I represent twenty-three towns and villages in my constituency. These communities, mostly rural, have different identities and traditions but many have been left behind when it comes to the local services we all rely on.
You might have had your local bank closed in the past few years – whether that be Yorkshire Bank in Featherstone, HSBC in Hemsworth, Barclays in South Elmsall, or another.
What’s more, the remaining branches have reduced opening hours. Many local people are rightly worried about the loss of their local bank services, which is why I met with a number of the banks to voice their concerns and demand assurances that our rural communities would not be left behind.
We were told that most banking transactions can now be carried out at local post offices, so there would be no real loss to our communities. It’s now clear, however, that more and more of our post offices face closure in the coming years. I have been contacted by Postmasters in my constituency who have explained their branches could close due to the ongoing changes within the Post Office Company. Falling business and the Post Office Company’s push to increase profitability mean that Postmasters are being put under increased pressure.
This could lead to our rural communities being left without any permanent banking or post office services. The nearest service would then involve travelling to either Wakefield, Pontefract or Barnsley. To add insult to injury, due to the cuts to bus subsidies from Central Government, we have suffered from a marked reduction in bus services. This is making it more difficult for local people to travel to neighbouring towns and villages. One woman I met told me that because of a lack of bus services she has to walk over a mile on country roads in the dark to get to work on a morning.
With the loss of our banks, potential closure of post offices and reduction of buses, people from round here are being left without access to basic local services. Private companies are putting profit before people and letting our communities down.
I stood on a manifesto where we pledged to change the law so that banks can’t close a branch where there is a clear local need. They must put communities first. That manifesto included ending the closure of Crown Post Office branches too.