FRUSTRATED CUSTOMERS have staged a protest outside Barclays Bank in Lees which is scheduled to close at the end of this month.
Carrying placards, they registered their protest opposing the closure of the branch on the village High Street, scheduled for November 25.
After then, customers will have to travel a further 2.5 miles into Oldham town centre to visit the nearest branch.
Oldham and Saddleworth Parish Councillor, Steve Hewitt, who headed the protest, said: “These big banks are driving us into a cashless society.
“They are implementing contactless cards and online banking and want our money to invest but care little for small businesses who rely on cash to trade their wares.
“They manipulate us so easily by closing the heart of a village and put only the bare minimum in place to support business struggling on a day to day basis.
“They care little for the elderly who have banked with them for many years. They need to know they work for us – not us for them.”
Cllr Hewitt said a public meeting will be held soon in Lees to discuss the closure.
Cllr Adrian Alexander added: “Oldham Council is trying to regenerate the village and we’ve seen a lot of new businesses coming in, which is great.
“But the removal of the bank will make things harder for them. It’s a step towards degeneration instead.”
Businessman Bob Marshall from Springhead, said: “This protest should send a message to Barclays who seem insensitive to the fact this is a busy, community bank.
“I tried to use the Oldham branch and it took over an hour to park and then visit.”
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has met with Barclays Bank representatives with Cllr Hewitt but was disappointed with their response.
She said: “It shows the strength of feeling in Lees, and the inadequate response from Barclays, that people now feel they have to start a campaign to preserve this banking lifeline.
“I have been extremely disappointed with Barclays responses to me in which they’ve consistently failed to address several points of concern I’ve raised.
“Barclays is failing to live up to their citizenship and corporate social responsibility commitments and the FSB has said small businesses face ‘tough challenges’ owing to the closure of bank branches.”
A senior spokesman for Barclays said: “Alongside our central initiatives, we have a fantastic community investment programme encouraging employees to get involved in the causes we care about.
“It’s about giving back our skills, time and energy to support our local communities. While the branch will closing, our presence in the area will continue through our citizenship work.”
He cited Barclays colleagues as having been involved in the annual fire station car wash with matched fund raising £1,000 as well as the fire station Macmillan Coffee Morning in May with matched fund raising £1,000.