I share the concerns many people have about the impact of the closure of bank branches, particularly in rural areas such as ours.

Since Barclays’ announcement before Christmas about the branches at Richmond and Northallerton, I know there has been concern about access to cash and face-to-face contact with bank staff.

I took up these important matters with the bank and they have given me a series of assurances. Apart from additional support for customers not currently using digital ways to access banking services, Barclays have also pledged that face-to-face contact with customers will be maintained.

In Northallerton that will be by the establishment of a Barclays Local – a presence not within a conventional branch building but in a still-convenient, accessible location in the town and open five days a week. Barclays customers in Bedale and Leyburn will be familiar with the similar facilities established in Bedale Hall and Thornborough Hall.

You may have read about the establishment of a banking hub in Richmond. This is an arrangement where banks share premises to provide a range of over-the-counter services including cash.

The Richmond banking hub will be the 100th established by Link, a not-for-profit company owned and funded by the High Street banks. I very much support the principle of banking hubs to ensure appropriate access to services for those who are not comfortable with digital methods.

The search is underway to find appropriate premises in the town and I understand a number of possible locations have been identified by Link. An important further assurance I received from Barclays was that the Richmond branch will not close until the banking hub is established.

While decisions about how banks engage with their customers is ultimately a commercial matter for them, the principle of ready access to cash is so important to many. The Government has acted to ensure individuals and business can continue to draw and deposit notes and coins.

The Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 will ensure the continued availability of withdrawal and deposit facilities across the UK. The Act protects access to cash by giving the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) the appropriate powers to ensure reasonable provision of withdrawal and deposit facilities.

I fully understand that while many people are very happy not to use cash, that is not the case for everyone, be they individuals, particularly the elderly, and some small businesses. The Government will ensure that access to cash is maintained despite continuing changes in the banking system.