THE news that Lloyds is closing branches in rural towns was attacked as ‘another blow to local businesses’ by vice chair of the chamber of commerce James Spencer.

The bank has confirmed that branches in Salcombe, Modbury, South Brent and Dartmouth are to permanently close their doors in March 2017 to be replaced with a mobile banking service.

Kingsbridge and Salcombe Chamber of Commerce vice chair, representing Salcombe, James Spencer said: ‘Another blow to rural businesses and this time hitting Salcombe particularly. Lloyds’ decision will discourage start-ups in Salcombe and prevent member-businesses from growing. Be under no illusion, there will be fewer South Hams careers for school leavers and other local people as a result.

‘The mobile alternative Lloyds is proposing will help to mitigate the impact on our Salcombe members but we have no detail of how frequently and where that resource will be made available, so it may in fact turn out to be unhelpful and short-lived.’

‘Chamber members have been loyal, paying customers of Lloyds Bank for many decades and do not deserve this blow. Lloyds Bank has a lot to answer for.’

A spokesperson for Lloyds Bank said: ’We can confirm that we will be closing our branches in Modbury, South Brent, Salcombe and Dartmouth in March next year.

’These branches have been identified for closure because of the changing way customers choose to bank with us. The majority of customers now regularly use alternative branches or use other ways to bank, such as using online and telephone banking to complete their banking needs.

’We apologise for any inconvenience that these changes may cause, and have informed customers of the closest alternative branches.’

The spokesperson continued: ’We remain committed to these communities and we will be introducing a new mobile branch banking service to support the customers affected by these closures, alongside other ways to access banking locally.

’Our mobile branches are designed to be flexible and provide services, such as making deposits, withdrawing cash and paying bills, as well as helping customers use online banking and make general account or product enquiries. These mobile branches will be on the road from March and April next year.’

Debs Ward, manager of the Salcombe Information Centre, called the news of the closure ‘very, very sad’ and warned that it would have ‘knock on effects’ across the town.

‘We’re gutted’, said Debs, ‘Not only is the branch going, but they’re taking the cash machine too, so we will have one cash machine for the whole town. With a footfall of 25,000 in the summer, and one cash machine that very rarely works and often chews up people’s cards, its not going to fulfil the needs of the town.

‘And where are businesses going to get their change? The bank manager told us they had negotiated with Malborough Post Office for change, but if you move your car, you lose your parking space.

‘I know this is a sign of the times and people have bank cards and contactless now, but not everyone does. We are all cash here because we can’t afford the rent of the card machine, and the contactless ones are even more expensive.

‘From a small business point of view, and there are lots of small businesses in the town, its going to be very difficult. July, August and September are going to be very difficult. Its very, very sad.’

David Stevens, treasurer of Holy Trinity Church and chairman of Cliff House Trust, wrote to Lloyds to say that ‘the decision was made without public consultation’ and it shows ‘no loyalty to their customers’.

He said: ‘As well as the inconvenience, at Cliff House after a wedding, there is often more than £2,500 to bank. You are now asking one of our female staff to carry this around, drive to Kingsbridge, park and walk through the town to the bank. A high security risk. They will have to be provided with an escort, meaning extra staff costs. The same applies to the church after Sunday services.

‘The population of Salcombe swells to more than 25,000 in the summer and there is always a queue for the cash point machine. The bank does benefit by this increase in numbers.

‘Closing Salcombe is also not a good commercial decision from the bank’s point of view. At present you face no competition, but in Kingsbridge there are other banks customers could change to, if dissatisfied with the service provided by Lloyds.’

He has asked for a face-to-face meeting with ‘the person who made this decision’ so a ‘proper consultation could take place’ and would be helpful to have someone who could make ‘an instant decision for Salcombe to remain open’.

A group campaigning to ’Keep Lloyds Bank in Modbury’ has already appeared on Facebook, with a poll asking people to respond to the question ’Do you believe Lloyds bank should reconsider its decision to close the Modbury branch?’

Reuters has reported that Lloyds is closing 49 branches across the country, with the loss of 520 jobs.