Anger as Clydesdale Bank announces Brora branch closure
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NORTH MP Jamie Stone voiced his anger today after the UK Government refused a debate on bank closures.
It came in the aftermath of this week's news that the Clydesdale branch in Brora will be shutting.
An email received by Mr Stone from the Clydesdale Bank said that "customers can do all of their straightforward day-to-day banking at the Post Office" – overlooking the fact that Brora's Post Office branch closed some time ago.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Stone asked the Government to set aside time for a debate on the issue, arguing that failing to do so would be to let down constituents across the UK.
“Yesterday I received an email from the Clydesdale Bank telling me that they are going to shut the branch in Brora in Sutherland which is just another addition to a sickening litany of bank closures we have seen across the Highlands. We cannot go on with this," the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross said.
In reply, Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, pointed out that "banks are commercial businesses and the way people manage their financial affairs is changing".
She said: “One step that the Government has taken is the access to banking protocol where banks will consult broadly but also really important is the work the Government has done in investing in the Post Office network which has resulted in 99.7 per cent of the UK population now living within three miles of a Post Office branch.”
Mr Stone said later: “The Government does not take the issue of bank closures seriously, and rejecting a debate on this matter highlights its lack of concern for the constituents that will be affected.
“The Leader of the House has some nerve to refuse the debate on the basis that 99.7 per cent of people live within three miles of a Post Office. For many of my constituents this is simply not true.
"She speaks of investment into the Post Office network but all people in the Highlands have seen are closures, and many communities are left with neither a bank branch nor a Post Office.
“I will continue to fight these closures and will be encouraging ministers to travel to my constituency to see first-hand the difficulties they create for people living in rural areas.”
The closure of the Clydesdale in Brora later this year will leave just one bank branch remaining in Sutherland – the Bank of Scotland in Golspie.
Since 2015 the Bank of Scotland has closed its branches in Dornoch, Lairg, Helmsdale and Bonar Bridge and the Royal Bank of Scotland has shut its branches in Tongue and Lochinver.
Sutherland councillor Deirdre Mackay said she was “absolutely appalled” and slammed the Clydesdale for the lack of any community consultation.
She also criticised the bank for stating that customers affected could meet some of their banking needs at the Post Office.
Councillor Mackay said she had contacted the Clydesdale Bank's government affairs manager Jamie Maxton who had agreed to travel to Brora to explain the situation at a public meeting.
Clydesdale Bank owner CYBG made the announcement late on Wednesday, with Brora one of five branches in Scotland earmarked for closure. The others are at Arbroath, Glasgow Shettleston, Largs and St Andrews.
At least three members of staff are understood to work at the Brora branch and Clydesdale has said they will be offered alternative roles if possible.
Each branch is also assessed on an individual basis, carefully considering the impact on the local area, as well as alternative options.
A spokesman said reduced footfall was one of the reasons behind the decision to shut branches down.
CYBG group retail director Fergus Murphy said: “Announcing plans to close branches is never easy and it’s not a decision we take lightly.
“A number of factors are taken into consideration when reviewing our network, including branch usage, footfall and customer behaviour.
“Each branch is also assessed on an individual basis, carefully considering the impact on the local area, as well as alternative options.”
Mr Murphy said the bank, which last year combined with Virgin Money, was at the forefront of new technology including the introduction of cheque imaging, the installation of smart ATMs and the improvement of mobile banking apps.
Customers at the Brora branch will be notified 12 weeks before its closure and informed of their nearest branches – the nearest Clydesdale branches are an hour’s journey away at either Dingwall or Wick.