The picturesque market town of Hebden Bridge is just one of the many communities across Britain fearful of being pushed towards a cashless society.
Situated eight miles west of Halifax, this West Yorkshire town is an artistic hub with more than 20 independent coffee houses and cafes – as well as dozens of boutique shops serving more than a million tourists every year.
But despite being such a vibrant place, the last bank in town, Lloyds, unceremoniously slammed shut its doors for the final time earlier this year – at the same time ripping out the cash machine.
Hebden Bridge is one of many communities fearful of being pushed towards a cashless society
Lloyds’ closure follows those of the Barclays and NatWest branches. All three buildings are boarded up. The closures are mirrored across Calderdale, resulting in a 15-mile stretch from Todmorden to Brighouse bereft of banks.
Lloyds customer Gus Crossley was relaxing opposite the shut bank at Hebden Bridge Sports & Social Club when The Mail on Sunday visited the town.
The 68-year-old said: ‘The drive towards a cashless society is a trick devised by the banks to get more power over how we spend. No one is fooled by Lloyds’ phoney adverts claiming the bank is “by your side.”
‘It just wants to squeeze every last penny out of us. Closing a bank is 100 per cent about saving money – to hell with loyal customers.’
He added: ‘Now we are left with just two banks in town – grass ones by the canal and river.’
Despite banks claiming contactless payment is the future, Gus is one of more than two million Britons who uses cash for day-to-day needs and refuses to be bullied into banking on the internet. Finding somewhere to get hold of cash in Hebden Bridge is now a challenge.
Lloyds’ hole in the wall is covered by an 18 millimetre thick sheet of plywood that was replaced last month after someone drew a picture of a cat with the words: ‘Put your money in the kitty – you will never see it again.’
Despite banks claiming contactless payment is the future, more than two million Britons use cash for day-to-day needs and refuse to be bullied into banking on the internet
It means there is now only a NatWest ATM in the town square where people regularly queue for up to half an hour to get money. There is also a cash machine in a Co-op store but another in a One Stop shop is regularly out of order.
Lloyds claims it wielded the axe in Hebden Bridge because of customers’ ‘changing needs’. Yet at the time of closure, the branch was 11 per cent busier than it had been a year earlier.
It now pays lip service to the customers’ needs with a mobile bank that visits every Monday and Thursday from 11am until 2pm. But the service is limited. Kay Taylor was frustrated when she visited it, parked up on a cobbled square by the canal.
With mother Brenda Taylor, 76, who recently moved to the town, the 54-year-old told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We wanted to transfer money from a house sale, but the van could not help. Staff said we must visit a branch miles away in Halifax for assistance.’
She added: ‘Like most people, I enjoy the option of paying by credit or debit card, but notes and coins are vital.
‘Cash in the hand is the only thing that feels real in the modern world of finance. Talk of a cashless society is a frightening prospect.’
Florist Anne Worden is furious with the banks’ push towards a cashless society – and believes that closing branches in the town is bad for business.
The 63-year-old manager of the Willow Garden said: ‘What a disgrace thriving market towns should be treated in such a shabby way. We bailed the banks out when they caused the financial crisis. Even though taxpayers ended up owning Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland, the two banks still had the nerve to pull the plug on our town.’
Anne pointed to the car park in front of her shop which costs 70p an hour. She said: ‘Tourists are incredulous when we tell them we not only have no banks, but that it is hard to find anywhere to get cash. Contactless payments are convenient, but for transactions under £10 we insist on cash. Otherwise, the only ones that make money are the banks.’
Nearby is the post office which provides basic banking facilities. It struggles with the demand for its services. A queue of 20 customers snakes out of the entrance.
Lloyds was asked to comment on closing its Hebden Bridge branch. It said: ‘The way customers choose to bank has changed significantly in recent years. We continue to review our presence to ensure branches are located in the right places.
‘When we make the difficult decision to close a branch, our customers and the local community are the first to know.’
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