I was pleased to meet with the local CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland last week along with their senior management to discuss further the branch closure at Westhill. Also attending the meeting were local business and personal account holders, charity account holders, a Post Office representative as well as representatives from each of our three Ward 13 community councils; Westhill & Elrick, Echt & Skene and Cluny, Midmar & Monymusk.
I called for this meeting after RBS made a public announcement to close local branches including Westhill, Banchory and Stonehaven. The strength of feeling about the closure is clear by the amount of emails and calls we have received on this issue. A high number of residents have signed a petition against the closure, but we must not build up hopes of any reversal of the decision to close these branches and we must take a proactive stance to get the very best alternatives for local customers. At our meeting, it was reiterated by the bank that this is a commercial decision. What we did ask them to do is bring back more in-depth analysis of the figures they first presented to justify the closure and to produce a “Customer and Community Engagement” document in early course so that we can see clearly the statistics behind the closure and their plans for future engagement.
We were able to start a dialogue with them about the alternative banking methods they expect their customers to use. At our meeting, RBS agreed to consult further through community councils as well as other partners including Aberdeenshire Council. These discussions will shape when and where a mobile branch can be located in Westhill. There was a recognition that the mobile branches are not fit for purpose and we were assured that the vans will be upgraded with the technology required to serve customers.
We were also successful in our request that RBS sit down separately with local Post Office managers to ensure that they have the capacity to provide alternative banking facilities rather than take it for granted that all post offices will be able to accommodate the additional transactions.
Many customers are concerned about the lack of privacy at both the local post office and in a mobile branch and I am making enquiries about the possibility of RBS holding local surgeries.
All in all, this meeting was a useful starting point and I hope that we can explore all avenues to secure the very best alternatives over the coming months. When RBS and our community councils have arranged their next meeting, I will provide details here.
As an update, RBS have today provided the following:
- An average of 49 active customers use the branch every week to undertake transactions
- Of the 49 customers, 28 of them already use other branches
- 13 of these customers are Personal/Private banking customers, 36 are Business customers of which many use alternative banking services e.g. online and mobile app.
- This data has been derived from customer transactions over a 26 week period from October 2016 to January 2017.
- Locations of free to use ATMs in and around Westhill include the two at the RBS location in the shopping centre, one at Costco, two at Tesco, one at TACO in the Westhill Business Park and one at Westhill Service Station.
- For local Clubs and Society account holder enquiries, the Account Management Team can be contacted on 0345 600 2230. I know this is a concern for local account holders left with no local facility as residents who run groups such as brownies, guides and indeed community councils are volunteers and use their own time to keep their accounts in order. Any queries should be directed to the above number but we will endeavour to get more answers as questions crop up in further discussions.
- The “Access to Banking” protocol which RBS adheres to requires them to publish the “Community & Engagement” documents a minimum of 4 weeks prior to closure and they currently work to get this live 6 weeks before closure. However, further to our discussions, the local CEO has requested that this can be looked at given the 6 months notice period.
- A Business Growth Enabler along with a technical expert (TechXpert) will start to visit all outlying Post Offices in the area during May.