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‘Barclays shut our choir bank account with little warning after 40 years’: Why is it debanking small community groups?


Dozens of small organisations from parish councils to choirs and steam train enthusiasts have had their Barclays accounts closed or restricted with little warning in recent months, This is Money can reveal.

Last month, we reported on Barclays shutting a community garden organisation’s bank account, leaving them unable to access funds or make payments.

Since then, more cases have come to light, with community organisations telling This is Money of their bank accounts being similarly shut or restricted, some without any notice or explanation.

Some of these groups have banked with Barclays for more than 40 years.

Shut out: Dozens of community organisations who bank with Barclays have had their accounts closed or restrictions placed on them

Ogmore Valley Male Voice Choir is one such organisation, which found its Barclays account was closed with immediate effect and without any explanation.

The choir, which puts on free concerts for the village community in South Wales as well as raising money for local charities, had banked with Barclays with no issues for 40 years.

That was until one afternoon in October when the choir’s chairman received a phone call from Barclays informing him that each of its three accounts had been closed – mere hours after he had deposited funds into one account.

Barclays was unable to give him any explanation as to why the account had been closed.

The choir’s Chairman, Peter Morgan said: ‘We have no idea why Barclays bank has closed our accounts after having been regular customers for so long. 

‘They have left us in limbo and it has put ourselves and I’m sure many others in a difficult position.

‘We don’t borrow and we have always been in credit – so why has it suddenly been closed?

‘We give quite a bit to charity, as well as performing charitable concerts to benefit local organisations’.

What’s more, the choir owns its own premises and has standing orders for energy and insurance which regularly come out of the account, leaving them worried that their supply will be cut off. 

Many of its 45 choristers also pay their contributions by standing order.

On a sour note: Barclays closed the bank account of Ogmore Valley Male Voice Choir without any notice or explanation

On a sour note: Barclays closed the bank account of Ogmore Valley Male Voice Choir without any notice or explanation

Barclays informed the choir that these, together with any cheques the choir issued, would not be honoured.

Mr Morgan continued: ‘We are worried that our energy is going to be cut off because we don’t have access to our account to pay the bills.

‘Our treasurer has spoken to Barclays, and they say that they are going to open new accounts for us, but it will be another seven days before that happens.

‘We have probably close to £30,000 in the accounts which we use to keep this building of ours going, and they say they can’t just transfer it over. It has to be a completely new account.

 We think because we are a charity and we don’t pay fees, this could be part of the reason that they have suddenly closed us down

‘We think because we are a charity and we don’t pay fees, this could be part of the reason that they have suddenly closed us down. They haven’t said whether there will be fees on the new account.’

Most of the orgaisations who got in touch with This is Money have a low turnover, don’t borrow money and don’t pay fees to maintain their accounts. 

The problem they seem to face is that Barclays treats their accounts as if they are business accounts, when in reality they are non-profit-making micro-entities and in most cases there are never more than a few thousand pounds in the bank accounts.

Project 62 is another organisation which has had trouble with its Barclays account.

The group’s 200 members donate money for the restoration of steam locomotives for hire to heritage railways. It has banked with Barclays since 1990.

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The Treasurer of the organisation began to receive letters from Barclays saying they needed to speak to him about Project 62’s ‘business details’, and threatening to close the account if he did not respond.

Bryan Stanley, secretary of Project 62 said: ‘Our Treasurer spent several hours on the telephone to the Barclays business banking team, explaining our business, but they seemed unable, or unwilling to understand what he was telling them.’

After another letter threatening closure arrived, Mr Stanley phoned Barclays Business Banking team but was told to phone a different department to resolve the issue.

Even after phoning the correct department and providing all requested information, Project 62 continued to be plagued by emails and letters threatening that the account would be closed of within 10 days if they did not reply.

The group told This is Money no-one at Barclays was able to confirm in writing that the account would not be closed, even though the additional information was provided at the requested of Barclays over the phone – which the agent dealing with the call said they said they were satisfied with.

Mr Stanley said: ‘We feel that we cannot now believe a word that Barclays says. I wonder if Barclays are looking for an excuse to close our account.

‘We have never had a loan or gone overdrawn. Although there is only some £7,000 in the account at present, it has been over £30,000 in the past.’

‘We consider that the sending of these emails by Barclays constitutes harassment, and means we cannot believe anything we are told by its business banking team.’

Project 62, an organisation which restores steam locomotives, received multiple letters and emails from Barclays threatening to close the group's account

Project 62, an organisation which restores steam locomotives, received multiple letters and emails from Barclays threatening to close the group’s account 

Other organisations also got in touch to tell of closed accounts. 

A ‘good neighbour group’ which provides help to local residents told This is Money that its account had been restricted by Barclays after it provided information which Barclays’ ‘know your customer’ team had requested in a letter.

Barclays told the group that it was unable to scan the documents sent by the organisation’s chair, and had placed restrictions on the account as a result.

The clerk of a small parish council, who requested to not be named for fear of Barclays restricting or even closing their bank account, also told This is Money of ‘bullying behaviour’ they were at the receiving end of from Barclays.

Barclays sent multiple emails and letters requesting information about the parish council. 

Despite supplying the information repeatedly, they say Barclays continued to send emails and letters threatening that the account would be closed.

The clerk said: ‘Part of the problem is that you simply cannot talk to anyone. Barclays has, unfortunately, closed most of our nearest branches over the last couple of years – leaving the nearest branch to be over 11 miles away.’

This is Money got in touch with Barclays to ask why the accounts were being closed. 

Barclays has since confirmed that Ogmore Valley Male Voice Choir’s account will be reopened and that the other accounts will no longer face restrictions or be under threat of being shut.

A spokesman from Barclays says: ‘As part of our ongoing responsibility to help prevent financial crime, and to meet our regulatory obligations, we are required to keep up to date information regarding our customers’ business accounts and this includes community groups.

‘We engage with our customers through a series of communications including by post, banners on our digitally active customers’ online and mobile banking as well as reminder SMS text messages and emails asking them to provide us with important information relating to their business account.

‘These communications do include warnings of account closure. In cases where we do not receive a response with up-to-date account information, we will proceed with the application of card blocks and account restrictions, followed by warnings of possible final closure arrangements if issues remain unresolved.’

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