A DRIVE to counter the effect of bank closures in rural areas has been launched, amid claims residents are being forced to drive long distances across England’s largest county to get cash.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive has approved a series of measures designed to lessen the impact of dozens of bank branch closures on local businesses and rural communities.

The move will see the authority’s 72 councillors identifying where additional ATMs might be of benefit to residents and identifying possible site locations, such as council-owned buildings.

In addition, the council’s Stronger Communities Team has been given the go-ahead to support submissions of possible ATM locations to LINK, the UK’s largest cash machine network, by encouraging communities to support a proposal and providing evidence of need.

The action follows a lengthy investigation by the council’s corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee into banking services access issues facing residents.

The scrutiny committee’s chairman, Councillor Derek Bastiman told the executive the inquiry had found an increasing number of North Yorkshire residents were being forced to travel considerable distances in order to get cash, particularly those in rural areas.

He said some people had been known to travel more than 30 miles to get cash.

Cllr Bastiman said : “In villages and small towns the decrease in ATMs is becoming more and more evident. Not everybody has a car and not everybody can get public transport.

“There is a tremendous issue. At the last committee meeting it was reported that someone using a cash machine in Pickering that had run out of money and they had had to drive over to Stokesley to get some money out.”

The scrutiny committee’s investigation found decisions by banks to close branches were not taking into account the full impact upon rural communities

and smaller firms.

It concluded that assumptions were being made at a local level, about the ability of nearby post offices to fill the resulting gap in banking services provision.

Members agreed there was little they could do to influence banks from closing branches, made in response to commercial pressures.

Cllr Bastiman said banks did not appear to be showing corporate responsibility. He said: “They have turned their back on a lot of rural issues. They make all these big noises about what they will do with farm advice managers, but they are forgetting the people at the other end of the scale who live in a village and don’t have access to either internet banking or a vehicle to get to an ATM.”