Anger over banking giant’s plan to close its Mirfield branch

COUNTING THE COST: Martin Ibberson outside the HSBC bank which is to close in April. (d09021103)
COUNTING THE COST: Martin Ibberson outside the HSBC bank which is to close in April. (d09021103)

THE closure of a historic Mirfield bank has been branded as ‘cynically dishonest’.

Angry residents say closing the HSBC branch will hit the town hard.

But HSBC insists the Huddersfield Road office is one of the most under-used in the country.

The branch, which has been in the town centre for more than 125 years, will close on April 28. The three members of staff are being offered jobs elsewhere.

Fr Gregory Knowles, parish priest at St Aidan’s church, said the move was ‘pulling the rug from under our feet’.

Along with the church, he is a long-term account holder at the branch.

“I am very unhappy about this,” he said. “We have to think about the elderly, those with no transport.”

HSBC said the ‘difficult decision’ was taken in the light of growing telephone and internet banking and was part of services ‘evolving and developing’.

“The cynical dishonesty in portraying the decision as an improvement in service is disgusting,” said Fr Gregory.

“Lots of local people and businesses who use the branch will now have to trail all the way to Dewsbury, Heckmondwike or Brighouse.”

In a letter to customers, HSBC flagged up Heckmondwike and Brighouse as the nearest alternative branches – even though Dewsbury is actually closer being three miles away. The two recommended alternative branches are more than four miles away.

Businessman Martin Ibberson, co-founder of the My Mirfield shopping voucher scheme, echoed the criticism.

“We are trying to encourage people to come into our town centres and banks moving out doesn’t help,” he said. “People coming to use the bank often spend in shops and that kind of trade is vital. This is a real blow for the town, with all the other cuts going on.”

A spokesman for HSBC said: “We spend over £75m a year on improving our branch network, opening 170 more offices, including Dewsbury, for longer on a Saturday to meet demand.

“Our branches must be in the right locations and sometimes this means we need to close branches where customer footfall has fallen dramatically. The Mirfield office is only open for limited hours and customer use has fallen significantly. It is now one of the most under-used branches in the country.

“We are working with its small number of customers to see if we can help them ahead of the closure.”

l The HSBC branch celebrated 125 years in Mirfield in 2009. It opened as Huddersfield Banking Company in 1884, later joining with the Midland Bank which went on to become HSBC, retaining its original oak counter.