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CTARA Fights Branch Closure

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At the meeting of Chelford Tenants & Residents Association on Friday 28th March it was announced that the sub branch of the NatWest branch in Chelford was closing. The thirty one members attending the meeting were both appalled and disappointed at this news.

Although some CTARA members who had bank accounts with NatWest had received letters from the bank, for many account holders this was the first they knew of this. There were many questions why such short notice was given and with no consultation with older, vulnerable and/or disabled customers?

Many members deemed that internet banking would not be appropriate as it would make it difficult to withdraw and pay cash in. Many older customers do not have internet access or the skills to do this, or indeed, any desire to use this technology. The feeling of the meeting was that as older persons, they were being discriminated against.

There was discussion on the extent to which local businesses & market users rely on the bank branch to deposit cash (including coinage) and exchange money for change. In addition not for profit organisations like Chelford TARA , FCAP and the Parish Council use the facility as they do not have the ability to use internet banking as it is required that cheques from these organisations must have two signatories.

The suggestion from NatWest of using the Alderley Edge branch was viewed as being of little use as there is no bus service to it from Chelford. Similarly, the nearest free cash points (at the petrol station and at Chelford Post Office) are accessible only with difficulty for many CTARA members who are older persons and cannot walk this distance. The footpath is not suitable for those using mobility scooters. If customers are expected to use public transport to get there, the bus service is every 2 hours. Having to wait for 2 hours for a return bus is viewed as unacceptable for older people or those who are less able.

The CTARA members also recognised that farmers and the farming community who have supported the NatWest branch are also suddenly without a local bank and this was thought to be deplorable. Similarly, local businesses would suffer in the same way.

Interestingly, some members from Lower Withington remembered being told to use the Chelford branch when the Holmes Chapel branch was closed, indicating that the radius of influence is wider than Chelford village.

What of the future of the building if the branch did close? The CTARA members suggested   the bank should indeed give the building  to the community. The idea of a Community Café run as a Social Enterprise was supported strongly and would demonstrate NatWest's social responsibility to the older and more vulnerable in the area. This could provide volunteering/training experience for local people. In such circumstances, the building could still hold an ATM and could possibly house a Credit Union too. There's no shortage of creative thinking amongst the older members of our community.

From Monday 31 March, you will see volunteers outside the bank, in an attempt to get people to sign a petition about the NatWest's decision. There is also a petition available for signature in Boon's Butchers.

Please sign the petition if you feel strongly about the issue and look out on the website for more news.

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