The COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult period for a great many small businesses, not least those populating our high streets. There were many that contacted me over the last two years to ask for help to stay open, or even to stay in business at all. I have always endeavoured to help where I can and to feed up to the Treasury ideas and suggestions coming from businesses in my constituency.
Now that we are emerging from the pandemic, pressures and priorities are changing and the challenges for many high streets are not what they were six months ago. Footfall has drastically increased as we have escaped lockdown restrictions and there are once again more customers for our local high street businesses.
However, I have been noticing more and more difficulties for customers and communities alike to get access to cash. I was dismayed to find that a great many bank branches across my constituency, but particularly in Beaconsfield and Marlow, have been scheduled to close this year. This presents a real problem as many high street businesses are reliant on cash transactions to survive.
When these branch closures were announced, I arranged crisis talks with the banks to make sure they had good reason to be closing, and that they had made proper arrangements for customers to be informed and have access to core banking services. I have secured assurances from them that they will individually contact the customers who use their banks regularly and facilitate alternative access to the services they currently use. For some this will be support to move to online or telephone banking and for others it will be alternative providers such as the Post Office.
I am continuing to push this issue in Westminster as often as I can. I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to urge him to speed up the commitment made by the Government to legislate on securing access to cash. Some steps have already been taken in the Financial Services Act 2021, which was certainly a step in the right direction, ensuring access to cashback without a purchase. Just this morning I attended an event in Parliament looking at how we safeguard access to cash. For many constituents, and for High Streets everywhere, it is essential.