A NORTH-EAST MP was one of about 20 to speak up for the region in a House of Commons debate on community bank closures.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson appealed to the Government to make provisions for vulnerable people who will be affected by a raft of closures across nationally and in County Durham.

Four branches will shut their doors in Mr Wilson’s constituency alone in the coming months - leaving the likes of Sedgefield and Ferryhill with no bank at all.

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“This recent round of closures will deprive every community in my constituency of a bank branch except Newton Aycliffe,” he told the House. “The local Post Office still operates in these communities and offers banking facilities.

“But it is hardly the place to discuss issues relating to your bank, such as mortgages or loans.”

Across a matter of weeks NatWest announced it was closing branches in Ferryhill and Newton Aycliffe while Santander revealed it was pulling out of Newton Aycliffe, and Barclays out of Sedgefield.

Elsewhere NatWest branches will close in Barnard Castle, Peterlee, Richmond, Stokesley, Pickering and Ripon.

Santander is also due to close its Stanley branch in May.

During the cross-party debate on Thursday, led by Stoke-on-Trent North MP Ruth Smeeth and seconded by Hazel Grove MP William Wragg, Mr Wilson said there was concern on all sides of the House.

He called on bank chiefs to have more in place for vulnerable customers who are at risk of being “financially excluded” either as a result of age, sickness, difficulty accessing the internet or getting to nearby communities that have full banking services.

Mr Wilson said: “Sedgefield is a rural constituency, with around 40 towns, villages and hamlets over 150 square miles.

“The bus network is not as it should be, and it is difficult to get around if you do not have a car or other means of transport.

“Much banking is now done online, on a mobile app or on the telephone.

“But there are still those in our communities who need to be able to walk into their local bank branch because they are not online or do not have access to a telephone or mobile, especially the elderly.”

As well as asking the Government about what more they can do for those facing being “left behind”, he called on the banking sector to think creatively about how they can keep branches on the ground in a climate where vacant units on high streets are ever-increasing.

“Banks have to show a bit more of a social conscience and have to be creative about how they retain their bank branches - there is an idea of being more leisure-focused, such as rolling it into a cafe,” he added.

“I think the ideas were received and I have already mentioned it to the banks - Santander, NatWest and Barclay - who say that they do do some work to reach out to customers that are vulnerable.”