BANK bosses have pledged to work with communities to keep the last bank in towns open.

Barclays says it will explore opportunities to work closer with people around Barnard Castle and Middleton-in-Teesdale, in County Durham, to understand how customers and townspeople use a physical branch in the 21st century.

They want to test whether, by working in direct partnership, local branch banking can be sustainable long term.

Richard Smalley, managing director for Barclays Local, said: “In both Barnard Castle and Middleton-in-Teesdale we believe there is real appetite amongst businesses and the local community to support us in keeping the branch open, whilst acknowledging that many customers are choosing alternative ways to undertake their banking such as mobile, online and telephony services.

"In order to keep both Barnard Castle and Middleton-in-Teesdale branches open, we’re asking the community to get behind us and speak to us for more information.”

Launching the initiative, Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison, who met the team at Barnard Castle, and said: “I’m pleased that Barclays is not only retaining the last bank in Barnard Castle and Middleton-in-Teesdale but are also tailoring its services to meet local needs. This is excellent news and I hope the local community supports Barclays to help secure the long-term future of both branches.”

Mr Smalley said Barclays understands that not everyone wants to manage their finances digitally, so specialists in both branches can support people with more complex financial needs such as buying a home, saving for university and planning for retirement.

"Our ambition is to have an innovative and sustainable suite of branches that exist alongside multi-channel banking options," he said.

Julie Harburn has been appointed as the dedicated branch manager and is looking forward to welcoming both new and existing customers to the Barnard Castle branch.

Barclays has installed a video banking facility at the branch which provides customers with greater access to Barclays specialists for more complex enquiries.

Barclays has committed to keeping a total of 105 last-in-town and remote branches open until at least October 2021 and will run ‘pop-up’ services in offices, universities and colleges, community centres and rural communities.