Residents celebrate victory in campaign to bring bank back to their community

When the Halifax shut its doors in the West Yorkshire town of Horbury last July, 10,000 residents were left without a bank nearby. The move caused anger among locals, especially businesses, who were forced to travel to Wakefield or Ossett, about three miles away, to visit their nearest branch.

It's a tale that has been repeated across Britain as high-street banks have slashed costs and reduced their networks by almost half in the past two decades. The withdrawal has left almost 1,000 communities with no banking services at all.

But in the case of Horbury the story is set to have a happy ending because the residents have won their battle to have a bank brought back to the town. More than 1,000 of them, or one in 10 of the population, signed a petition asking the Co-operative, which already had a food store in the high street, if it could provide essential banking services. After such a massive community campaign, the Co-op agreed and a bank branch is returning next month.

"Getting a bank back in Horbury is really good for the town," said Ray Tindale, a Horbury pensioner who was hit by the banks' departure and signed the petition. "Most banks are making savings by getting rid of banks in small communities like ours, and the Co-op is filling this gap. Customers still want a local, friendly face that they can have a conversation with – they want a personal service. It will also help investment in Horbury, because if people withdraw money here they are more likely to spend it in the town."

The strength of feeling in Horbury was such that a meeting held last week to introduce the Co-op's new bank manager, Karen Rayner, attracted 100 people. "There is already a real sense that people need these services and there's been a lot of interest," she said. Banks close branches for a variety of reasons. The high number of mergers and takeovers of former building societies is one reason to cut back, and does account for a high proportion of the 7,388 closures in the past 20 years.

But lenders have also been quick to close outlets if they become "uneconomic", which is shorthand for "not making enough money". Such closures can be short-sighted – because disaffected customers simply take their accounts elsewhere.

The Co-operative Bank clearly hopes its move into Horbury will help it pick up new customers although, as it already has a presence in the town through its supermarket, there is also an element of giving loyal customers what they want.

Rod Bulmer, the managing director of retail at Co-operative Financial Services, said the mutual was keen to open more branches like Horbury. "While other major banks are being forced to close branches, and communities are being left without banking facilities, we're in the fortunate position of being able to open new ones,"

The Co-op is a year into a programme of introducing new in-store branches. Its plan is to increase its branch network of 344, which includes Britannia branches, to 500. Five in-store branches are already up and running at Hove and Peacehaven in East Sussex, Matlock in Derbyshire, Wickford in Essex and Marple in Cheshire. This week, the sixth branch opened at Holmfirth in West Yorkshire. Frances O'Dwyer, a Holmfirth resident, said: "I've been thinking of switching for a long time from my current bank and I like the ethos of the Co-op."

The beauty of the Co-op's move is that it already has a presence through its 3,000 supermarkets so doesn't have huge costs. It is more a question of identifying where there is a need – and space – for a branch. However, that doesn't mean new branches are simply crammed into a corner by the meat counter. In fact, they offer full branch banking facilities with Horbury, for instance, having four staff. "We are looking at an ambitious expansion of in-store banks to grow our high-street presence and give customers a compelling alternative to the big five banks," added Mr Bulmer. "We are committed to providing personal banking in the most convenient way to customers and to expand the availability of our services across the UK."

That's good news for hundreds of thousands of people who currently have no bank within walking distance. With Tesco set to ramp up its banking services soon, and the Post Office's People's Bank in the offing, credible alternatives to the traditional lenders are finally emerging.

Disappearing branches

17,292 The number of UK banks in 1990

9,904 The number of branches in January 2010 – the latest figure available from the British Bankers' Association. There have been further closures since then

7,388 Branches closed in the 1990s and 2000s

-45% Reduction in the size of the branch network since 1990

950 Communities without any bank presence, according to the Campaign for Community Banking

170 The number of branches for every one million inhabitants in the United Kingdom

1,010 The number of branches for every one million inhabitants in Spain. In France the figure is 440, in Germany there are 480 branches per one million people, and in Italy it's 570

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style

ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Audit Manager Central Functions

    To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...

    Credit Risk Audit Manager

    Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week