The Royal Bank of Scotland has been slammed over its decision to close its Kirriemuir branch in the new year.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the bank said it had taken the “difficult decision” to close the branch on February 24. 2015.
It blamed a 24 per cent drop in transactions at the branch over the last few years, while over the whole branch network there has been a 30 per cent drop in branch transactions since 2010 as people bank where and when convenient.
Online and mobile transactions have grown by over 200 per cent.
An RBS spokesman said: “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.”
The bank goes on to explain that, when it closes a branch, it takes a number of factors into account including usage and alternative ways to bank with it in the local area.
The spokesman continued: “We do understand that some of our customers do not use the internet or mobile phone app and prefer to be served over-the-counter. As a result we have come to an agreement with the local Post Office, which is close to the branch, so that customers can withdraw cash, check balances, and make deposits free of charge. Businesses can also get coinage.”
And it is this comment which has angered local politicians at all levels as they point out the situation regarding the proposal to relocate the Post Office from Reform Street to Thistle News and Gifts in the town centre.
Graeme Dey, Angus South MSP said: “RBS have highlighted a marked downturn in usage of the bank in Kirriemuir as justification for their decision. They tell me only 53 customers use the facility now on a regular weekly basis. But banks, especially those which have received large sums of public money, as RBS did during the banking crisis, also, in my opinion, have a moral obligation to our rural communities.
“To be fair RBS aren’t withdrawing counter facilities entirely. But I have asked them whether, in entering into the agreement they have with the Post Office, they were aware of the planned re-location of the PO facility and the concerns that had created locally.
“I am still seeking a full answer on that particular point.”
The local MSP revealed he’d been advised by RBS that no staff would be affected by the closure decision.
Mike Weir, Angus MP, has also expressed concern at the decision.
He said: “This is another blow to the town coming as it does on the heels of the announcement of the planned closure of the Westmuir Post Office and the recent fiasco over the Kirriemuir main post office.
“To add insult to injury the bank state that customers will still be able to withdraw cash from the Post Office. Clearly they have so little awareness of the current situation in the town that they do not appreciate the concerns over Post Office services.
“This is yet another example of the retreat of the banks from more rural areas. They maintain that customers can use online services, but many in the rural areas around Kirriemuir will find it difficult to do so.”
The bank spokesman concluded: “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.
“Overall, we are investing over £1bn over the next few years to give customers greater choice in how they bank with us, such as improving our online and mobile banking and upgrading over 400 branches across the UK. These branches will be fitted with new technology including iPads to register and access Online Banking and free Wi-Fi access for customers to use their own digital devices in branch.
“We are also installing around 100 new ATM locations across the UK, including in railway stations, to increase the number of places customers can access their cash.
“Finally, almost 600 more Cash and Deposit machines (CDMs) will be placed in branches for customers to quickly and easily pay in cheques, cash and coins.
“We’ve advised staff and we’re writing to our customers to make them aware of the closure and the different ways they can still bank with us. If customers or local businesses are concerned about how this will impact their banking, they can go into the branch where staff will be happy to discuss the alternative ways to bank with us.”
The news also left the business community in Kirriemuir reeling with one businesswoman stating: “It’s appalling.
“The bank says there has been a 24 per cent drop in transactions but no wonder. They reduced the hours they open so obviously people can’t bank there.
“The bank draws people to this part of town. People are sometimes queued to the door. It would be interesting to hear what other businesses have to say”.
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