DETERMINED LOCALS are pushing on with their fight to keep the area’s last remaining bank open despite banking bosses’ refusal to visit the branch.
In early December, NatWest announced the branch on Uppermill high street will shut on 27 June 2017 due to increasing numbers of people banking online.
The ATM is expected to remain but, following the closure of Barclays Bank in Lees in November, the nearest bank in Oldham would be 4.9 miles away in the town centre.
It follows frustration earlier in the year when NatWest closed the branch on Wednesdays and reduced its opening times to 9.30am to 4.30pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Since the announcement of the closure, former leader of Oldham Council Richard Knowles, who lives in Greenfield, has written three times to NatWest.
After being refused a meeting, he wrote in his latest letter: “I am very disappointed that Cameron Smith has rejected my offer to meet him or other senior managers on site.
“This would enable NatWest management to see first hand the vital role the bank plays in the community for local businesses, local residents and the large number of tourists.
“Your latest reply fails again to give plausible reasons for the closure. NatWest’s evidence of other local ATMs and distances to the nearest surviving banks in other towns is incorrect.
“NatWest should not assume that previously loyal customers will stay with them if it closes its Uppermill bank and ATM.
“I urge NatWest to come and talk with people in our community and reconsider its decision to close its Uppermill bank and its very well used ATM.”
Meanwhile, Saddleworth Parish Council is adding their voice to the cries as they are also writing to the bank’s chief executive Ross McEwan.
Discussing the issue at their meeting in January, Cllr Pam Byrne, chairman of the Council, said: “I feel as a Parish Council we ought to say what we think to NatWest.
“We use the bank not only as a council but as individuals too, as a lot of the community do and it would be a massive loss.”
Cllr Jamie Curley added: “I understand it is a business and has to be run as such but in a community like this with a population of nearly 30,000 it is a necessity.
“After the death of my father, I had a lot of things to sort with the bank so it was nice to be able to go into the local branch with my mother and they helped us sort things smoothly.
“There used to be mobile banks that came around to offer services – could that be an alternative if the branch has to go?”
Cllr Alan Belmore added: “The bank has a duty beyond that of satisfying their shareholders – they have to serve the community and their customers.”
NatWest closed their branch in Lees in 2011 despite resistance from the community and local councillors, led by Barbara Beeley and Val Sedgwick.
Cllr Beeley said: “We fought against the closure of the NatWest branch in Lees with petitions and getting in touch with the chief executive – but we couldn’t save it.
“But this time could be different. NatWest has a promise not to close the last branch in the area and this one in Uppermill is Saddleworth’s last bank so perhaps they’ll listen to that.”
Some banking services, including paying in, withdrawing money, checking balances and ordering coinage for businesses can be carried out at Post Offices.
NatWest were contacted for a response but had not replied when the Independent went to print.