A DECISION to close a community bank is “another nail in the coffin” for a Wrexham village, according to residents.
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has announced it would be closing the Rhos branch, but has said it will be investing in another over the border in Chester.
Natwest in Rhos will close on September 1, with customers urged to travel to Wrexham.
In a letter sent to customers this week, RBS states it is “investing in NatWest Chester, to improve services available” as part of a company-wide £750 million investment over the next three years.
Furious Penycae councillor John Phillips said: “Natwest’s slogan is ‘helpful banking’ – if that’s the case I would ask them to help the people of Rhos and surrounding communities and reverse this ludicrous decision.”
A new mobile banking service will be introduced for Rhos and a cash machine will be maintained.
Pant councillor Mark Owens called for a rethink, saying the closure decision could be “disastrous” for other businesses in the village. “Having heard of the impending closure of the NatWest Rhos branch, I would like to convey my total dismay at this decision, this is another nail into the coffin of North Wales’ largest village,” he said.
“Our community has a large percentage of elderly people who are going to find difficulty in accessing their accounts also the potential for people coming into the village to bank and then to spend in the village shops will be lost. To make matters worse they claim to be ploughing resources into the neighbouring Chester branch.
How much homework has been done on this disastrous decision?
“I for one will be thinking very carefully as to where to bank in the future.”
The Wrexham branch of NatWest is about five miles away from the Rhos branch and would leave residents without their own transport reliant on bus services to get there. Chester is served by two branches, one in the city centre and one in Hoole, less than two miles away.
Cllr Phillips branded the decision to close the branch a “disgrace”, saying many elderly residents are dependent on its services and will be left without a branch.
He said: “How can they do this to us when businesses and people have supported this branch for years? For Natwest to pull the plug is nothing short of a disgrace.
“I have worked in the village for the best part of 40 years and I know how people, especially the elderly, depend on this branch. Many can’t do internet banking or travel – don’t these people matter?
North Wales AM Aled Roberts said RBS was effectively “abandoning” the community. He said: “It’s a bit rich for taxpayers from an area which is less well placed economically – having made a contribution to saving the banks a few years ago – to then see those same banks abandon those communities when it suits their business plans to do so.
“The priority of the bank should be to maintain its support for rural and less economically advantaged communities. They should abide by their original Customer Charter which promised to maintain their presence in those communities where the NatWest was the last bank.”
The decision was also been slammed by Ponciau councillor Paul Pemberton, who believes the actions are “akin to racism”, as North Wales’ largest village look set to lose its facility with an English branch a few miles away getting an investment.
Cllr Pemberton said: “Investing in one branch, in a large English city with lots of banks, and closing the final branch in North Wales’ largest village, it’s absolutely disgusting.”
RBS spokesman Debbie Phillips said: “The number of people using the branch has dropped since 2011 as more and more of them use alternative ways of banking with us. Over our whole branch network there has been a 30 per cent drop in branch transactions since 2010, while online and mobile transactions have grown by more than 200 per cent.
“Our branch network is very important to us and we are investing £750 million over the next three years to improve the way we serve our customers.
“When the branch closes, we are putting a number of measures in place to ensure that our customers can still bank with us.”