Saturday, 21 July 2018

Council fears bank closure will affect local economy

FEARS over the future of Watlington’s post office and the closure of its bank signals “another

FEARS over the future of Watlington’s post office and the closure of its bank signals “another nail in the coffin” of its high street, it has been claimed.

Parish councillor Liz Winton raised the concerns as the council discussed the closure of Barclays Bank on October 23 at its meeting last Tuesday.

But this week, a Post Office spokeswoman confirmed that Watlington’s postmistress Nikki Jackson had “expressed an interest in leaving the business”.

She said: “If we can find a suitable alternative retailer and we do decide to relocate the branch, any relocation would be subject to a public consultation.

“We are not planning to close any post office but we do have a need to ensure that out branches are commercially sustainable into the future and want to work with the postmistress at Watlington to explore the best way of achieving this.” The company was committed to maintaining a post office service in the area. Council chairman Ian Hill said: “To lose both of them would be really very serious” and Councillor Tony Williamson said  he had discussed the issue with Angie Paterson, constituency office  manager and caseworker for Henley MP John Howell.

“Her view quite clearly is that if the postmistress asks for the MP’s help he would certainly get involved, but the MP would not interfere in what is a business relationship between the Post Office itself and a local postmistress.

“Her message to me was Watlington would still have a post office; the question was where and quite how. I think losing the bank services is significant as well.”

Watlington Parish Council also has bank accounts with Barclays and Councillor Robin Wilson asked: “Should we stay with Barclays, given that they are going?”

Peter Richardson, of campaign group Watnext, suggested starting a campaign. He did not believe action would halt the closure of Barclays but added: “It’s just the double blow of both of them.”

Mark Jones, community leader for Barclays Oxford and Chilterns, said: “The way customers undertake their banking is changing as people increasingly use online, telephone and mobile devices. We must therefore evolve the shape and size of our branch network in response to changing customer behaviour.

“At Barclays Watlington branch customer usage has declined by 53 per cent since 2008 and 49 per cent of our customers now regularly use alternative branches, which is why we have taken the difficult decision to close the branch on Friday, October 23, 2015.

This figure is even higher for business customers. Our colleagues at the Barclays Watlington branch have been consulted about the change and will be given the opportunity to work at a nearby branch.

“We hope that the availability of branches at Wallingford, Thame and Henley, access to services at the local Post Office and our range of digital channels will help to ease the transition for our customers as we move out of the Watlington branch.

“We do not take the decision to close any branch lightly and we are committed to adhering to the new UK Government protocol on branch closures.

“All of our customers will receive a letter, posters will be displayed in—branch and colleagues will be on hand to assist customers with any concerns they may have.

“We will be proactively engaging with local businesses and the wider community to discuss the alternative ways customers will be able to undertake their banking locally, before the branch closes.”

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