The planned closure of the West Ealing branch of Barclays bank in October will be “a great loss to the community”, Rupa Huq MP has today said.
The London-headquartered bank made the decision to close the branch public on July 31, citing a 26 per cent reduction in counter transactions in the two years to September 2019.
It added that 89 per cent of affected customers regularly use alternative methods of banking, including via online and the mobile app.
But Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq has railed against the plan, pointing out that the elderly and vulnerable “rely on in-person banking.”
She added: “It’s hugely regrettable that the last bank standing in West Ealing will be gone by Autumn. We lost Santander recently and that stretch is strewn with carcasses of banks that have pulled the plug. At the crossroads the prominent once Natwest is an empty shell.
“Further along is the defunct Lloyds and next to that Halifax has at least been repurposed as a cut-price barber. But for the heart and soul of the community to be ripped out by the last bank standing deserting West Ealing is incredibly sad.”
According to an Age UK report, around a quarter (26%) of people aged 65 to 74 and around three-fifths (61%) of people aged 75+ do not regularly use the internet.
Huq said: “I am thoroughly disappointed by the plan to close the Barclays bank on The Broadway, which provides a vital service to the community. As Barclays’s own statistic makes clear, not all of us are tech-savvy: I am concerned that they are overlooking pensioners, the vulnerable and other digitally-excluded from less prosperous socio-economic groups.”
“Having that personal interaction with bank staff who you know and trust is reassuring for many. I’m not in an older age group but always prefer in-person banking myself. It’s a key component of tackling loneliness which the government says it’s prioritising. Banks can be social hubs allowing older people to get out and meet people.
“But from October onwards, many will be left stranded. For too long West Ealing seems to get a raw deal compared to its richer cousin Ealing Broadway, where bank branches are overwhelmed. This decision also seems short-sighted due to the large numbers of multi-storey residential buildings going up in West Ealing. These people will need banking facilities and businesses need banks to deposit takings. The bank’s closure would be a great loss to the community.”
The old West Ealing branch of Natwest, pictured here, lies dormant on August 1
Danny Reardon, Barclays’s head of corporate relations for London and the South East, said the bank did not intend to make anyone redundant as a result of the closure. He added that customers could use the nearest branch one mile away, located at 55 Ealing Broadway.
Mr Reardon commented: “We appreciate that not all of our customers will adopt change at the same pace. We will ensure that everyday banking remains easy and convenient for our customers and will discuss alternative options with our more vulnerable customers.”
It is not clear how Barclays will go about doing this. Huq said she would seek answers on how the bank plans to support the 11 per cent of customers who do not regularly use alternative methods of banking, if at all, and would request a post-closure assessment to find out how stranded customers have adapted.
Huq said: “Bankers caused our last recession and once again big banks are leaving some of their oldest customers behind in a cost cutting measure. Only a year ago last Autumn I was delighted to see the Specials, a childhood favourite band of mine, play Gunnersbury Park. They performed a rousing rendition of their best known track, “Ghost Town”.
“I never thought this epithet would apply to West Ealing but if yet another empty bank is left in Barclay’s place, I would say that the fat-cat big banks are speeding up this process on our very doorstep.”
Lloyds in West Ealing has long been closed down, with no replacement since its closure