Tracy Brabin MP calls public meeting to help businesses adapt after local bank closures

Having listened to community concerns following the announcement that Heckmondwike is to lose its last remaining bank, Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin has called a public meeting to help local businesses adapt and move forward after the “huge blow” of the closures.

The MP will be hosting a public meeting with the Heckmondwike Business Alliance and card payments company Square next week where the firm will explain how they can enable local businesses to accept debit and credit card payments from shoppers.

Since Natwest shut-up shop at the end of May, only a Santander branch remains in the town – but this is due to close in October.

This means that it is becoming increasingly difficult to withdraw cash in the town, which can have serious consequences for small businesses that are unable to accept card payments.

The card payments company Square is offering to provide Heckmondwike businesses with their wireless credit and debit card readers, worth £58, for free.

It comes after the firm successfully offered a similar scheme in Welsh town of Holywell in which they equipped 50 local businesses with the technology.

Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said “If we are to reinvigorate our local towns we need to be forward-thinking and embrace new technologies or run the risk of being left behind.

“The closure of Heckmondwike’s banks, and the others across Batley and Spen, is a huge blow for members of the public and businesses alike so it’s important that we do what we can to mitigate the impact.

“Independent retailers, cafes and takeaways – the lifeblood of our communities – are among those who will be worst affected by the closures, and this is why I am doing what I can to help encourage people to shop local.

“In particular, the businesses who do not accept card payments will be the worst hit by the bank closures and I am keen for them to see what alternatives are available.

“Similar initiatives have had great success elsewhere and I hope that if the businesses of Heckmondwike embrace such technology the town could provide a fantastic digital example for the rest of Batley and Spen.

“Please join us at the public meeting at Heckmondwike Scout Hut on Friday, June 29th from 6 – 7pm to discuss the options available and get answers to any questions you may have.”

Square provides a small white card reader that connects via Bluetooth to an app on a mobile phone or tablet so payments can be taken quickly and easily.

The firm is offering to provide the card readers free of charge to businesses in Heckmondwike and have agreed waive the first £1,000 of fees.

Following that, any business that wants to continue using the service will pay a fixed rate of 1.75% per transaction, with no monthly fees or contracts.

Kate McCutchen, Head of Marketing for Square in the UK,  said: “We all want to shop locally, but with less cash in our pockets, it can be hard to support businesses that don’t take cards. “

“We’re excited to be partnering with Tracy Brabin MP to offer card payments technology and training to the businesses of Heckmondwike, and feel hopeful it will be a positive step for the high street as it adapts to the impact of bank closures.

“We encourage anyone who is interested to come along to the meeting, where we can take you through how it all works and answer any questions you might have.”

The initiative is modelled on a similar scheme run in the town of Holywell in North Wales, a previously cash-heavy town that was hit by multiple bank closures.

After the launch of the scheme, the town’s card acceptance rates increased to 91% and the their  approach to adopting new technologies saw them featured by the BBC, the New York Times and The Times newspaper.

The public meeting will take place at Heckmondwike Scout Hut, Thomas Street, Heckmondwike, WF16 0NW on June 29th from 6 – 7pm.

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