THE closure of a high street bank has been branded a ‘crying shame’ as concerns are raised over a ‘disappearing’ financial sector.

The Halifax branch on King Street in Whitehaven closed on Tuesday, and the building, which has been stripped of its signage, is currently up for rent.

It is one of a number of banks to depart from the town’s high street in recent years with NatWest, HSBC and Barclays also closing.

Halifax has blamed the closure on a fall in branch visits as customers choose to bank online instead.

News and Star: The ATM machines outside Whitehaven Halifax have been boarded upThe ATM machines outside Whitehaven Halifax have been boarded up (Image: Newsquest)

Brian O’Kane, who represents Whitehaven Central North on the town council, said: “I think it’s a crying shame we are being left in a situation, as a town, where the financial sector is virtually disappearing, leaving people with real difficulties in dealing with financial matters.

“It’s one of those things you can see the logic with it in how businesses are going with more people using online services, however, it only takes the online services to go down and everyone is in trouble.

“It also leaves people who want mortgages with less choice within the town of meeting people face to face for mortgage advice.

“I think empty buildings on King Street are now becoming the norm. It’s symptomatic across the country. It leaves people more and more in the situation where they are controlled by the computer in front of them.”

Graham Roberts, who represents the Harras ward on Whitehaven Town Council, said: “It’s sad but it’s a sign of the times. Internet banking is here and it’s here to stay.

“It’s very inconvenient for me. I’ve got to trek to Workington. I’ve got online banking but for people who can’t manage, it must be very difficult.”

News and Star: A branch closure notice is displayed in the window of the Whitehaven Halifax buildingA branch closure notice is displayed in the window of the Whitehaven Halifax building (Image: Newsquest)

A Halifax spokesperson said: “As many customers now choose to bank through their mobile app or online, visits to our Whitehaven branch have fallen over recent years.

The local Post Office offers everyday banking, with cash also available at close by free-to-use ATMs.

“Customers can also manage their money through our mobile banking apps, online, by calling us or speaking to a community banker.”

Halifax customers are advised that a community banker will visit The Whitehaven Foyer every Tuesday (from April 16) between 9am-3pm, providing face to face services to customers, including making payments, account enquiries and online banking support.