Banking hubs: Age UK recently published a report which highlights the continuing demand for face-to-face banking services among older people.

As CEO of Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington, I want to stress the importance of physical banking services for those who do not, or cannot, bank online.

The report, entitled “You can’t bank on it anymore”, found that 39 per cent of older people with a bank account are not managing their money online and could be at high risk of financial exclusion.

Furthermore, 75 per cent of over-65s with a bank account want to undertake at least one banking task in person at a bank branch, building society, or Post Office.

The disappearance of face-to-face banking risks cutting a significant minority of the older population out of an essential service, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to manage their money and maintain their independence.

With swathes of local branches closing, we need to ensure that physical spaces – whether a bank or building society branch, banking hub, or alternative suitable provision – continue to exist so people can still carry out face-to-face tasks such as withdrawing and depositing cash, applying for a loan, arranging third-party access to their account, or starting bereavement proceedings.

We’re calling on the banks to accelerate the roll-out of shared banking hubs, with a high street presence, to meet the high and continuing demand for face-to-face banking services.

Banking hub pilots are a relatively new solution to the problem but have so far worked extremely well and are proving popular with the communities in which they are based.

However, Age UK is keen for the roll-out to speed up to avoid more communities becoming “banking deserts”, with no face-to-face banking services or ATMs in place, leaving many older people feeling isolated and disenfranchised.

It is also imperative that the Treasury recognises the importance of protecting physical banking services.

With around 2.4m older people reliant on cash, an inability to access cash locally can prevent older people from going out or using the services they rely on, resulting in them feeling frustrated and left behind.

Many older people view cash as the most reliable and straightforward way to pay for goods and services, as well as an effective means of managing their weekly budget when money is extremely tight.

We urge the Treasury to include provision to ensure continued access to face-to-face services in its upcoming cash access policy statement.

This would secure a legacy for all the hard work that has gone into developing the banking hub model and would send a strong signal that the Government is on consumers’ side.

Helen Hunter, CEO, Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington.

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Road closure

THE closure of parts of the A684 for weekday daytimes for nearly three weeks at the height of the tourist season is truly outrageous.

Not only will it damage many local businesses, it will also greatly inconvenience visitors giving them a bad impression of the area, not to mention the inconvenience to local residents.

If this were unavoidable, one could be sympathetic but there is the simple solution that has always been used in the past.

The contractor can surface half the road at a time, allowing traffic controlled by traffic lights to continue to use the road.

I realise that this arrangement is less convenient to the contractor and also probably more expensive but it is essential.

Come on, North Yorkshire Council, have some consideration for your local businesses, visitors and residents. The A684 is a major through route.

Closing it unnecessarily is just not acceptable.

Gerald Hodgson, Spennithorne, Leyburn.

Stop complaining

I AM concerned, following a story in last week’s edition “Cannabis waste dumped” (D&S Times, June 16). A member of public has reported a cannabis farm dump (fly tipping) and is informed during an “over almost half an hour” phone call, that the relevant agency to deal with it is the council, but still claims “police are not interested”.

If you look on the council website it is there in black and white that fly tipping is a council responsibility.

The article explained the process outlined and the council response and procedure.

Why am I concerned? For two reasons.

Firstly, a defined agent has been identified and procedure has been explained, yet a member of public does not agree.

Would you go to a consultant surgeon and tell them their procedure is wrong?

I’m sure partner agencies have worked on procedures for decades to ensure the right one is dealing with it.

Secondly, since Covid I sense an unerring “entitlement” – if we don’t get what we think we should, then complain. No, not everything works seamlessly but rational thinking seems to have gone out of the window.

Yes, cannabis farms should be reported so they can be dealt with by the relevant agency, but for any agencies to be sensationalised and lambasted like this is continuing what now seems to have become a British pastime.

As Teddy Roosevelt said: “Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” Everyone has to do far more with far less. Let’s be more supportive and positive about all our public services and maybe if they aren’t having to fund investigations into dealing with complaints all the time, especially ones which have been clearly outlined, they might get chance to get things done.

Ian Wright, Bedale.

Bus alternative

ON the subject of Hurworth and Neasham bus services, “Fears village will be isolated if ‘lifeline’ bus service is scrapped” (D&S Times Co Durham edition, June 16).

Currently Hodgsons operate the Number 72 and this service passes by Hurworth village at Croft and continues down Croft Road, Grange Road and Victoria Road into Darlington stopping at the Town Hall before returning to Northallerton.

There are bus stops outside The Comet public house in Hurworth Place, which allow passengers to catch this service in both directions.

This service is currently subsidised and paid for by North Yorkshire County Council. During discussions which took place prior to polling day and just after, officers of North Yorkshire Council suggested the service “could” go in both directions through Hurworth and also call at Neasham if £200,000 a year could be found to pay for an extra bus and an extra driver.

