From Mr David Williams
Sir, — While the Budget contained some provision for the expansion of banking services within the Post Office, it will not do much to help the Church.
There are normally estimated to be approximately 10,000 villages in the UK — most still with a church. About one fifth of all churches today operate in a rural environment, many far from the traditional High Street. In smaller villages, the church and the pub may be the only places where money still changes hands regularly, sometimes supplemented by the local post office and village shop if still viable.
Churches, like pubs, operate a business account with the banks. Under both existing rules and those now proposed in the Budget, business banking in Post Office branches will remain extremely limited. Barclays, NatWest, Lloyds, or HSBC, the traditional “big four” banks likely to be used by the majority of churches, do not, and will not, provide over-the-counter business services through the post office. At the same time, churches are often constrained in banking online by the imposed diocesan rules for counter-signature and dual-person accounting.
Under current arrangements, business banking in post offices is restricted to a rump of minor banks that few churches are likely to be using — Bank of Ireland, Clydesdale, Alliance & Leicester Commercial, and, as announced in the Budget, Santander. Church treasurers wishing to pay in cheques and cash with the other major banks are likely to have to continue to make trips to the nearest town — hardly convenient for those who are retired.
The inability of a church treasurer to bank collections in the village is a direct consequence of the failure of the Post Office and the “big four” to come to agreement over the use of post offices for cash and cheque deposits. As matters stand, I have to drive 15 miles to make cash and cheque deposits for my village church, while having a village post office on my doorstep.
With the recent move by some village churches themselves to becoming local post offices, we have the incongruous position that even a church operating as a post office is still not be able to offer business-banking deposit services to its own treasurer under the Budget proposals.
The Old Farm House
Kent CT15 4DJ