AN UNUSUAL pilgrimage to save the last bank in his town has been undertaken by the Vicar.
The Vicar of St Peter's, Askern, in South Yorkshire, the Revd David Franklin, walked 15 miles to Doncaster and back, along a busy main road, to highlight the journey that people in the town will have to make to visit a bank from the autumn.
HSBC has announced that it is closing its Askern branch on 4 September, together with dozens of others around the country. It is the last bank to leave the South Yorkshire town, which has a population of 6000 people.
Mr Franklin was seen off on his pilgrimage by the town's mayor and councillors. When he arrived in Doncaster at the HSBC, he was called into a meeting with managers.
"I've been a personal customer of HSBC for 30 years," he said, "and I always thought they had a better reputation than others. But this isn't a personal issue - banks are important for the social fabric of a place.
"The new banking protocols which HSBC signed up to in May mean they have to offer suitable alternatives to all their customers. And, as yet, some people in Askern haven't even been told that the bank is going to close."
His church does its banking at HSBC. Although personal customers will be able to withdraw money using the post office in the town, the church and other business customers will not be able to, but will have to drive, or make the one-hour bus journey to Doncaster.
"People are very concerned. There is some resignation - people were prepared for the worse - but a lot of frustration and anger."
He has been invited back next week to HSBC to meet more senior managers. "I'm not expecting my actions to make them suddenly decide they aren't going to close the bank, but I want to hear how they are going to look after their customers. In Askern, there are a lot of elderly people, and they are very worried."
In a statement, HSBC said: "We never take the decision to close a branch lightly, and we understand it's unsettling for the local community. Unfortunately, use of the Askern branch has fallen significantly over the past few years, and we've taken the difficult decision to close it.
"We are working with customers who use the branch to help them understand their options, which include being able to use the Askern post office to check their balance and withdraw and pay in cash and cheques to their HSBC account. There are also fee-free cash machines nearby.”