Bank account closure forces Wilsden church into difficulties

Last Updated on 28 November 2023 by Ann-Marie Nye

A Wilsden church is urging Barclays Bank to exercise caution after a number of financial issues were caused after the bank suddenly closed its account.

Wilsden Trinity Church, a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) between the United Reformed and Methodist Churches in Bradford, had banked with Barclays for around 20 years.

However, 18 months ago the church treasurer began receiving what has been described as “threateningly-toned” letters from the bank to discuss the account.

Initially, the bank required information on the nature of the church’s activities and details about each trustee. The information was sent to the bank by email and by post, and after it had been lost, the information was provided again.

After a fourth letter, the church believed everything was in order, however when the bank sent a fifth letter in September, it arrived when the church treasurer was away in Australia. Attempts were not made by the bank to contact the Treasurer by phone or email, the church reports, and the account was subsequently closed as the bank didn’t receive a response.

In an open letter to Barclays, members of the Wilsden Trinity Church Meeting said: “Closing the account in this way has caused the church a number of significant problems. Many of our bills were paid by Direct Debit and many of our members paid money into the account through Standing Order.

“These have all stopped. In addition, we’ve been unable to bank the weekly collections or, ourselves, pay bills or send money to charities.” This has caused the church to fall into debt.

Over the summer, it was revealed that banks are closing more than 1,000 accounts every working day.

Between 2021-2022, more than 343,000 accounts were closed.

On 15 November, the Charity Commission for England and Wales wrote to Chief Executives of UK banks requesting “urgent action” to help “hard-pressed” charities which are on the front line of the cost-of-living crisis, providing vital support to people across the country.

Charities, by law, are obliged to account for the money they raise and the funds they distribute.

Although the government established new rules to give consumers greater confidence in challenging account closures, Wilsden Trinity Church unfortunately now joins dozens of groups – including parish councils, community groups, and a community garden – whose accounts have been closed or restricted by Barclays, some of whom have banked with them for more than 40 years.

“We are in the process of opening a new account with a different bank, but this is taking some time and, at present, we do not have a bank account,” continued members of Wilsden Trinity Church.

“There has been a financial cost to us and a cost in terms of our reputation and relationship with those who supply services and are paid by Direct Debit.

“We endorse the Charity Commission’s letter and hope for news of a more user-friendly banking service that supports charities in their work.

“In the meantime, we hope, through our letter, to make other Churches and charities aware of this issue.”

The church submitted a complaint directly to Barclays’ complaints team in early October but has yet to receive a response.

The bank was further approached by the United Reformed Church for comment.

Karen Swainston, Barclays’ Head of Corporate Relations Northern Region, advised that she would “forward their details to the complaints team and they will be in touch directly.”

 

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