Since the news last week that Royal Bank of Scotland were to close a number of branches, including Westhill, I have had many residents contact me. The issues being raised include the effect on footfall to other businesses in Westhill, customers wishing to retain face-to-face contact and the loss of excellent, knowledgeable staff. The loss of business banking is also a concern.
I was able to catch up today with a senior member of staff at RBS and go over some of the issues.
Royal Bank of Scotland are signed up to the “Access to Banking Protocol” published by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills to provide guidelines for banks that are closing branches.
The guidelines states that while ensuring customers are treated fairly, decisions on branch closures are ultimately commercial decisions for banks to take. By the time customers like us are aware of an upcoming closure, the decision has already been made and affected staff and other key stakeholders will have been advised.
I was assured today that RBS have written to all their account holders. A number of issues have been addressed for alternative ways to bank and these include:
- retaining the free ATMs at the shopping centre
- partnership arrangements with the Post Office branch next door to enable business customers to pay in, withdraw and access coinage
- setting up a mobile bank service
There will be further consultation with the community about the best location/day for a mobile bank to visit. I have asked if the senior member of staff would facilitate a local public meeting to go over customer concerns in detail and I will update you once this is confirmed. I note from the other locations which benefit from a mobile bank service such as Echt and Kintore that they get a 20 minute slot. It is important that RBS look at the size of the population of Westhill and allocate a longer time slot here. RBS is open to suggestions for sites suitable for the mobile bank to operate from taking in to account wifi access and land ownership.
I understand there will be help in the local branch for customers to set up online banking before the branch closes. This is great, but many customers just want to deal with humans and do not trust online banking. Apart from that, many rural residents do not have good access to broadband, so we must make sure that all these issues are addressed and our more vulnerable residents have suitable alternative banking arrangements in place before October.
I will update again as soon as I get confirmation of any public meeting. If you would be interested in attending a public meeting, please get in touch and I will add your name to my file.