Hundreds back call to save Keynsham's NatWest branch from closure

December 29 2017

Hundreds of people are backing a campaign to keep Keynsham’s NatWest bank open after the banking giant RBS revealed the town’s branch would be one of almost 260 nationwide to be axed next year.

Hundreds of people are backing a campaign to keep Keynsham’s NatWest bank open after the banking giant RBS revealed the town’s branch would be one of almost 260 nationwide to be axed next year.

RBS announced the bank, in the High Street, would close on June 4, saying the “difficult decision” had been taken as more and more people switched to internet banking.

The branch has seen transactions fall by 34 per cent since 2012 with 70 customers visiting the bank per week, said a spokesperson, adding that there were six posts at the branch and the firm was “working with our staff to consider their options”.

However, Keynsham resident and town councillor David Biddleston is urging a rethink, saying the loss of face-to-face contact with their bank would affect many people. He said the decision should not be “taken lying down” and has launched a petition, which has so far been signed by more than 300 people online and has the backing of Keynsham Town Council.

Mr Biddleston said: “It might well be the case that some of us do indeed bank online, but there are many Keynsham residents that cannot. At times, all of us need that face-to-face contact and this ought not mean a visit to a ‘remaining’ branch in Knowle West.

“It certainly is not just our elderly residents that require face-to-face contact, many of our local businesses rely on the branch to deposit takings, we visit to arrange changes to accounts and mortgages, we rely on good managers with personal knowledge of the area that have understanding relationships with customers, and this list is by no means exhausted.”

If the branch was to close, the nearest NatWest for Keynsham customers would be at Knowle – although no direct bus route is available, residents have pointed out.

Comments on our Facebook page also questioned the decision to close a branch in a growing town like Keynsham. One user said: “I bet the majority of those 70 people [who visit the branch per week] are older, who rely on the High Street bank. Seeing as Keynsham has a new residential home opening, surely the need will be increased.”

Another added: “Three miles to Knowle doesn’t sound much but as far as I know there is no bus to Knowle from Keynsham so how will people with no car get there?

“I think they will lose a lot of customers by shutting. With the current and proposed development in the town this seems like a short-sighted move. They should be canvassing for business not shutting up shop.”

Keynsham Town Council voted in December to add its voice to calls to keep the branch open, writing to the CEO of the bank and making copies of the petition available to sign in the council offices in Temple Street.

Town clerk Cheryl Scott said: “It’s not convenient for people to travel from Keynsham to Knowle. Contrary to the literature NatWest released, it is 5.6 miles by car and you can’t get there by public transport.

"We do not think they have taken into account the current and forecasted rate of population growth in Keynsham with the new developments nor the increase in business with some of the developments planned in the Pixash Lane area.

“We feel that as a town council residents would expect us to object, especially given the manner in which this is being introduced without any type of discussion with the community at all.”

RBS announced on December 1 that in total it would be closing 62 Royal Bank of Scotland branches and 197 NatWest – with the loss of 680 jobs nationally. Among the proposed closures locally are branches at Hanham, Chew Magna, Winterbourne, Chipping Sodbury and others in Bristol.

The RBS spokesperson added: “We provide our customers with more ways to bank than ever before – customers can choose from a range of digital, face-to-face and local options. The way people bank with us has changed radically over the last few years: since 2014, the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40 per cent. During the same period mobile transactions have increased by 73 per cent; and in the first half of 2017, there were 1.1 billion mobile and online transactions carried out by our customers: an increase of 41 per cent since 2014.

“Since 2012 we have seen the way in which people use NatWest Keynsham branch change dramatically, with now 87 per cent of customers already banking in other ways locally. Transactions in NatWest Keynsham branch have reduced by 34 per cent since 2012 with now only 70 customers visiting the branch on a weekly basis. Sixty-one per cent of customers are now choosing to bank digitally with us on a regular basis instead.

“We are communicating with our customers affected by the closure and proactively contacting vulnerable customers and 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.”

The online petition can be found at http://bit.ly/2oG1SUm