OTLEY will be left with just one bank branch next year in a move that has been condemned by local politicians.

Virgin Money UK plc has announced that its Yorkshire Bank branch on Kirkgate will close on March 16, 2021.

The closure will leave the town with only one bank - the Halifax - and mean Yorkshire Bank customers will now have to travel to Horsforth for any over-the-counter transactions.

Virgin Money, which is replacing the Yorkshire Bank and Clydesdale brands, insists the decision has not been taken lightly and follows a steady decline in customer visits.

The town's politicians, however, are warning that it will make life difficult for many. Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon), in his letter of objection, said: "This is very disappointing news for the community.

"Leaving the town during a pandemic is pretty poor and reflects badly not just on Yorkshire Bank but the banking sector. As one of the last two banks left in our semi-rural town upping sticks will leave significant numbers in need of finding new banking services yet again.

"The digitally disconnected, the elderly, the infirm, those without readily accessible transport will all suffer."

MP Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) said: "It is disappointing that once again we are talking about another branch closure in my constituency. This has a significant impact on the many, particularly older people who are not online as well as for the businesses that depend on a local branch.

"Otley serves as a hub for many businesses and we risk being bypassed if the only place to make transactions is in Leeds or Harrogate. It is a shame that a bank bearing the name of our region will no longer be present in our communities and I will be writing to strongly urge them to rethink."

Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) has also written to Virgin Money, stating: "I appreciate that your interest is financial profit but the lack of access to a bank would be detrimental to a significant number of individuals, businesses and groups who have over the years relied on the Yorkshire Bank to provide them with personal assistance.

"A number of your rivals have withdrawn from the town and the Yorkshire branch was the last bank to provide counter service for those who were unable or unwilling to either use the Internet or spend a considerable time trying to phone for information or advice. This is detrimental to the community and, in the long term, your business. I would urge you to reconsider."

In its statement announcing the closure Virgin Money UK said: "We are contacting all customers to advise them of the closure, to confirm that their nearest branch will now be the Virgin Money Leeds Horsforth store and to offer advice on alternative ways to bank with us, including Post Office services and the nearest ATM, both of which are within 0.1 miles of the current branch.

"The bank constantly monitors how our customers engage with us to ensure we offer a service that meets their evolving needs, and we continue to see a striking transformation in the way people are choosing to bank. Overall, transactions in our branches continue to fall year-on-year, with more customers opting to bank with us through mobile, online and telephone channels.

"As a result of these changes in customer behaviour the Otley branch is no longer viable...but we remain committed to maintaining a strong regional and national presence and will continue to invest in our branches where there is customer demand, as well as in our digital offering."