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 visited the Sevenoaks Crown Post Office, South Park on 25th July to mark the extension of the Post Office’s current account facility to Sevenoaks. Michael met the local manager, regional manager and local staff and was given the background to this new venture. Now customers will be able to open a Post Office current account, in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK, with a minimum balance of £20 and take advantage of other generous offers.
Michael officially visited refurbished Hextable Post Office, which is now open significantly longer opening hours for customers. The branch, at McColls Retail Group Ltd, 2 Home Hill, Hextable, Swanley, BR8 7RR is now a new local-style open-plan branch, which offers Post Office services from a till at the retail counter alongside retail transactions during shop opening hours.
Post Office customers now benefit from opening hours being increased to 107 hours a week as the new branch is open Monday to Saturday: 06:00–21:30; Sunday: 07:00-21:00. This offers customers an extra 56 hours of Post Office service every week, including all day Sunday. The branch also opens significantly earlier and closes much later every day.
Michael said: “The branch looks great. The open-plan counter makes it far easier for staff and customers to talk without the need to talk loudly. The opening hours really are impressive, which makes it far more convenient for people with busy lives to visit Hextable Post Office any day of the week.”
Post Office Senior Stakeholder Manager, Martine Munby, said: “We understand how important having a Post Office is to residents in Hextable and we are confident this new modern Post Office service will meet the needs of the local community and secure services for the future. This modernisation is part of a major investment programme, the largest in the history of the Post Office and marks a commitment to no more branch closure programmes.”
Under the current Parliament the Government has committed £1.34bn for the Post Office network to make sure there is no programme of Post Office closures and to update branches; in November the Government announced a further £640m investment in the Post Office network, from 2015 to 2018.
Nationwide the investment programme will see up to 8,000 branches modernised with additional investment in over 3,000 community and outreach branches.
The Post Office, now independent of Royal Mail, is the largest retail network in the UK, with over 11,500 branches. It is also one of the fastest growing financial services companies and is developing its online and telephony services.
Ide Hill Post Office, which had been temporarily closed for more than two years, had an official opening ceremony on Friday 27 September, at its new location – the newly-built Ide Hill Community Shop, next to the Village Hall.
Michael cut the ribbon to open the new Community Shop and Post Office at 8pm. This was followed by a big village celebration, hosted by The Chairman of the Ide Hill Community Shop Community Interest Company, Andy Edmonds, and the new Subpostmaster Richard French, to thank everyone who had helped with the shop and Post Office project.
Ide Hill Post Office was forced to close temporarily in July 2011 due to the withdrawal of the old premises for Post Office use. From 28 September it is operating from the new Ide Hill Community Shop. Until recently the shop had been run from a shipping container organised by the Ide Hill Community Shop Community Interest Company. The group then rallied villagers and local businesses to raise funds for more suitable premises, which could also accommodate a Post Office.
Mr Fallon said: “Post Offices are vital to the local community and I am so pleased that Ide Hill once again has a Post Office. I am delighted to be re-opening this branch at a wonderful new location. The new Village Shop has been funded by villagers and businesses; this shows just what is possible when a community puts its mind to a project. Everyone involved should be congratulated.
“The Post Office is now open for longer hours than before and is conveniently open seven days a week. The branch will be open for the same number of hours as the Village Shop.”
The branch is now one of the Post Office’s modern new-style open-plan “local” branches. Post Office Local is a new concept for delivering Post Office services from an open plan counter with Post Office products and services available alongside retail transactions during shop opening hours, allowing Post Office services to be available for longer offering greater convenience to customers.
The new opening hours are Monday to Friday: 08:30 – 16.30; Saturday: 08.30 – 14.30; Sunday: 08.30 – 12.30.
Subpostmaster Richard French said: “This is a very proud day for myself and the residents of Ide Hill, who have worked extremely hard to fundraise to make a dream of a village shop and a Post Office in a wonderful new building become a reality. This fabulous shop and Post Office will mean that residents will have essential services right on their doorstep.
“There has been a terrific Community Interest Committee, including our superb Chairman, Andrew Edmonds, which masterminded plans for the shop. Our plans would have amounted to nothing without the generosity and support of villagers from Ide Hill