Leicester Mercury

‘Queues form at town’s branch of - so why’s it closing?’


- By NICK DAWSON nicholas.dawson@reachplc.com

A COUNCILLOR has hit out at plans by Santander to close branches, saying that from experience his local branch is a “most-valued facility”.

The Hinckley branch is set to shut in July as part of plans to close more than 100 others across the country by the end of August.

Branches will also be closing in Ashby, Blaby, Oadby and Syston, along with the Horsefair Street and Narborough Road branches in Leicester, while Santander’s corporate offices in Narborough will also be reducing in size

The bank says coronaviru­s restrictio­ns have accelerate­d a shift towards mobile and online banking.

However, Hinckley borough and county councillor David Bill has written to bosses at the Spanishown­ed bank to object “in the strongest possible terms” to the proposed closure, and urging them to reconsider.

Coun Bill, himself a customer with the bank, said: “Being able to speak to someone, as opposed to trying to navigate a computeris­ed system, cannot be overrated in my opinion and I have observed that many useful discussion­s often follow when making a transactio­n.

“The staff have always been friendly and helpful.

“I cannot understand why you are proposing this course of action, as on many occasions during the pandemic the branch is so busy that a queue forms outside.”

The Nuneaton branch has escaped the round of cuts, but Coun Bill said: “There will be resentment about having to travel to Nuneaton as transport is not that easy for everyone.”

The Hinckley Santander branch in Castle Street was previously home to Alliance and Leicester, and before that to Leicester Permanent Building Society.

Coun Bill also said in his letter: “We are fighting to save our town centre and this is yet another body blow.

“We will fight on, but I have to say how much I personally resent this decision. I urge you to think again.”

Castle Street, the main shopping street in Hinckley, has been hit by several closures since the coronaviru­s restrictio­ns began, including Thorntons, popular family-run restaurant Café Español and H. Samuel jewellers.

Independen­t grocer Caves, also in the street, shut down in October 2019, while a large unit previously occupied by Dunelm remains empty.

Prior to the pandemic, Santander said that branch transactio­ns fell by a third over the previous two years.

They dropped by a further 50 per cent in 2020, with almost two thirds of transactio­ns now digital.

Adam Bishop, head of branches at Santander, said: “Branch usage by customers has fallen considerab­ly over recent years so we have made the difficult decision to consolidat­e our presence in areas where we have multiple branches relatively close together. We will provide every support to customers of closing branches to find alternativ­e ways to bank with us that best suit their individual needs.

“We are also working alongside our unions to support colleagues through these changes and to find alternativ­e roles for those impacted wherever possible.

“We continue to believe that branches have an important role to play and we expect the size of our network to remain stable for the foreseeabl­e future.”

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 ??  ?? HELD TO ACCOUNT: Councillor David Bill has written to bank bosses
HELD TO ACCOUNT: Councillor David Bill has written to bank bosses

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