Burnham-On-Sea’s NatWest bank branch is to close today (Tuesday) as part of a controversial cost-cutting move.
As we first reported in the Spring, the branch at the junction of Regent Street and Victoria Street is closing for the final time on October 10th.
NatWest’s decision to shut the branch has been attacked by the town’s MP and others.
MP James Heappey told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “I am angry and frustrated to hear that NatWest have decided to close their branches in Cheddar and Burnham-on-Sea. As ever they have cited the rise in online banking and undoubtedly branches are now used less than they were before.”
“However, NatWest are failing to recognise two important factors. Firstly, there are many areas served by the branches in Burnham and Cheddar where broadband connections are poor and online banking less attractive than it is to those with better connections elsewhere. Secondly, there is a large elderly community in both places amongst whom the remaining branch users will be disproportionately concentrated. Digital exclusion is becoming a real challenge as it affects the elderly and vulnerable the most.”
“NatWest had an advertising campaign not too long ago about the strength of its branch network. I’m disappointed they’ve abandoned that position and I hope that their customers in the Cheddar and Burnham area will now abandon them. There are other banks in Cheddar and Burnham. It is important that residents who value the use of a branch switch their accounts to those that remain so that those banks have commercially viable branches that escape any further branch closure programmes.”
“I will continue my campaign over access to banking as well as seeking assurances from NatWest over the future of those whose jobs will be affected by these unfortunate branch closures.”
Burnham-On-Sea Chamber of Trade and Commerce said in a statement: “The Chamber is extremely disappointed by NatWest’s decision so soon after HSBC’s closure. The closure of this prominent and long standing bank in this prime location is a blow to the Town Centre.”
“Whilst accepting that banking trends are changing, face to face access to financial services for businesses and consumers remains highly important.”
“The Chamber calls on NatWest to review this decision and on Nationwide, Lloyds and Barclays to affirm their commitment to Burnham-On-Sea.”
NatWest’s Media Relations Manager Sean Palmer said: “The way people choose to bank with us has changed radically over the last few years. Between 2010 and 2015, mobile and online transactions have increased by over 400% and mobile transactions alone have increased by 1,350%. Since 2011 we have seen the number of transactions in the Worle branch decline by 48%, the Langport branch by 21%, in the Wellington Somerset branch by 35%, in the Burnham-on-Sea branch by 26% and in the Cheddar branch by 45%.”
“These customers are actively choosing to bank in different ways, with 60.6% of customers at the Worle branch choosing to use our digital banking options. In Langport 53% of customers are choosing to use our digital banking options. In Wellington Somerset 54.6% of customers are choosing to use our digital banking options. In Burnham-on-Sea 53.4% of customers are choosing to use our digital banking options. In the Cheddar branch 59.9% of customers are choosing to use our digital banking options.”
“We are communicating with our customers affected by the closures and proactively contacting vulnerable and regular branch customers. We have listened closely to feedback from local communities and have extended the time between announcing our decision and the branch closures to six months. This has been done in order to ensure our customers have time to consider the right banking options for them. Unfortunately our lease is expiring on the property in Worle and therefore we are not able to extend the opening of the branch beyond the date advised. We will however be proactive in our approach to ensure that we are able to engage fully with our customers before the branch closes.”
“We are committed to ensuring our customers and communities are able to continue accessing quality banking services. As part of this, we have created a new role – our Community Banker – who will serve the local area and provide customers with personal assistance and support accessing the right banking options for their needs, as well as help with achieving their financial plans and goals.”
“We know that not all of our customers are comfortable and familiar with using online or mobile banking, so we have created a new specialist taskforce of TechXperts who will be dedicated to supporting our customers with training and support with digital skills.”
“We are following the Access to Banking protocol and we have made the decision after careful consideration of a wide range of factors, including regular branch usage and the alternative ways our customers can bank with us. We provide a range of alternative ways to bank, tailored to the needs of our customers and reflective of the way they live their lives.”
The news comes just months after HSBC shut its branch in Burnham-On-Sea’s College Street, pictured below, in January as part of a nationwide cost-cutting move. HSBC blamed a sharp 28 per cent reduction in customers at the branch for the “difficult decision” to shut it.