Thurlow Park ward councillors, Cllr Anna Birley, Cllr Fred Cowell and Cllr Peter Ely, blog on the launch of their campaign to save West Norwood’s last bank from closure…
Banks are at the heart of high streets. Local traders rely on high street banks to run their business, whether it’s cashing up at the end of the day or benefitting from the passing trade from customers coming to the town centre to do their banking.
Local residents need local banks too. They rely on the option of face-to-face banking, especially those more vulnerable customers who are cash dependent, don’t have the means or skills to bank online, or who will struggle to travel further afield to access face-to-face banking.
Across the country, bank branches are closing at an alarming rate, with 60 branches closing every month. We’ve certainly felt the impact of this in West Norwood – we used to have a Natwest, Abbey National and Nationwide, as well as a Barclays in West Norwood and another in Tulse Hill. Nearby, in the last couple of years, we’ve seen Lloyds close branches in both West Dulwich and Crystal Palace.
Barclays in West Norwood is now the last branch of any bank from Croydon to Brixton. So we were horrified to learn on Friday that Barclays plans to close their West Norwood branch for good this June.
Since the news was announced on Friday, we have had over 500 residents and traders sign up to our petition already, calling on the CEO of Barclays to reverse this decision. Many traders have been in touch, concerned about their future as local businesses. Older residents have told us they’re worried about being trapped without access to banking – afraid to bank online but unable to travel to Norbury or Streatham – while community groups that work with disabled adults in West Norwood, like L’Arche, have told us the damage this will do to the vulnerable customers they support.
In their letter to customers, Barclays site a decline in use of the branch. The Community banking Director says “we are finding that customers are increasingly using other ways to do their everyday banking and our records show a falling level of activity at the branch.”
But in our experience, West Norwood is a very busy branch – with long queues sometimes going into the street. Many customers who have banked at Barclays for a long time complain that services which used to be available in the branch have been removed in the last few months too. For example, they already now have to go to the Post Office to pay in cheques because Barclays removed the self-service machines in the branch.
Instead this seems like a cynical move by a bank which posted a £3.1 billion profit before tax last September. It appears that the branch has been quietly winding down already over the last few months – perhaps shifting demand elsewhere in order to provide the justification for its closure.
Meanwhile those customers who can’t go elsewhere risk being left with nothing while bank shareholders shift their focus from providing vital services to their more profitable trading ventures.
To help our campaign to retain local banking services in West Norwood, please sign our petition: https://thurlowparklabour.org/2019/03/01/breaking-news-barclays-planning-to-close-last-bank-in-west-norwood/