Campaigners launch petition against closure of bank

Campaigning against the closure of the NatWest bank, Hebden Bridge. From the left, Ella Wilson from Pennine Provisions, councillor Janet Battye, butcher Stephen Maskill, councillor Ali Miles, councillor Steve Sweeney and Bill Deakin from Silly Billy's.
Campaigning against the closure of the NatWest bank, Hebden Bridge. From the left, Ella Wilson from Pennine Provisions, councillor Janet Battye, butcher Stephen Maskill, councillor Ali Miles, councillor Steve Sweeney and Bill Deakin from Silly Billy's.
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Campaigners have launched a petition to stop the closure of a “vital” NatWest branch in Hebden Bridge.

NatWest announced plans earlier this month to close its branch on Crown Street due to a 10 per cent drop in branch transactions in the last few years.

Hundreds of signatures have already been gathered by businesses, residents and councillors in the town to stop the closure.

Bill Deakin, owner of Silly Billy’s Toy Shop, who set up the petition, said the branch is “vital” in the town, both for businesses and residents.

“This is about every level of community - young, old, able and disabled. It’s about giving a service that’s accessible to all. People outside of Hebden Bridge may see us as a small town but it’s a community and we need these services to survive.

“I have been a NatWest customer for 40 years and a business customer for 18 years. It is unacceptable. I view the bank as a service like the police or bus service.

“Hebden Bridge is much more than a small town, it’s a community and we need to keep that,” Bill added.

Bank customer Kate Gill said: “Even though a lot of people do a lot of banking online now, it will be very difficult for some people to travel into Halifax to file cheques and it takes away from the community.”

Jonathan Timbers, Mayor of Hebden Royd, said: “I am saddened by news of the NatWest branch closure. It’s vital that a town whose economy depends, in part, on small independent retailers and start-up creative industries should have a thriving banking sector.

“The closure will also hit people who have difficulty travelling to branches in other towns because they’re too poor or disabled. Rather than close, banks should open at different times, and start serving customers, and not the interests of high finance. Banks need to get into line with the real economy and communities who provide the value that the financial system relies on.”

The address on bank statements and cheque books, will be changed to the Halifax NatWest on Waterhouse Street.

The ATM will stay in the community and there is an agreement in place with the Post Office in Hebden Bridge so that customers can withdraw cash, make deposits and check balances free of charge.

Councillor Ali Rees said: “I note with dismay the proposed closure of the Hebden Bridge branch of Nat West.

“I understand the changing nature of banking. However, in our town, famous for its small independent retailers, this represents the loss of services to the whole community.

“There is a petition against the closure and I urge people to sign it. I want Nat West to listen to the views of its customers and reverse this decision.

Coun Janet Battye (Lib Dem, Calder) is “disappointed that Hebden Bridge and the Upper Valley will be losing its last NatWest branch”.

“It prides itself on being a ‘listening bank’ and I thought that it had promised not to close any more local branches.

“In Hebden Bridge, we now only have two banks and the Post Office: there was twice that number when I moved here in 2000.”

A NatWest spokeswoman insisted no jobs will be lost at the Hebden Bridge branch and employees would be deployed elsewhere.”

“The number of transactions taking place at this branch has dropped by 10 per cent over the last few years,” she said. “Online and mobile transactions have grown by over 200%. We expect these trends to continue as more and more of our customers bank with us through our mobile app, by online and telephone and through our upgraded ATM network.

“Our branches are still very important to us and we’ll continue to have one of the largest branch networks in the UK.

“Eighty per cent of our customers are within a three mile radius of a branch, and when you include the Post Office network that rises to 90 per cent of our customers being within one mile of a place where they can carry out their every day banking,” she added.