When I moved down to the country six years ago, the local high street had a big post office, four banks and a building society branch: it was just as convenient as living in London, I thought. Today, the post office has migrated into the supermarket. The building society remains. But we are now down to one bank, NatWest. What was Barclays is now an estate agent. What were the Lloyds and HSBC branches are empty and probably will soon become tea or coffee shops – we’ve got quite a lot of them already thank you.
Only NatWest hangs on – and I was relieved when last week the branch wasn’t included on the list of the 150 branches RBS/NatWest is axing even though I’m not actually a NatWest account holder. But my mother was a NatWest customer and when she was ill, I used to pay her Premium Bond winning cheques in at the branch. The lady behind the counter used to ask how she was. Then, when she died, the manager quickly sorted out all the details we needed for probate. It felt as if she had been more than a number to the bank.
What I do know is that if that last bank branch goes, then it will be disastrous for this town. I know most people don’t use bank branches. But some people can’t or won’t use internet banking. What, for example, would small businesses do if they couldn’t use a bank branch to pay in their cash takings? What happens to the old ladies who want to pay in cheques? In rural communities it’s not that easy to get to the big towns as public transport isn’t that great. I know banks aren’t charities – but let’s be honest: don’t they owe us? After all it is thanks in part to taxpayers that NatWest is still going – and while only a teeny bit of Lloyds is still owed by the taxpayers, it too needed our help once. We’ve put up with a lot from all the banks (Dare I mention PPI? And what about the mis-selling of interest rate swaps?). Perhaps the big banks should try a little bit of co-operation: surely it’s worth at least considering branch sharing, or having some agreement in place that means places won’t be left bank-less.
See the list of NatWest and other closures here www.telegraph.co.uk/personal-banking/savings/year-525-banks-will-shut-will-disappear/.