Alliance’s Strangford MLA, Kellie Armstrong has said that banks located in rural areas are a vital part of village life.
Ms Armstrong was speaking in the Assembly during a debate on the impact of rural bank closures. Kellie Armstrong said: “As a rural dweller, and as the representative of a largely rural constituency, I have seen first-hand how the closure of local bank branches has had a negative impact, particularly on older citizens and small rural businesses.
“I have heard from constituents where the Post Office alternative is no longer available because even the local Post Office branch has since closed. Or indeed the local Post Office is based in a village that you cannot travel to using public transport because the rural village to rural village route has been removed.
“I have heard from those constituents frustrated that online banking is the only alternative offered, when for that elderly citizen they will never use a computer, tablet or smartphone, even if they have broadband in their area.
“I believe the opinions of rural dwellers and businesses are not being considered enough. They feel abandoned and disillusioned by banks that have given little or no consideration to their everyday needs.
“Banks need to look again at their balance between profit and social responsibility. There is a generation of bank customers who are used to speaking to a local bank manager and will never use online banking.
“I recognise that some banks have been innovative in using a mobile bank, but that is not a solution available in every constituency. Should banks be looking at sharing premises with local Credit Unions, which are widely represented in rural communities?
“With predictions that the UK will lose another 50% of its total branch network over the next 10 years, it is time rural voices were heard.”