RBS to shut local branches

The Royal Bank of Scotland have announced that branches in Whithorn, Glenluce will close in September.

The bank, which is 82 per cent owned by the taxpayer after being bailed out by the government at the height of the credit crunch in 2008, will replace banking services with a mobile bank. Customers will be able to use their local Post office for banking transactions.

A spokesperson for RBS said today: “We have taken the difficult decision to close our RBS Whithorn and Glenluce branches. Whithorn will close on 12 September and Glenluce will close on 17 September.

The reason behind each of the closures is as follows:

RBS Whithorn: The number of customers using this branch has dropped by 16% since 2011 as more and more of them use alternative ways of banking with us. This includes by telephone, in Post Offices, by app and online.

RBS Glenluce: The number of people using this branch has dropped by nearly 40% since 2011. The branch is only open for 5.5 hours a week.

“Over our whole branch network there has been a 30% drop in branch transactions since 2010 , whilst online and mobile transactions have grown by more than 200%.

Our branch network is very important to us and we are investing £750m over the next three years to improve the way we serve our customers. This will include branch refurbishments, investment in digital banking and upgrading our ATM network. Overall, we will retain a very large branch network across the UK with more branches than Asda and Sainsbury’s stores combined. 80% of our customers are within a three mile radius of a branch, and when you include the Post Office network that rises to 90% of our customers being within one mile of a place where they can carry out their every day banking.

When the branch closes, we are putting a number of measures in place to ensure that our customers can still bank with us. These include:

A new Mobile Branch: we’ve invested in a new mobile branch that will cover many more communities and provide a more personal banking service. We’re working with the local council on the exact stops to make sure we get the right route, but we will publish the timetable before the branch closes.

Customers will still be able to do all the same transactions they could do in the branch, but the van will also be equipped with satellite technology which will allow staff on board to connect directly to customers account.

It will also have an on-board iPad which will allow customers to register for online banking, with staff on hand to provide demonstrations of things such as keeping track of statements, transferring money to and from accounts and paying bills, and to help customers where required.

Post Office: We also have an arrangement with the local Post Office, which is a very short walk away, that allows our customers to withdraw cash, check balances and pay bills free of charge. We also recently announced that in the coming months, our customers will be able to deposit both cash and cheques, and businesses will be able to get coinage, in any of the Post Office’s 11,500 branches across the UK

ATM: For customers who have basic bank accounts with these branches, they will have their restrictions lifted and will be able to use ATMs from other banks in the area.

“We’ve advised staff and we’re writing to our customers at all these branches to make them aware of the closure and the different ways they can still bank with us. If customers are concerned about how this will impact their banking, they can go into the branch where staff will be happy to discuss the alternative options available.”

Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “This is another example of the centralisation agenda facing many of our communities where crucial local services are being lost. Of course banks need to adapt when the number of customers over the door falls. But RBS are not only reneging on previous commitments they don’t seem to understand that for many people in remote rural communities online banking is simply not possible because of poor internet access. General claims about the possibility of a mobile van branch visiting the area leave more questions than answers. The bank also claim people will be able to carry out basic banking at a local Post Office. However, I have already been in touch with the Post Office to seek clarification on what the Bank claims and will be seeking a joint meeting with both to see exactly what services will be available in the communities affected. None of this will be any consolation to the hard working staff in the branches affected who now face losing their job at a time where there are still few alternative opportunities in our area.”

Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson commented: “I am horrified at this decision. While RBS has stated it will bring in mobile banking facilities and that its customers will have basic banking facilities through the Post Office, the closure of any bank branch is a very real blow to any local community”.

“It is particularly galling that RBS, which is effectively in public ownership, has chosen to deprive its rural customers of their traditional banking facilities. Whatever alternative facilities are introduced, banking in these three communities will be lost forever.”

Mid Galloway Councillor Alistair Geddes added: “I am bitterly disappointed, but not surprised, given the depths this bank has plumbed over recent years. When I went to work in Whithorn in 1996 I transferred such business as I had to the Whithorn Branch and have kept it there ever since, on the basis that the more people who use such rural facilities, the more sustainable they are likely to be. I obviously should have known better!

“Notwithstanding, I would place on record my appreciation of the courtesy, professionalism and general helpfulness which I have always received from the staff not only of the Whithorn but also the Newton Stewart and Stranraer branches. If the bank genuinely wish to cut costs and enhance the level of service they provide, I would suggest they start by getting rid of the dead wood which I’m sure they will find in abundance further up the tree.”