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Banking giants urged to help regenerate high streets

By Kyle Ritchie

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A north-east MP has said banks need to do more for their communities when they decide to reduce hours at branches such as the TSB in his home town.

In Turriff, the TSB last week announced it will reduce opening hours at its branch to two days a week, as part of a wider review of services in Scotland.

At a meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid heard one banking chief proclaim the high street in some communities is “gone”.

TSB is to reduce opening hours at branches across Scotland, including in Turriff.
TSB is to reduce opening hours at branches across Scotland, including in Turriff.

But he challenged the likes of TSB and Santander to work with communities to regenerate high streets and to help customers switch accounts to nearby banks which stay open.

Mr Duguid asked TSB’s Scotland distribution director whether her bank is doing all it can to provide customers with all options open to them, including the option of switching to another branch in town.

He said: “The situation in my home town of Turriff, where TSB just recently announced it’s going down to two days a week, the RBS closed last year.

“We still have a Bank of Scotland, a Santander and a Clydesdale Bank so are quite fortunate in some respects.

“Why have people not taken advantage of what I’ve found to be a fairly easy process of switching?”

Carol Anderson said that staff at closing branches would ask customers to switch banks if the nearest available branch was too far away.

She said: “In the branches where we are reducing hours...they’re waiting a large part of their day on the next customer coming in. It’s dead time for them. If we can make it work, then we will stay.

“I was in Turriff this year and was there all morning and we had two customers in.

“The staff in there are great. They know their customers, they know the local market. But nobody is switching so you’re looking after your existing customers and they are getting fewer.”

Mr Duguid also asked Santander’s head of retail and business banking about what her bank is doing to help communities in which services are reducing.

Susan Allen had said that some high streets were already “gone” which Mr Duguid “doesn’t accept”.

He added: “I think we’d all agree that things change...but do you also accept that by shutting down banks and reducing the hours, it adds to decline and accelerates the process?”

She replied: “Many of our branch directors have been involved in local small business associations and we work with organisations trying to regenerate the town centre.

“I think you’ll find many of those branch directors involved in local efforts to try to regenerate high streets...we’re actively involved.

“In many of the locations I’ve gone to, despite the best efforts of many people, it’s very hard to see how to make progress.”

After the meeting, Mr Duguid said: “I recognise that the way people access their banking facilities is changing but there are still many people out there who depend on face to face banking at their branch.

“I suppose a reduction in hours is not as bad as a complete closure of a branch, and I will be keeping a close eye on what the banks are doing to help regenerate the high streets in which they still have their business.”

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