Monday, 08 March 2021

Anger at decision to close last bank

CAVERSHAM’S only remaining bank is to close.

The Nationwide branch in Church Street, which has a cash machine, will cease trading on April 22.

This follows the closure of NatWest in Bridge Street in 2019 and Lloyds in the same street in 2016.

The decision comes seven years after plans to close the branch were scrapped following a campaign by residents.

Nationwide has told customers that it tries to avoid closures but the Caversham branch was too costly to justify retaining it.

It said the branch was handling 25 per cent fewer transactions in 2019 than in 2014 while only 27 per cent of customers used it exclusively.

It said: “There are some towns and cities where we have more than one branch and sometimes one is used much less or will cost too much to bring up to standard.

“Unfortunately, that’s what happened in the case of Caversham... with older branches, we have to think about how much we’d need to spend to bring it up to date.

“Where costs are high, we choose not to spend our members’ money if there’s a better alternative.”

Nationwide says it has written to customers and will discuss ways of reducing the impact with Reading Borough Council and Reading East MP Matt Rodda.

The nearest alternatives will be in Broad Street, Reading, School Road, Tilehurst, and Crockhamwell Road, Woodley, all within no more than 4.4 miles.

There is also a branch in Market Place, Henley.

The nearest cash machine is at the Esso garage and Tesco Express convenience store next door.

Chris Walton, chairman of the Caversham Traders Association, said: “In 2013 they tried to close the branch and we campaigned and we got them to reverse the decision.

“The people at Nationwide who tried to close the branch didn’t even know where Caversham was.

“Their argument is not enough people are using it but not enough people are using any banks at the moment. They have shortened their hours because of the pandemic.

“Henley, for argument’s sake, has a population of 11,500 and has all the banks while Caversham has a population of 24,000.

“Caversham has a large elderly population, my mum being one of them. She doesn’t do internet banking so she will have to get in a car or public transport and go to Tilehurst, Reading or Henley and that puts her at more of a risk to covid-19 than before.

“The leaflet they have put out says they will be speaking to local communities and MPs but Matt Rodda hasn’t heard a dicky bird.

“The contact number on their own leaflet regarding the closure of the branch doesn’t work so you can’t complain or be told what to do now. It is bad form and all quite shocking.”

According to a recent Government review, more than 160 bank branches are expected to close in the first three months of this year.

Nationwide has pledged not to leave any town or city without an outlet until at least 2023.

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