Business owners in Tadcaster are fighting back after taxpayer-owned bank RBS announced the town’s NatWest branch would close later this year.
Tadcaster MP Nigel Adams has added his name to a petition launched by business owners in the town, who say the decision would be detrimental to their trade.
Dave Bewley, owner of The Ink Shop on Bridge Street, said the announcement has come on top of an already difficult year for the town.
He said: “The bridge was out of action for 13 months and NatWest bank itself was closed for six weeks in the aftermath of the flood, we know what having a bank closed in your area does, because we felt it when they were shut with the flooding.
“Tadcaster itself for a number of years has suffered and we had started to regenerate just before the flooding, Tadcaster was on the up as a business community.
“But following the bridge collapse, the effect that had on the town was quite dramatic.
“We felt once the bridge was re-opened we could then start looking forward to planning the re-regeneration of Tadcaster then only to be hit immediately by a decision by the only full time bank left in the town.
“NatWest is the only full service bank we have. I think everybody in the business community felt it was another nail in the coffin in terms of trying to regenerate a small market town.”
For Mr Bewley and others, the closure would create cash flow problems as NatWest is the only town bank open five days a week and offering full business services. He said: “With the bank closed I would have to close my shop and travel to Wetherby for my banking. This would take an hour out of my trading day, increase my costs, and reduce my potential income by having to close.”
The branch is due to close in October this year but now County Councillor for Tadcaster, Chris Metcalf, has arranged to meet with NatWest, urging them to stay open.
Councillor Metcalf said: “Last year was a difficult year for our businesses in Tadcaster, everybody including the bank suffered.
“The objective now is to help the town recover as quickly as possible. The bank will have seen a reduced number of customers along with every other business but this must not be used as part of a case to close the bank.”
To mitigate the service closure RBS have created a taskforce of ‘TechXperts’ to support people who are less comfortable with online and mobile banking.
The company also suggested services could still be accessed at local Post Offices.
But with only one Post Office counter, manned by a single person, Mr Bewley said there are security issues with depositing large amounts of money there.
Mr Bewley said: “At the end of the day NatWest is owned by RBS which in turn is owned by the taxpayer so if any bank should be supporting communities that should be the one.
“There are other options before they just carte blanche walk away from a town. They should be opening a dialogue with the people.”
But despite concerns that older people in the community may not want to use online banking services, RBS said they are committed to offering quality banking.
A spokesperson for RBS said: “NatWest staff are very happy to speak to or meet any customer who has a concern about the closure of NatWest Tadcaster.
“We are committed to ensuring our customers and communities are able to continue accessing quality banking services.
“The specialist taskforce of NatWest TechXperts will be dedicated to supporting our customers with training and support with digital skills.
“Furthermore, we have listened closely to feedback from local communities and have extended the time between announcing our decision and the branch closure to six months.
“This has been done in order to ensure our customers have time to consider the right banking options for them.
“Customers will also have a range of alternative ways to bank, including: online and mobile for simple transactions, telephony, and webchat for assisted help and the Post Office for face to face interactions”.