AN MP and Saddleworth Parish Councillor have asked top Barclays Bank officials for more answers after the shock announcement its branch in Lees is to close.
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, and Cllr Steve Hewitt met bank representatives after the news the branch will close in three months’ time.
After the meeting Mrs Abrahams said: “The bank explained why they felt they needed to close the branch and what they were proposing to put in place to help their customers.
“However Cllr Hewitt and I expressed our concerns this didn’t go far enough.
“We have raised various issues that they weren’t able to address at our meeting and asked them to come back with their plans to resolve them.”
Cllr Hewitt, who is a Saddleworth Parish and OMBC councillor, said: “Debbie asked what else they would offer small business and to come back with an answer.
“She pressed them on their social values around removal of high street services in villages.
“They have offered digital coaching to vulnerable adults so they could access online banking and telephone banking.
“They assured us provision for businesses in Lees would be dealt with in a seamless fashion through transfer over to a post office account.
“I mentioned Springhead post office only offers a limited service and only two years ago nearly turned into a supermarket,” he added.
Businessman Robert Marshall who lives in Springhead, said: “The next nearest branch is in Oldham town centre which is not practical.
“I have been a Barclays customer for twenty years and find this move a bitter pill to swallow.
“The Lees branch always appeared to be busy and well supported. The future of banking is not looking good and Barclays are paying no attention to community needs.’
John Salt opened computer shop Megabytes just a short distance from the bank 16 years ago, and has since expanded to include an electronic vaping business.
He said: “If the bank goes it will tear the heart out of the village. We have a lively community with good businesses. A bank is seen as being very much part of the village commerce.”
A spokesperson for Barclays said: “The way customers undertake their banking is changing as people increasingly use online, telephone and mobile devices.
“We must therefore evolve the shape and size of our branch network in response to changing customer behaviour.
“Customer usage at Lees branch has significantly declined in recent years, which is why we have taken the difficult decision to close the branch on Friday 25 November 2016.
“Following closure the nearest physical branch will be approximately two miles away in Oldham, open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 9am to 3pm.
“Alternatively, everyday transactions, typically carried out over branch counters can also be completed at the nearby Post Office located a few hundred metres away.
“We do not take the decision to close any branch lightly and we are committed to adhering to the new UK Government protocol on branch closures.
“All of our customers will receive a letter, posters will be displayed in branch and colleagues will be on hand to assist customers with any concerns they may have.
“We will be proactively engaging with businesses and the community to discuss the alternative ways customers will be able to undertake their banking locally, before the branch closes.”