NYC officers had concerns the current timetable could not be met with only one bus and one driver – which is all they have at present if the number 72 service was diverted through Hurworth. Bus stops could be provided at Neasham too on the route into Darlington..

The Darlington local authority needs cash reserves of just under £5m according to the Local Government Association. Cash reserves are currently over £20m.

The money to do this is plainly there for at least one year. We can run this service – as an experiment for a year – to see if people in Hurworth and Neasham will actually support this service and use it.

Nigel Boddy, Darlington.

Tempting teachers

I READ of a plan to offer “golden hello” bonuses of up to £10,000 to attract foreign teachers to come and teach maths in British schools.

We desperately need maths teachers. Nobody can argue about this.

But I have a clear picture in my mind, of people with limited command of English coming to England, collecting £10,000, teaching for two years and leaving.

I have another suggestion. Use the £10,000 to tempt British postgraduates into teaching. Allow £10,000 student debt relief to any graduate competent to teach maths.

For someone leaving university with a student debt of £20,000-£30,000, a reduction of £10,000 should be quite an incentive.

Of course, this would be tied to a minimum of two years teaching.

Student debt looms in the minds of many students and recent graduates; this may be a way of reducing the burden.

I believe it would have been attractive to many of the students who passed through my hands at university.

Peter Chadwick, Eaglescliffe, Stockton.

Election pledge

MY political colleague and I have read with interest the scenario concerning Keith Tordoff and his intention to provide thousands of chickens to families if he is successful in next year’s North Yorkshire Mayoral elections, “We’ll give out 6,000 chickens” (D&S Times, June 9).

Mr Tordoff has also announced his intention to produce a musical recording to accompany his campaign based on the Dire Straits smash hit single – “Money For Nothing – Your Chicks for Free”.

However the Yorkshire Party to whom Mr Tordoff belonged has found itself unable to support Mr Tordoff’s intentions and consequently he has resigned his membership and intends to stand for election as an independent candidate.

I doubt that even as members of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party we could have come up with a better publicity campaign than this, although we do have many similar initiatives planned for the 2024 General Election campaign in which we aim to add a degree of interest for those residents of the Richmond (Yorks) Parliamentary Constituency who are either fed up to the back teeth with all the run of the mill political parties or who at long last, after 41 years will see a realistic chance of an Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate being elected to Parliament.

Paul Atkin (Mr Paul the Political Poet), election agent for Stew Exotic – OMRL Party candidate in Richmond (Yorks).

Rising CO2 levels

SUE HOLDEN (and others) are conflating different concepts about CO2. (D&S Times letters, June 16).

CO2 comprises about 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere and, yes, plants need it to be above 0.02 per cent to photosynthesise.

Net zero isn’t no CO2 – it’s producing CO2 at the same rate that it is absorbed.

The argument about what CO2 levels were during the last Ice Age is facile. That change in CO2 levels happened over thousands of years.

The current problem is that 300 years ago, it was about two thirds of where it is now and the planet is unable to compensate for such a rapid change. Compounding the issue is that the oceans store large amounts of CO2 but, as the ocean temperature rises, its ability to store CO2 is reduced – potentially resulting in a sudden release of that stored CO2. Deforestation is also reducing the ability of the planet to absorb CO2 emissions.

The recent rises in energy costs have brought into focus the financial benefits of energy saving so, surely, we should be more willing to reduce our energy consumption?

I don’t care whether people believe that CO2 levels cause global warming or not. It’s not a zero-sum game – the problem is that, if, or when, we find out that it does, it will be too late.

Philip Knowles, Eppleby, Richmond.

Lungs of the Earth

ALISTAIR PG WELSH and Sue Holden in their letters (D&S Times, June 16) are quite right in stressing the importance of CO2 in the growth and survival of trees and other green leafed plants.

However, since the Industrial Revolution we have produced far more than necessary for the natural world to survive.

We need food to live, but if we eat excessive amounts we damage our health. In the same way, if we go over the safety limit of CO2 production we damage our precious eco-systems.

When we are asked to reduce our carbon footprints, it is the CO2 emitted by coal, gas, oil etc that needs to be drastically cut down, not the natural CO2, which has always existed. Yes, that does mean reducing, or even cutting out, air travel, space travel and using public transport rather than private cars.

Mr Welsh does not seem to think that forest fires contribute to climate change, but the smoke from those fires does pollute the atmosphere.

The reduction in the number of trees over vast areas means that less CO2 is absorbed.

It is because the world has far less trees than in the past that we are being urged to plant more for the sake of nature as well as the climate.

Trees are precious. They are described as “the lungs of the earth”. That is why we need to protect our forests and our climate.

Helen L Robson, Harmby, Leyburn.