‘OUTSIDE the box’ thinking is needed to help bank customers in Otley.

The town is still reeling from the news that its Santander branch is to close on May 16, following previous branch closures by Barclays, NatWest, TSB and HSBC.

Labour’s Otley and Yeadon ward candidate in this year’s Leeds City Council elections, Elliot Nathan, says that has serious implications for customers - and the local economy.

Mr Nathan is calling on the banks themselves, plus local businesses and politicians, to think creatively to ensure those who rely on face-to-face banking continue to be served.

He said: “Banks are closing because more and more people are using internet banking, but that means people who don’t have access to - or know how to use - the internet are left out in the cold.

“Many older people prefer a face-to-face service with a real person, and Otley has a higher than average older population.

“You can’t put the internet banking genie back in the the bottle, so we need to look at measures that fill the gaps the banks are leaving.

“Could there be more local support for people wanting to learn how to use internet banking? What about cash machines in areas where access to cash is difficult, such as north of the river in Otley?

“Or local help for people who want to switch banks? And local information about services offered by credit unions and mutual societies, which are banking services owned by their customers, not shareholders?

“I’d welcome a debate on what we can do locally to help bank customers who can’t, or don’t want to, use the internet.”

Liberal Democrat ward councillors also believe the banks need to 'put something back'.

Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: "We have already written to Santander asking them to reconsider the closure of their branches in Otley and Yeadon.

"Banks are happy to make a profit out of our area but we believe they have an obligation to put something back by providing a service to the community. We hope Santander's conscience will be pricked and they will rethink their plans".

Councillor Ryk Downes (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) added: "The Government needs to step in and include banking facilities in any strategy it brings forward to maintain the vitality of our high streets.

"If the private sector is unable to do this then the Government should guarantee that banks it bailed out during the financial crisis are made to give something back."

Mr Nathan, meanwhile, is keen to hear residents’ suggestions on the issue - ideas can be sent by e-mail to otleyandyeadonlabour@gmail.com .