Michael has warned consumers to defend themselves online at an information session on safe and secure banking in Swanley on Saturday.
The session was hosted by Barclays and was organised by Michael following the announced closure of the Farningham branch. Designed to help customers to explore the alternatives to branch banking, experts were on-hand at the event to explain what services are available through the Post office and through online, mobile and telephone banking.
It was a good opportunity for the local MP to discuss the work that Barclays has done to support Farningham customers with Will Dixon, the Community Banking Director for Barclays in Kent, and Judith Gafatchi, the Swanley branch manager.
Crucially, the event also covered digital safety where local residents learned to protect themselves from financial fraud and scams.
Michael said: ‘Banks have a duty to ensure all residents affected by sudden branch closures are still able to access banking simply, safely and securely. Learning to defend yourself online is vital in this digital age. I will continue to work with banks to ensure everyone can access the services they need.’
Michael has said discussions with Barclays regarding the announced closure of their Farningham branch have been ‘constructive’.
‘There is a regrettable trend away from high street banks to online banking, which is understandable but can leave local businesses and customers dependent on the bank with few other options’, Michael said. ‘That’s why it’s important that Barclays now support the community in delivering alternative banking provision.’
In their letter to Michael, Barclays said 74 customers have been identified as being dependent on the Farningham branch. Barclays have assured Michael that they will contact each of these customers to ensure they have a better understanding of the alternative banking options available.
‘I welcome the support Barclays plans to provide in our area during this transitional period’, Michael said. ‘Our job now is to ensure that customers and businesses do receive this support and that local premises that can offer full banking services for customers and businesses are able to do so.’
Michael has contacted Barclays for a further meeting. He hopes to organise an event in the constituency whereby customers dependent on the Farningham branch are trained in accessing alternative banking safely and securely.
Following the announcement that the Barclays bank branch in Farningham will close in September, Michael has written to the Barclays CEO expressing his disappointment at the decision.
Michael expressed his concern that his constituents may be left without access to the banking services they need, asking what consultations Barclays has held with its customers and businesses before announcing the closure.
‘I am concerned that my constituents have not been sufficiently consulted before the decision was taken by Barclays to close their local branch’, he writes: ‘a strong local economy needs the support of a good local bank.’
Barclays says that its customers have been informed and recommended customers use local Post Offices for their banking services. But Michael urges Barclays to ensure that the local Post Offices ‘meet the full range of customer needs’ for personal customers and businesses in his letter.
The proposed closure of Barclays in Farningham comes two months after Lloyds Bank announced that its New Ash Green branch would close in July. Michael sent a letter along with a petition opposing the closure signed by over 900 people to Lloyds Banking Group calling for answers.
Michael said: ‘This closure may have a huge impact on the lives of people and businesses in Farningham. We need answers from Barclays. I will continue to work with local councillors, businesses and residents, and the Post Office itself, to ensure that my constituents will not be left without the services they rely on.’
HW Coldbreath Butchers is a historic firm which traces its origins to 1861. The business, now run by Master Butcher Robert Martin, is being expanded with support from Barclays. It closed recently for refurbishment for several weeks but it is now back in action with more space and better equipment.
Robert was trained by his late father, Chris, who had over 40 years’ experience in supplying premium quality meat and poultry having taken over the business in 1976.
Michael performed the re-opening ceremony, congratulated Robert and his team on the new look premises and wished them well for the future.
The Martin family has a prize-winning herd of cattle based at Ightham which provides the business with its own home-grown beef. Their commitment to quality means that they have expanded beyond their loyal local customer base and now supply the National Trust, local independent schools, restaurants and golf clubs. They also have a popular catering service which specialises in hog roasts – one of which was being put on at the time of the re-opening.