Over the festive period while people were buying last minute gifts or stocking up for Christmas dinner RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) announced that it would be making further closures throughout Scotland. Locally branches in North Ayrshire, namely Kilbirnie, Saltcoats and Kilwinning are up for the chop. This will hit Ayrshire particularly hard because its already lost five other branches back in October 2017, the previous closures taking branches in Troon, Prestwick, Girvan, Mauchline and Cumnock.
A spokesperson for RBS had this to say in regards to the closures, “Since 2014 the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40% and mobile transactions have increased by 73 per cent over the same period. Over 5 million customers now use our mobile banking app and one in five only bank with us digitally.”
So the reason behind the closures is the typical high street dilema, if people can do things online from the comfort of their home, without interacting with a person then the demand for a physical branch is diminished, but unlike with a clothing store for example, there are things you can only do in a branch, such as deposit money, and so without a local branch to do this people are left at best inconvenienced and at worst severely impacted. It also ignores people who rely upon the branch, the elderly, physically impaired and those with lower incomes will find it difficult to travel outwith their local area to the nearest branch. Sure they can use post offices, credit unions and other banks to supplement their service needs to a degree but that’s assuming that they are readily available in place of the local RBS branch.
Now I can understand these closures from a business point of view, its cost effective, even sensible to remove physical branches when evidence shows that people are using them less but the fact is that people are still using them, granted not as much as RBS would like but people are using them, in fact people still rely upon them and so its just wrong to close these branches. The way I think of it is that from their point of view they are closing these branches in response to people opting to use a quick and convenient alternative such as online/mobile banking, but just because a convenient service is being utilised doesn’t mean you should get rid of the original, I mean we have emails and instant messaging now but that doesn’t mean we should get rid of post offices and traditional mail because people still rely upon those services for things the alternatives aren’t able to do.
RBS says, “We are communicating with our customers affected by the closures and proactively contacting vulnerable customers and regular branch users”
So they recognise that their actions might have a negative impact and are willing to put in place additional measures to support those who would be influenced. However some might feel that these are just empty promises after all RBS have previously claimed that they would never close down a branch if it was the last remaining bank in the community and yet they’ve previously done so, and in fact this latest round of closures will shut down the last remaining bank in 13 towns, in the case of Kilwinning this involves a trip into Irvine, the nearest town for face to face banking needs, which is inconvenient but manageable for most people but in places such an Inveraray which is also losing its last remaining bank they would be forced to use the bank in Oban which is 37 miles away.
It’s not just locally that this is happening either more than 60 branches will be closed all across Scotland, with small towns being hit the worst because they will have to travel further afield for inquiries and services that can’t be offered online. Also despite promising that redundancies would be “kept to an absolute minimum” its estimated that around 158 jobs will be lost at least, and this simply isn’t fair.
Additionally closing branches in isolated places because of the prevalence of mobile banking doesn’t exactly work, wifi in these places is hardly stable compared to more central locations so you really are cutting them off from banking services without a reliable lifeline. The bank’s solution to many of these concerns was a mobile bank van, but there are no guarantees that they would be able to offer all the services of a physical branch, and unlike a physical branch which is stable, Monday to Sunday, with listed operating hours, it would be difficult if not impossible for a mobile bank to offer that same stability. You’d have to wait for it to arrive in your area, which again would impact isolated areas worse just because they are harder to reach. Frankly I foresee a long teething process for these vans, assuming they are implemented, but overall they will be expensive and do nothing to offset the actual issue, which is that people need the dependability and services that a local and physical branch offer.
The North Ayrshire branches that are set for closure, will close their doors in June, with Kilbirnie, Kilwinning and Saltcoats closing on the 5th, 11th and 20th June 2018 respectively.
However for the Kilwinning branch of RBS there’s still hope at least MP Patricia Gibson and Councillor Scott Davidson will be collecting signatures outside the Main Street bank this weekend. MP Patricia Gibson had this to say about the closure “I am hugely disappointed by the disregard shown to the people of North Ayrshire by the RBS. It is simply unacceptable that this bank has failed to engage with its own customers or consult with the communities it is supposed to serve.”
So if this matter will affect you or you simply want to stop RBS from closing a vital local branch, then get down to Kilwinning main street this weekend or contact MP Patricia Gibson to try and help.
First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org