Campaigner of the Week: Chris Elmore MP
Chris Elmore talks to Georgina Bailey about why access to cash via Post Offices is vital for constituencies across the country
Chris Elmore, Labour MP for Ogmore
Following Barclays’ announcement that they were ending over-the-counter cash withdrawals from Post Office, Elmore organised a letter from 124 MPs across eight parties to the CEO of Barclays bank, calling on them to reverse their decision. Elmore’s concern was that the decision, which was due to take effect from January 2020, would exacerbate wider issues around access to cash in the UK and could potentially lead other banks to follow suit.
Barlcays’ policy is that they would provide alternative arrangements to access cash where there is not a branch or ATM within a kilometre. For Elmore, “for an older person or a more vulnerable person [that] would be a really significant distance, given that there are no Barclays banks in my constituency. I won’t be the only MP without the access to an ATM within a kilometre and if the Post Office service is reduced that makes it even more difficult to access cash”.
As Elmore sees it, “banks are not restricting access to the money, but they’re making it more difficult to access it freely.” When banks began to close local branches, the arrangements with the Post Office were highlighted as a way of maintaining banking provisions in communities. With over 3,000 high street branches closing in the last four and a half years, any further retraction of services “just isn’t good enough” in Elmore’s eyes. “I think [my constituents have] been promised something that a bank has reneged on and I think that’s wrong”.
“There’s still a huge part of population, not just older people, but vulnerable people… the small charities that work locally that need that face-to-face banking access.”
Younger constituents have also been in touch about the issue he says. “If you are talking about isolated communities, being able to get their cash out in their communities – that has an economic impact.”
Following Elmore’s letter, Barclays agreed to meet with him to explain their decision. “I still don’t see how they can square this,” he said at the time.
“This is a multi-billion-pound organisation… clearly banks make commercial decisions, but they are also meant to be there to serve their customer base”. He also raised the issue at Business Questions, in an attempt to bring ministers to the chamber, either to answer questions from MPs or for a wider debate on Access to Cash.
Following a push by ministers and other MPs, including BEIS Committee Chair Rachel Reeves who met with Barclays, the bank has now announced that have been “persuaded to rethink [their] proposals”, and customers will still be able to make over-the-counter withdrawals from the Post Office going forward.
“I’m delighted that Barclays have listened to and acted on the very real concerns that I and hundreds of MPs from across the country raised about ensuring our communities have access to their hard-earned cash. But these plans should never have progressed as far as they did,” Elmore says.
“I will continue to work constructively with Barclays and other key players in the banking sector to help ensure no community is left behind as our economy further digitises.
“Barclays customers in Ogmore and across the UK will be very pleased to hear this news but we must continue to keep the pressure on Treasury ministers and banks to ensure those who need it have access to the key banking services they deserve and are entitled to expect.”