Saturday, 24 July 2021

Nat West closes branch despite protests

THE only bank in Sonning Common closes today (Friday) despite a campaign by residents to save it.

In May, NatWest announced it would close the Peppard Road bank, saying the number of customers had dropped to just 29 per week due to the growing use of online banking.

Many residents were angered by the decision, saying they did not want to use alternative methods such as online or telephone banking.

Parish councillor Dirk Jones launched a petition which was signed by about 1,000 people.

Last month, 50 people staged a protest outside the bank and presented the petition to Gavin Owens, the bank’s local chief executive officer.

Councillor Jones said: “It is very sad but we have all faced up to the fact that we have come up against a brick wall.

“Quite a few people in Sonning Common are closing their accounts and many others are doing the same out of solidarity with the village.”

He thanked those who protested, adding: “Everyone came away from the protest with a feeling that NatWest was certainly not a caring bank and arrogant towards its customer base in pursuit of profits.

“The bank will be closing regardless of public opinion and has set a precedent of discrimination against the elderly and non-IT capable people and will never be trusted again.”

NatWest said a cash machine would remain in the village and that arrangements had been made with the post office for customers to take out cash, check balances and pay bills.

A spokeswoman said the bank was still looking for a permanent location for the cash machine but that it would stay outside the branch for the time being.

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