to protect customers, has recently updated its advice to make clear its expectations of firms.
It states that while the closure of bank branches and cashpoints are commercial decisions for firms to take, these must be carried out in such a way that they take proper account of customers’ needs.
“We expect firms to assess how planned closures or conversions will affect customers, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances,” says the FCA, “and to make appropriate arrangements to ensure their needs are still met.”
Lloyds Bank says that it is committed to the Access to Banking Standard and that it observes the requirements of the Financial Conduct Authority on branch and ATM closures or conversions.
The company says that before it made the decision to permanently close the Looe branch, it carried out a thorough review to understand what impact the closure would have on both customers and the wider community.
It says it took various measures to inform customers about the changes, and to support people to use alternative banking methods.
“We took a range of factors into account before we decided to close the branch,” said a spokesperson for the company.
“We proactively called our identified vulnerable customers to ensure they were aware of the closure, the alternatives available to them and provide any help and support required.
“We made customers aware of alternative branches and free ATMs nearby. We also let them know that a Banking Hub is planned for this area.”
The Hub will be a place for people to carry out all their everyday banking requirements, including paying in and taking out cash. A Community Banker will also be there once a week for customers to talk to in person. Meetings will be happening over the coming days to finalise arrangements for the location, opening days and times of the Hub, said Cllr Toms.