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Suffolk Coastal Liberal Democrat candidate Julia Ewart says closure of Leiston Barclays would be a disaster





A Westminster hopeful has called on Barclays to reverse its decision to close a town’s last remaining bank.

Julia Ewart, East Suffolk councillor for Kelsale and Yoxford and Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Suffolk Coastal, said the closure of Leiston’s Barclays on May 17 could be disastrous.

She estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 people in East Suffolk relied on the outlet and they may have to make as much as a three-hour round trip to Ipswich or Lowestoft for their banking needs when the branch shuts.

Julia Ewart is extremely disappointed in Barclays' decision to close its Leiston branch. Picture: Julia Ewart
Julia Ewart is extremely disappointed in Barclays' decision to close its Leiston branch. Picture: Julia Ewart

Barclays said it will open a pop-up branch in its place.

It said it was due to a drop in footfall, with 64 people using it regularly.

Cllr Ewart hosted a demonstration outside the bank over the weekend, with another scheduled for this Saturday.

Julia Ewart is the prospective parliamentary candidate for Suffolk Coastal. Picture: Julia Ewart
Julia Ewart is the prospective parliamentary candidate for Suffolk Coastal. Picture: Julia Ewart

Cllr Ewart said she was worried about the future of banks in the area and the potential of having none left in the constituency was unacceptable.

“It’s not just Leiston, it also serves people from across the district, from Southwold to Saxmundham and as far afield as Woodbridge,” she said.

“Typically I find people in Suffolk are very tolerant to modernity, learning how to use banking apps and digital banking, but they appear to be livid with this decision.

“It’s unfortunate because there are people of a certain age who may struggle with the other forms of banking and who rely on a physical branch.

“It’s been said that the bank is only used by about 60 people regularly, but when I last visited the branch, which I frequently do, I was besieged by people.”

Barclays operates a pop-up bank in Framlingham – outside of Cllr Ewart’s constituency – following the closure of the town’s branch last year.

However, Cllr Ewart said service at pop-up branches was very limited and feared people would not be comfortable divulging personal matters in a small room full of people

She also called for transparency on what services would be available at Post Offices.

Barclays shut its branch in Woodbridge last year, with Lloyds the only bank remaining in the town.

There is a HSBC in Saxmundham as well as a Nationwide, TSB and Santander in Felixstowe.

Halesworth, Southwold, Kesgrave and Martlesham have no remaining banks.

Cllr Ewart said the closure of Leiston’s Barclays could be ‘lifestyle changing’ due to the distance from other banks or branches.

Elderly or disabled people could struggle to meet banking needs, she said.

Cllr Ewart added: “The bank states it is doing this for customers, but who does this help? How does it makes things easier? Is this the best they can do?

“Politicians have said it’s disappointing, but I think it’s more than that. The bank expects people to be very accommodating, but it’s come at an inappropriate time. There’s no transition period to get used to the changes.

“And on the cost-of-living crisis, will people feel comfortable discussing their needs at pop-up branches?

“My stance is that I will be getting data and putting it to the bank about how it’s irresponsible to shut the branch to so many people.

“This is not how you treat customers.”

Barclays has been approached for comment.