Closing Keynsham bank is 'short-sighted decision', NatWest bosses told

February 05 2018

NatWest’s decision to close its Keynsham branch is “potentially both misinformed and short-sighted” and one that could have a serious impact on the High Street, says Keynsham Town Council.

NatWest’s decision to close its Keynsham branch is “potentially both misinformed and short-sighted” and one that could have a serious impact on the High Street, says Keynsham Town Council.

Councillors have written to Ross McEwan, the chief executive officer of the banking giant, raising concerns at the loss of the “busy” branch, the lack of consultation with residents and to request a meeting.

In the open letter, signed by council chair Clive Fricker and town clerk Cheryl Scott, the authority asks whether the bank has taken into account future growth in population with developments planned in and around the town, adding: “The fact that there has been no consultation at local level on the proposal (regrettably) would suggest that this decision is potentially both misinformed and short-sighted.”

Arguing the case for keeping the branch open, the letter says as one of Keynsham’s oldest banks NatWest has many loyal, long-term customers who don’t want to take their business elsewhere and that Knowle, the nearest branch, is not “necessarily a viable alternative” without direct public transport.

The town’s population is forecast to grow by 33 per cent in the next 20 years, with new businesses also coming to Keynsham as set out in the area’s development plans, adds the council.

The letter acknowledges there are benefits to electronic banking, but says that many residents “still prefer the ‘personal touch’ and do not willingly wish to communicate electronically with anyone”.

Concerns are also raised in the letter about the potential effect of the closure on efforts to regenerate the High Street, with councillors saying they feared a “domino effect”. The banking giant is also asked to consider moving from its current listed building into a less expensive unit to save costs.

More than 500 people have signed an online petition against the closure of the branch, which is scheduled to shut its doors on June 4.

A NatWest spokesperson said the company had recently met with councillors from Bath and North East Somerset Council to explain how it reached the “difficult decision” to shut the branch and to hear their concerns.

The spokesperson added: “We outlined the alternative ways to bank available to customers. We would be happy to meet representatives of Keynsham Town Council as well. We are communicating with those customers affected by the closure and proactively contacting vulnerable elderly and disabled customers, as well as regular branch users. We have extended the time between announcing our decision and the branch closure to six months; this has been done so that we can ensure our customers have enough time to consider the right banking options for them and to give us time to support them one-to-one during the transition.”

Customers who cannot travel to Knowle will be able to use the post office for banking transactions such as depositing cash and cheques, making withdrawals and checking their balance, the spokesperson added.

Keynsham councillor Charles Gerrish, Cabinet member for finance and efficiency, said: “Last week the council leader, Councillor Tim Warren, and I met the regional director for NatWest to raise our concerns about the Keynsham branch closure and express our disappointment at this proposal, particularly in light of the fact Keynsham has a growing population and the council is actively supporting the regeneration of the High Street. We hope that NatWest takes these views on board and considers them seriously.”