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Call from Thurso Community Council to fight the planned closure of TSB branch in the town

By Gordon Calder

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THE proposed closure of the TSB branch in Thurso is "shocking" and has to be opposed, according to the town's community council.

Its members hit out at the move – announced this week as part of plans to axe 70 branches across the UK – and have urged the bank to rethink the decision which would come into effect in April next year.

The Thurso branch of the TSB bank is due to close in April next year. Pic Mel Roger
The Thurso branch of the TSB bank is due to close in April next year. Pic Mel Roger

Community council vice-chair, Thelma Mackenzie, said: "We have to put up a fight on this. It is shocking." That view was endorsed by Thurso and northwest Caithness Highland councillor, Donnie Mackay, who stated: "If we sit back and do nothing then it will close. I think we have to fight this."

Iain Gregory of Caithness Roads Recovery said the answer to saving local branches could lie in the banking licence.

He explained that to get the licence a bank has to meet certain conditions and he suggested making it a condition that in rural areas a bank has to have a branch within a specified distance. Mr Gregory urged politicians to change the terms of the licence to accommodate such a clause.

He said if nothing is done there will be no banks left here within five years. The TSB closed its Wick branch in March this year while other banks have also shut branches in Caithness.

"The bank will say you can go to the post office but they are shutting them as well," added Mr Gregory.

Thurso and northwest Caithness Highland councillor, Matthew Reiss, said the TSB plans to introduce a pop-up service one day a week as an alternative but it will not handle cash and that could impact on some people and small businesses.

He said the banks encourage customers to bank online but stressed that for "some people that's completely alien. They like a face-to-face service," stated Mr Reiss who added that online banking is "accelerating the decline" of bank branches.

Community council chairman, Ron Gunn, suggested writing to MP, Jamie Stone and MSP, Maree Todd, to express members concerns about the proposal and urged the bank to reconsider its decision.

Meanwhile, the closure plan was branded "a disgrace" by a Thurso man who has been a customer with the bank for 80 years.

Donald Mackenzie, who is 85, opened an account when he was just five years old with the then Aberdeen Savings Bank which later became the TSB. "We were encouraged to save a little when we were kids," he said.

"This proposal is a disgrace and will impact on customers and the town generally," added Mr Mackenzie.

As reported in the Caithness Courier this week, far north MP, Jamie Stone, called on the UK government to establish banking hubs, "to ensure remote and rural communities retain permanent access to vital banking services" while local MSP, Maree Todd, described the proposal as "a big blow for the community." She is to write to TSB’s chief executive, Debbie Crosbie, to express her concerns over the bank’s decision to close its Thurso branch.

TSB said it has seen a significant decrease in branch use, with the average number of transactions per branch falling since January 2019. More than 90 per cent of customer transactions are now carried out digitally with video banking accounting for over 90 per cent of mortgage appointments.

The branches due to close carry out around a third fewer transactions than the TSB national average. There is a post office or free-to-use ATM within a mile of each closing branch. Staff impacted by the changes will have the opportunity to move to an alternative role, added the bank.

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