Holding answer received on 16 January 2018
The Government does not make assessments of the impact bank, post office, building society branch, or pub closures have on the sustainability of high streets. While the decision to close a branch remains a commercial judgement for individual banks and building societies, the impact on communities must be understood, considered and mitigated where possible.
The industry’s Access to Banking Standard, launched in May 2017, commits banks and building societies to ensure personal and business customers are better informed about branch closures and the reasons for them closing, along with the options they have locally to continue to access banking services, including specialist assistance for customers who need more help. The Access to Banking Standard is monitored and enforced by the independent Lending Standards Board.
99% of banks’ personal and 95% of banks’ business customers are now able to withdraw cash, deposit cash and cheques, and make balance enquiries at a Post Office counter via its network of 11,600 branches. At Autumn Budget 2017, the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury wrote to the Post Office and UK Finance to ask them to raise public awareness of the banking services available at the Post Office for individuals and SMEs.
Since 2010, Government has invested over £2billion in to the Post Office network, with a further £370m announced on 20 December. This has led to the most stable number of branches in the network for decades.
The Post Office continues to meet its access criteria with 99.7% of the total population living within 3 miles of a Post Office.
The Government recognises the importance of pubs to communities and the high street. To support pubs and local industries, and recognising that alcohol duties already rose by inflation earlier this year, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced at Autumn Budget 2017 that he was freezing all alcohol duties. Pubs play an important role in local communities and help promote responsible drinking. Freezing beer duty rates this year helps pubs: the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) estimate around two thirds of the alcohol sold in pubs is beer. At Spring Budget 2017, the Chancellor announced a package of support for pubs in England with their business rates. This provided a £1,000 discount to all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000. This scheme was extended by an additional year into 2018/19 at Autumn Budget.
Additionally, the Chancellor brought forward the planned switch in the indexation of business rates from RPI to CPI by two years to 2018. This will benefit all businesses on the UK high street and represents a cut in business rates every year from April 2018. In total, the switch from RPI to CPI is worth £4.1bn by 2023.