I AM writing to join my voice to those of the many who, as reported in an article in last Thursday’s Craven Herald, and highlighted in the paper’s leader, reacted with dismay and outrage to the news that Barclays Skipton branch would soon be closing. (Skipton Barclays to close, Craven Herald, December 7)

The news came as a particular disappointment to me because I had on several occasions courteously represented to Barclays, both in the branch itself and in communications sent in response to the bank’s own requests for feedback, that the key value of service lying at the heart of banking was in the process of being eroded by the present observable move towards depersonalisation.

This disappointment is all the greater because on the last occasion when I expressed my views on the subject to a member of Barclays staff, I was assured that it was most unlikely that the branch would close.

It is particularly galling to note that a Barclays spokesperson is quoted as saying “with the majority of people preferring to bank online, we need to adapt to provide the best service for all our customers” – when, as is well known, it is the bank itself that has for years now been pressurising its customers to transition to online banking. Nor has it escaped notice how opportunistically the banks made use of the Covid lockdown in order to close down branches, or severely scale back the level of personal service offered.

If one had any doubt that these measures were part of the drive towards the cashless society, this is dispelled by the spokesperson’s admission towards the end of the article: “In Skipton we plan to open a Barclays Local, a cashless banking site where customers can meet a colleague face-to-face for banking support, as they would in a branch and without the need to travel.”

The proposed closure seems unfriendly to the public in so many ways that it is hard to know where to begin! However, I fully agree with the various considerations attributed to Cllr Andy Solloway in the article, as well as those cited in the editorial. If I had to summarise all the numerous points to be made, I would say that there is ultimately no substitute for the personal touch.

I think Cllr Solloway is right in opining that, if this closure goes ahead, the bank’s present customers – including the vulnerable categories mentioned – may prefer to transfer their business to other enterprises which still adhere to traditional values.

Yet on the other hand, if Barclays reconsider this closure, they may perceive that it is after all in their own best interests to follow the example of Booths in returning to personal service. As people become increasingly alienated by the impersonality of digitalization, those who continue to offer good old-fashioned service may well find that their businesses prosper accordingly.

Mark Hellaby