No banks in Stapleford a 'massive issue' but new hub a 'saviour'

Paula Gibson (L) on mobility scooter and Margaret Williamson (R) sitting, smiling at bus stop outside Post Office Banking Hub on Derby Road, Stapleford
Paula (L) and Margaret (R) say the new Post Office Banking Hub, pictured behind their bus stop, has been a saviour since the last bank closed -Credit:Nottingham Post

Hundreds of years ago, Britain was a collection of villages and small towns. Even, centuries on, as population growth and expansion has turned once minor communities into major cities, many still flock to the countryside or to places that avoid the hustle and bustle of a major city for a peaceful life.

But now millions of people, whose small town lives benefit from the convenience of a town centre a community-first feel while retaining some of the appealing aspects of a smaller village, are beginning to suffer from the digitalisation of the modern world.

Stapleford, in Nottinghamshire, is one. Many of the older folk who live there have done all their lives.

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But they lost their last bank more than a year ago. Some, like Paula Gibson on her mobility scooter, would be stuck if she needed to go to the nearest bank - in Long Eaton or Nottingham - in person.

"I can't use the bus because this scooter is too big," she says, while waiting with her friend, Margaret Williamson, for the i4 to Derby to arrive. "I'd be stuck. I don't know what I'd do."

Margaret is off to visit a friend in Borrowash. But it was only a few weeks ago that she was at the bus stop when she had to go to her nearest open Lloyds TSB branch - in Nottingham city centre - after a near-miss with a scammer.

"But I couldn't have gone to Long Eaton because it's closed on Tuesdays," she explains.

Ms Williamson had been the recipient of a scripted phone call - to both her landline and her mobile - telling her that there had been a local fraud and that she needed to shut her account. Luckily, she didn't fall for the con - but, concerned, she still sought advice.

It was by pure chance that she could, as a first port of call, visit the new Post Office Banking Hub the morning after the phone call, having gone to sleep not knowing whether she had lost money. The hubs, hundreds of which are opening all over the country, host a set of staff from a different banks each day of the week.

On the day in question, it happened to be Lloyds TSB occupying the premises on Derby Road in the town.

"It's such an asset," said Margaret, 75. "A lifesaver, even, although that's a bit dramatic. The lady in there was wonderful and told me exactly what to do, to go to town and take my passport and everything. She saved me so much stress. I was a wreck. It was a horrendous experience."

But she had to go to Nottingham because at the Hub, they didn't have the equipment necessary to perform the right scam checks needed for Ms Williamson's peace of mind. A few days later, wanting to double check something, she went to the Long Eaton branch and met the same female staff member she had spoken to at the hub.

"It's nice to talk to people," says Paula. "Doing everything online is very isolating. People do online shopping - but we cause chaos when we go down to Aldi and have a bit of a laugh while we're doing it."

It just so happens that after the bus has arrived, Paula is planning to head to the Banking Hub - after a trip to the Card Shop - to get some cash out, "just in case she needs it". Both ladies agree that banks shutting is a problem - despite the fact that they understand that most things are online these days.

"It's nice to have the choice," says Paula. "We don't even have a proper Post Office now - that made a lot of difference."

It's not just the elderly who suffer from the disappearance of banks. Plenty of businesses along Derby Road still take cash.

Formula Motor Factors owner Sohaib Malik estimates that 25% of his custom still comes in cash. He also needs change when he doesn't have it - and the banking hub can't solve that problem.

Sohaib Malik, of Formula Motor Factors, at the till in his shop in front of shelf of car parts
Sohaib Malik, of Formula Motor Factors, says the lack of a bank in Stapleford is a 'massive issue' -Credit:Nottingham Post

"People sometimes come to me from the laundrette next door for change as it's cash only. But when I need change I don't have anybody to go to. Sometimes the laundrette owners can give me some but if they're not in, I sometimes have to go all the way to Beeston. That is a massive issue for me.

Before the hub opened, he had to use Toton's Post Office for cash deposits. Now, he goes to the hub every Monday and Friday and says he would use a proper bank three times per week.

"I wish there was a bank that did everything," he said. "In business you need coins and stuff. There's no way we can get it locally. The hub is helpful and since it opened it has relieved the businesses around here. It's better than nothing and I appreciate it. But it's nothing like a full banking service."

Nicole Rusu, who owns Nicole's Embroidery and Design on Alexandra Street, agrees. Most of her customers pay by card - but even if one pays by cash, she needs somewhere to deposit it, and would support the return of a bank.

"It was hard when we had no Banking Hub," she says. "Now it's better. When we didn't have that I had to deposit cash at the Post Office near my home in Aspley. But it's not just about the businesses. It's about the community and there are a lot of elderly here."

Retired Alan Richards, 74, is from Sandiacre and used to bank at the Natwest in Beeston. But that disappeared around a year ago, he says, and in Stapleford, agrees that it's not ideal for a town to be bank-less.

"I don't bank online," he says. "People say: "Do internet banking." But I don't trust it. You read so much about people's data being breached and all that sort of thing. I don't bother with it.

"Luckily I haven't had any cause to go in a bank in the last year or so. I did used to go in occasionally. There used to be a Natwest in Sandiacre but that closed many years ago. I don't miss it as such. But I can't say I'm happy about it. It's a nuisance but that's the way it's going. There's nothing I can do about it."