Doncaster MP accuses banking bosses of 'secrecy' over double branch closure plans
A Doncaster MP has accused banking bosses of secrecy over plans to close two branches in the town.
Caroline Flint, who represents Labour in the Don Valley constituency, spoke out over the proposed closure of the NatWest banks in Thorne and Bawtry by this summer.
She claimed her requests for information about the impact of the closures on the communities had been continually denied by RBS, owners of NatWest, and accused them of concealing the truth.
During a debate on community banking at the House of Commons this week, she told the bosses: "Please do not patronise me with offers to meet a ‘senior representative’ when you refuse to provide any information which may demonstrate that small businesses, pensioners or the community generally may need the services provided in the Thorne and Bawtry branches more than you care to admit.
"When a member of my staff went to the Bawtry NatWest mid-week in mid-January – a quiet post-Christmas week - they saw a queue outside the bank before it opened at 10am, and at 10.45am they found a queue more than ten deep in the bank, with several counters in use.
“But, when I asked RBS how many transactions took place at the Thorne and Bawtry branches in the first hour of each day since the New Year; the bank refused to disclose the information. It was “commercially sensitive” I was told.
“Nor would RBS furnish me with: What proportion of the customers are pensioners? How many transactions took place at each branch in the past year? Or why neither branch opened at weekends?”
Bawtry’s NatWest branch is due to close on May 30, the last bank in the town. Thorne is set to lose its NatWest Branch on June 5. The neighbouring market town of Tickhill lost its last bank, HSBC, in April 2015.
The MP argued that banks make little effort to find ways to keep sustainable branches open, such as sharing premises with other banks.
Ms Flint challenged the Government to do more to keep banks open in smaller communities.
She said: "If the Government wishes to regenerate our small towns and now halt the growing gap between city and small town Britain, we need a policy to keep bank branches open.
"It cannot be right that towns with a population of four or five thousand people – that are sustainable in every other way – cannot have banking services on their doorstep.”
A NatWest spokesperson said the closures were being pushed through because "more and more people are choosing to do their banking online" which means "some branches are being used a lot less than they used to be."