It’s a case of 3,2,1 gone for high street banking in Neston.
The AboutMyArea Neston online news site has revealed Barclays is to pull out in the autumn following on the heels of NatWest in 2015 and HSBC last year. The area has a population of more than 15,000.
The last day of trading as the tills close for the final time will be Friday, October 20 with the bank citing pressures from the changing banking habits of customers.
Branch manager Mike Pover told AboutMyArea: “The way customers undertake their banking is changing as people increasingly use online, telephone and mobile devices. At Barclays Neston branch customer usage has continued to decline in recent years which is why we have taken the difficult decision to close it.
“We hope that the availability of our other Barclays branch at 26 Pensby Road, Heswall and access to services at the local Post Office located at 7 High Street, Neston, along with our range of digital channels, will help to ease the transition for our customers.”
Barclays is said to be adhering to the Government protocol on branch closures. This means that all customers will receive a letter, posters will be displayed in the branch and bank staff will seek to assist customers with any concerns they may have.
They will also be looking at hosting ‘teach and tech’ sessions individually or in a group for any customers wishing to explore digital banking.
It is understood there will be no compulsory staff redundancies as a result of the closure.
Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said: “I’m incredibly disappointed with the contempt shown for the people of Neston once again by the big banks.
“I will be calling on them all to come together to see if we can get some kind of shared facility in the town which would undoubtedly be used.”
Andrew McLoughlin, vice chairman of Neston and District Chamber of Trade, commented: “We are naturally very disappointed to hear the news that Neston will no longer have a bank in town.
“We are aware of the difficulties this presents particularly to small businesses, the elderly and those without their own transport to access branches in other towns.”
He continued: “It is true that people’s banking habits have changed but as the chamber’s chairman David Clarke said at the time of the NatWest closure it is surely not beyond the ken of the main banks, collectively, to find a way to introduce banking hubs into towns such as Neston.
“They should be finding creative ways of ensuring all their customers have access to all banking services.”
Town councillor and Parkgate ward borough councillor Martin Barker (Ind) said: “This is extremely disappointing news given the assurances from Barclays after the closure of HSBC. Despite the changing habits of banking, customers still like the one to one contact, especially if they find online banking difficult.
“Maybe mobile bank units could be used as is the case in other market towns, even if it was only for one day per week.”
The mayor of Neston, Pat Kynaston, told AboutMyArea: “Neston Town Council is aware that we have no direct influence on commercial decisions made by Barclays Bank but the lack of consideration to customers, many of whom do not have easy access to other branches, is a sad reflection of increasing market driven decisions over people.
“Cllr Barker’s suggestion of mobile banking is excellent and I hope, as the ‘last bank standing’, Barclays will give this serious consideration.”
The NatWest closure at the town’s historic Cross saw local councillors and Neston’s Chamber of Trade pitching up at a meeting with NatWest chiefs backed by a 750-name petition and hoping for a discussion on possible alternatives to the complete loss of the branch.
But the four-strong team from the bank made it clear there would be no U-turn.
Cheshire West and Chester councillor Louise Gittins (Lab, Little Neston and Burton), who also attended the meeting, said: “It is a very sad decision as it increases social isolation, particularly for the elderly and disabled who will find it very difficult if not impossible to travel to the next nearest branch, given the lack of adequate transport provision.”
Less than a year later HSBC on the high street told customers their decision was due to more people using telephone and internet banking.
It said at the time: “We never take the decision to close a branch lightly and we understand it’s unsettling for the local community.
“Unfortunately with an increase in the use of online and telephone banking over the past few years use of the Neston branch has fallen significantly.”
The bank released figures revealing that footfall had reduced by 70% and 89% of Neston customers used internet and telephone banking facilities. Over one third used other branches for their counter service.
The former NatWest branch is now a restaurant and the HSBC premises are to become a pizza outlet.