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Closing Highgate Barclays will ‘leave behind’ elderly and vulnerable, MP and residents warn

PUBLISHED: 15:43 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:34 22 August 2020

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West has written to Barclays to object the closure. Picture: Google Maps/Joshua Thurston

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West has written to Barclays to object the closure. Picture: Google Maps/Joshua Thurston

Archant

Fears are growing over “vast swathes” of “forgotten” residents being “left behind” by the closure of Highgate’s last high street bank.

The Barclays branch, which has served Highgate customers for more than a hundred years, is set to shut down on October 30.

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West is campaigning against the closure and said that the Highgate branch is a “vital lifeline” for people without internet access.

Barclays said the decision was taken due to a “sustained fall” in branch visits, and it claims all staff will be offered jobs elsewhere in the company.

But Tony Baker, a 76-year-old Highgate resident, says he worries for the village’s future as a shopping destination.

A customer of Highgate Barclays for nearly 50 years, Tony told the Ham&High: “One of the main reasons I go to Highgate Village is for the bank, so in the future I won’t have that pull.

“I think it’s a very serious downward step for the village.”

Once his Highgate bank shuts, Tony says he’ll be forced away from the area and into Muswell Hill to use the next nearest branch there.

Tony, the former chair of the Harrington Scheme, continued: “We seem to be driving society towards not using cash, which is very difficult for the elderly and people with learning difficulties.

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“These sorts of people are forgotten by society and there are quite a lot of them.”

Elspeth Clements, chair of the Highgate Society, echoed Tony’s concerns about an area that has lost three bank branches in recent years.

Elspeth told this newspaper: “The impact of this on businesses who rely on cash as well as those who either choose not to or are unable to use electronic banking will be enormous.”

Catherine West MP said the Highgate closure would be a “real blow”.

“The ongoing digitalisation of our world is good for many, but it risks leaving behind vast swathes of people who do not have the ability to do online banking or access online services,” Ms West said.

“To these groups, and those Barclays have identified as high use, these branches are vital ways to manage their lives and they need to be supported.”

A Barclays spokesperson commented: “The decision to close a branch is never an easy one. However, customers are increasingly using alternatives to branches to do their banking.”

Barclays said it was seeing a “sustained fall” in branch visits across the UK. This included Highgate where there had been a 19 per cent fall in over-the-counter transactions in the two years up to last December.

The high street bank, which employs around 83,500 people worldwide, said fewer than 10% of transactions now take place inside a branch and that it will offer virtual “tea and teach” sessions for customers to learn online banking.

Its spokesperson added: “We will work with our customers and provide alternative options to ensure they can continue to manage their money and receive financial expertise when required.”

Barclays recently reported a 58% fall in pre-tax profits to £1.3bn.


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