MP takes bank bat­tle to the top

Con­cerns raised with Trea­sury and RBS

Strathearn Herald - - INTIMATIONS - Lynn Duke

MP Luke Gra­ham is con­tin­u­ing to press the Trea­sury and Royal Bank of Scot­land for so­lu­tions fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment that 62 RBS branches will close, in­clud­ing the one in Com­rie.

Mr Gra­ham has de­scribed the move as mis­guided. The mem­ber for Ochil and South Perthshire was amongst the MPs who re­cently wrote to Trea­sury min­is­ter Stephen Bar­clay ex­press­ing their con­cern, and con­cerns of their con­stituents, about the planned clo­sures. The MPs with af­fected branches in their con­stituen­cies have also met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from RBS to raise con­cerns in per­son.

On Mon­day night, Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive MPs par­tic­i­pated in the ad­journ­ment de­bate in the House of Com­mons on the Royal Bank of Scot­land branch clo­sures.

Com­ment­ing on the de­bate, Mr Gra­ham said: “There is a huge level of con­cern about RBS clo­sures across Scot­land, in par­tic­u­lar the im­pact on ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

“Al­ter­na­tives for lo­cal branches do not pro­vide a re­al­is­tic sub­sti­tute, for ex­am­ple poor broad­band ac­cess in Scot­land re­strict­ing the use of on­line bank­ing.

“We be­lieve this de­ci­sion by RBS to be mis­guided and with in­ad­e­quate mit­i­ga­tions, and the first pri­or­ity is find­ing a so­lu­tion that works for our con­stituents. Meet­ings have been held with stake­hold­ers and in­dus­try bod­ies to find ac­cept­able, free-to-ac­cess al­ter­na­tives, and we will con­tinue to press the Trea­sury and RBS to come to a sat­is­fac­tory de­ci­sion.”

The let­ter to Trea­sury min­is­ter Stephen Bar­clay, which was sent on De­cem­ber 13 reads:

Dear Stephen, I am writ­ing on be­half of the twelve back­bench Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive and Union­ist MPs to reg­is­ter our con­cerns with you over the an­nounce­ment by the Royal Bank of Scot­land ( RBS) of the clo­sure of 62 branches in Scot­land.

Last week we met as a group with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of RBS to raise our con­cerns and those of our con­stituents, and to make clear our op­po­si­tion to the pro­posed clo­sures. Whilst we ac­cept that ef­forts have been made to mit­i­gate these clo­sures, we were not re­as­sured. Put sim­ply, we felt these mit­i­ga­tions are in­suf­fi­cient:

In many ru­ral con­stituen­cies, the broad­band con­nec­tion re­quired for in­ter­net bank­ing is sim­ply in­suf­fi­cient to be a vi­able al­ter­na­tive.

Post Of­fices are of­ten closed or are sub­sidiary post of­fices, and there­fore un­able to pro­vide the ser­vices re­quired.

Mo­bile van banks are in­suf­fi­cient as they will only visit a town or vil­lage once or twice a week, leav­ing many ru­ral con­stituents de­pen­dent upon a round trip of sev­eral hours sim­ply to reach their near­est branch.

Given the pub­lic stake in RBS, we were also ex­tremely con­cerned that the rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the bank couldn’t ar­tic­u­late any sav­ings to im­prove share­holder re­turn to off­set against these clo­sures.

We ac­cept that this is a com­mer­cial de­ci­sion for RBS, and we will con­tinue to make the case di­rectly to them that this is a mis­guided de­ci­sion with in­ad­e­quate mit­i­ga­tions. How­ever, we would also be keen to meet with you to dis­cuss the wider is­sue of bank­ing in more ru­ral parts of Scot­land. Our ex­pe­ri­ence is that peo­ple in these ar­eas nec­es­sar­ily bank in a dif­fer­ent way to the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion – and that na­tional trends mask the re­al­ity in some of the com­mu­ni­ties we rep­re­sent.

Ac­cess to bank­ing is a ne­ces­sity, wherever some­one lives. If com­mer­cial banks are no longer in­tend­ing to serve ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, then we have a duty to un­der­stand the needs of these com­mu­ni­ties and how we can use the levers we con­trol to en­sure they can be met.

We would be grate­ful for a meet­ing with you at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble con­ve­nience to dis­cuss this is­sue fur­ther.

Clo­sure The Royal Bank of Scot­land in Com­rie

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