A COMMUNITY banking lifeline has been secured for locals as the closure of the NatWest branch in Uppermill looms.
The high street branch will close on June 27, 2017, with the nearest Oldham branch located in the town centre, almost 5 miles away.
But now, it has been confirmed that counter transactions can be carried out at Uppermill Post Office, and there will also be a community banking service at the Civic Hall.
Cllr Jamie Curley has been working with the regional team from NatWest to secure the services.
He said: “I’m really pleased we have the commitment from NatWest to stay in the community and I’m confident we can provide the broad range of banking services residents require.
“Working constructively with the team means we can retain as much of the services in Saddleworth as we need and people will not have to make the trip into Oldham or Ashton.”
Normal counter transactions will be available at Uppermill Post Office, including cash, cheque and change handling transactions. The ATM currently outside the NatWest branch is expected to remain.
Locals will also be able to visit Community Banker Paul Geary at the Civic Hall, or organise a home visit, to discuss personal banking services.
Paul Davies, NatWest’s local CEO, spoke about the plans at the Saddleworth and Lees District Partnership meeting in March.
He said: “We’ve got four months before the branch closes and we are working hard to identify what services people need and how we are going to be able to deliver those.
“Many people are internet savvy so can move online but services in the community will help to support elderly and vulnerable customers.”
But the plan received a mixed response from local councillors.
Cllr John Hudson said: “It is more satisfactory than we envisaged when before we just seemed to be faced with a blank wall.
“While I don’t think it will please everybody, the branch is closing and we can’t change that. This goes some way to alleviating problems for locals and for that I am very grateful.”
Cllr Graham Sheldon added: “It will be great that services remain local and will be available at the post office.”
But disappointed Cllr John McCann said: “I remember a promise by banks that they would not shut the last branch in a village or town.
“There are quite a few businesses as well as locals who have relied on NatWest for many years. If you try to transfer all those services to one post office, it is going to be awful.
“It is not safe for business owners to walk around the streets with hundreds of pounds of cash in their pockets.”
He added: “This is part of the decline of communities. What will be next?”
And Cllr Alan Belmore commented: “I remain very disappointed as there are a lot of people who rely on the local bank and its services.
“The number of people this will affect is significant and there is a lot of anger in the community about the decision.”
A team from NatWest will be attending the Saddleworth Community day on Sunday, April 2 at the Civic Hall to give advice, talk about services available and discuss the new arrangements.
Across the country, the Royal Bank of Scotland is closing 158 branches, most of them NatWest outlets, with an expected loss of up to 362 jobs.
Meanwhile, Richard Knowles, former Mayor of Oldham, is continuing his fight to have a bank in Uppermill and has written to other banks about the possibility of opening a branch in the village.