Thursday, November 15, 2012
Pressure is building on Nationwide to drop plans to close a Norfolk town’s branch as the local MP, town council and business forum seek a meeting with bosses.
Anger has been growing in Harleston since the building society announced plans last month to close its branch on the Thoroughfare on January 31 – just months after the HSBC bank shut its doors.
At Wednesday’s town council meeting, councillor Adrian Brownsea said: “This action is deplorable. I suggest people lodge a grievance with trading standards and the Advertising Standards Authority because they have taken out adverts saying they are not like the banks but they are doing the same thing.
“And I thought they were controlled by the members, so why don’t they listen to their members?”
He said an elderly, partially-sighted woman had been told to use internet banking, “but how do you pay money in over the internet?”
District councillor Jeremy Savage said: “A disabled man rang me who relies on Nationwide to get his money and he’s very distressed about it.”
Councillor Ian Broughton said he had read newspaper reports that Nationwide might buy branches from Royal Bank of Scotland.
But councillor Frank Thomas said: “I haven’t been in a bank for years and can pay in money through the post office.”
Resident Basil Eastaugh said he had approached the N&P about opening a branch in Harleston and the idea was being considered, and town council chairman Eric Bird agreed this was an idea worth pursuing.
Yesterday, South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said: “I hope that Nationwide’s decision is not necessarily irrevocable, although I do understand that keeping the branch open will certainly be an uphill struggle.
“Nationwide bosses need to understand just how important this is to local people. Together with local business leaders I am hoping to meet Nationwide in the near future to ask them to review this decision. In the meantime, I urge Nationwide customers in and around Harleston to keep using the branch.”
Clive Attwood, chairman of the Harleston and District Business Forum, said: “We don’t think they’ve taken on board the fact that this is a town that is growing and that it is a hub which attracts people from surrounding villages. We all know the banking process is changing, but maybe the people who made this decision are not aware of the new build and Harleston’s potential.”
A spokesman for Nationwide said: “As part of an ongoing review of the Nationwide business and its distribution arrangements we have made the difficult, but carefully considered, decision to close our Harleston branch at 2pm on January 31, 2013. This decision is based on a number of factors including declining customer usage, profitability, expiring lease and proximity of other branches.
“We have written to all our customers who currently use the affected branch to explain the situation and provide information on other accessible branches and alternative services. Nationwide remains committed to maintaining a large and strong branch network.
“In addition to around 700 branches across the UK, Nationwide has full service telephone and internet banking, which are increasingly popular with customers of all ages.
“The welfare of all of our employees is very important to us and we are doing everything we can to minimise the impact on those affected by this decision. We are confident that we will be able to redeploy the vast majority of affected employees into neighbouring branches.”
The next nearest Nationwide branches are Diss, almost 10 miles away, and Beccles, about 15 miles.
Regarding reports that Nationwide was a potential bidder for RBS branches, she said: “We don’t comment on press speculation.”
If you wish to contact Nationwide about the closure, write to Complaints Team, Nationwide Building Society, NW 2020 Swindon, SN38 1NW or