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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

    £350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

    Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

    £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Orgtel are seeking Graduate Trainee Re...

    HR Business Partner - Banking Finance - Brentwood - £45K

    £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: ** HR Business Partner - Senior H...

    PA / Team Secretary - Wimbledon

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: PA / Team Secretary - Mat...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz