Thursday, November 29, 2012
A Norfolk MP has branded Nationwide’s decision to close a market town branch “short-sighted” following talks with senior managers.
The talks came after a 1,300-name petition against the proposed closure of the Harleston branch on January 31 was handed in to the building society last week.
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, town council chairman Eric Bird and Clive Attwood, chairman of the Harleston and District Business Forum, spoke by phone with Larry Banda, Nationwide’s divisional director for the branch network, and Richard Wainer, head of policy and public affairs, on Wednesday.
Mr Bacon said: “We spent over an hour on a telephone conference call with senior Nationwide managers, who listened carefully to the points we made. However, it became clear that the Nationwide has no intention of reversing its decision.
“I realise that it is not easy for a bank or a building society to make the economics of a small branch work. However, the decision to close the Harleston branch still seems short-sighted, given that the town is set to grow over the coming years.
“Mutual building societies generally have a good record in taking account of the needs of local communities, which does make Nationwide’s decision all the more disappointing.”
Mr Bird said: “We put forward the case very strongly that this is a growing town and there are lots of business opportunities here with plans for a business park and the new houses.
“We also pointed out that it was not easy for elderly or disabled people to travel to Diss or Beccles to pay in money.
“But they made it perfectly clear that they are not going to change their minds.”
He added: “Someone suggested to me that we all switch to the Co-op Bank because you can do your banking with them through the post office.”
Norwich and Peterborough Building Society has been approached about opening a branch in Harleston, and Mr Bird said he understood that the suggestion was being considered.
Petition organiser Fiona Smith said: “I can’t believe Nationwide is ignoring the wishes of more than 1,300 people – and the petition is still growing.
“I’ve written to Nationwide’s senior managers urging them to face the people of Harleston in a public meeting.”
A spokesman for Nationwide said: “We fully understand the concerns over the closure of the Harleston branch and welcomed the opportunity to speak with Richard Bacon MP, Eric Bird, chairman of Harleston Town Council, and Clive Attwood, chairman of the Harleston and District Business Forum. We hope that, whilst our plan remains unchanged, the conversation was helpful in explaining the reasons for the decision we have taken.
“Deciding to close a branch is never easy but like any successful and prudent organisation, we constantly review the facilities we offer our customers to enable us to operate in a cost-efficient manner for the benefit of our membership as a whole.
“We understand and regret the inconvenience that this will cause some of our customers in Harleston. This is not a decision we have taken lightly and would like to re-emphasise that this has been reached following a rigorous review process.”
Anger has been growing since the building society announced plans last month to close its Thoroughfare branch on January 31 – just months after the HSBC bank shut its doors. The decision was slated at November’s town council meeting.
If you wish to contact Nationwide about the closure, write to Complaints Team, Nationwide Building Society, NW 2020 Swindon, SN38 1NW or