Barclays has denied it is guilty of hypocrisy after announcing plans to close the final bank in Alston – just days after its boss said he was "particularly hostile" to such an idea.
The bank confirmed it will close its Alston, Cumbria, branch in December as a result of a continued decline in customer numbers. It means customers will have to travel 15 miles to visit the nearest Barclays branch, in Haltwhistle.
However, a Barclays spokesman pointed out that customers will still be able to carry out basic banking transactions – such as paying in cheques and paying bills – from local post offices.
The decision to close the last bank in town has angered the community, with some accusing Barclays' chairman John McFarlane of hypocrisy based on his comments in a media briefing last week.
Discussing his views on bank closures, Mr McFarlane said: "If anything I'm slowing down on branch closures rather than a speeding up, and I'm particularly hostile on the point about last branch in town, so I'm having interesting conversations around the corporation on that point."
Responding to the allegations, a Barclays' spokesman told the Press Association: "It's certainly not hypocritical. He said he was hostile to the idea, not wholly against it."
The bank also released an official statement, in which it said that it would never take the decision to close any bank lightly, and said it remained "acutely aware of the sensitivities of closing branches where we were the last in town."
It added: "We want customers to engage with us in ways that suit them, including face-to-face banking. The shape and size of our branch network is an evolving process, one involving assessment and reassessment based precisely on changing customer need.
"Where we close a branch, it is usually due to a significant reduction in usage of the branch as customers increasingly prefer the convenience and choice of digital, video and telephone banking and where a large number of customers are already using another of our nearby branches.
"When closing a branch, we will continue to support our customers in getting comfortable and confident in using other ways of banking including the local Post Office."
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