A prospective parliamentary candidate has accused Barclays Bank of 'palming off' customers by opening a hub to replace one of its Suffolk branches.

Julia Ewart, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Suffolk Coastal, said the national chain was failing its most vulnerable customers after plans were unveiled to open a Barclays Local in Leiston to replace the town's Main Street branch, which is set to close on May 17.

The hub - described by Barclays as an 'alternative branch format' - will offer cashless banking services and provide customers with a place where they can meet staff face-to-face and receive help with digital banking, financial reviews, balance checks, transfers and bill payments.

READ MORE: Protest to take place outside Leiston Barclays on Saturday

But Julia said: “Barclays has not taken the time to understand the unique needs of our rural community and the residents and businesses who currently bank with them.

"If they had, they wouldn’t be palming us off with a hub which will in no way replace the services people used to access at the bank."

She said financial services regulator the Financial Conduct Authority had introduced a Consumer Duty mandate under which customers needs had to be put first and considered at every stage of the customer journey, especially when it concerned the most vulnerable.

READ MORE: Southwold to be left with no bank as Barclays closes down

"I see no evidence that this has happened in Leiston.

"Once Leiston closes, there will be a 45 mile stretch with no branch for any of its east Suffolk customers, financially excluding a large number of vulnerable customers.

"How can that be considered delivering good customer outcomes?”

Dr Therese Coffey, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “Whilst a Barclays Local is better than nothing, it's no substitute for what people actually want. I would, therefore, encourage residents to continue to sign my petition to try and prevent the closure and ask the Financial Conduct Authority to publish its assessment of the justification given by Barclays.”

READ MORE: Leiston news

A Barclays spokesperson said: “As visits to branches continue to fall, with the majority of people preferring to bank online, we need to adapt to provide the best service for all our customers.

"This is reflected at Leiston, where we are delivering new ways to support our customers and the community with options for those who need in-person services.”

“In Leiston we plan to open a Barclays Local – a cashless banking site where customers can meet a colleague face-to-face for banking support, as they would in a branch and without the need to travel.

"We are currently working with the local community to identify a suitable location and will announce details once confirmed.”

READ MORE: Suffolk news