How the changes affect residents
Attempts by residents and councillors in Halstead to save a high street bank from closure look set to fail.
NatWest has announced that it will be closing its High Street branch on March 17, despite the efforts of Stephen Kirby, district councillor for the town.
Mr Kirby started a petition just before Christmas after receiving letters from residents angered at the closure.
In the last few days, he has received nearly 100 letters and signatures pleading with bosses to keep the branch open.
But at a meeting with NatWest bosses on Monday, Mr Kirby was told that the bank was definitely closing.
“I’m not happy it’s going as it’s another service lost to the area, but I’ve done the best I can,” he said.
“It’s a shame it’s going – the feeling is quite strong in the town that it should remain.
“It’s an important service. People use the bank quite often, the staff are very helpful and are there when people have problems.”
Instead, NatWest customers will be able to complete some transactions, including deposits and withdrawals, at the town’s post office in WHSmith, but Mr Kirby said this was not the ideal solution.
“Post office staff are very good but they won’t have the banking expertise,” he said.
He added that one service that would not be continued is the night safe, which he felt may be of concern to small business owners.
The bank has promised the cash machine will remain outside the building – whoever takes it over – and said services given in Halstead post office will also be offered in the post offices in surrounding villages.
The bank also told Mr Kirby that it was looking at bringing its mobile banking service to the area.
Despite this, Mr Kirby feels customers who are not keen on internet banking will move to the two remaining banks in the town.
Lloyds still has a branch while Barclays has reduced its opening times to four days-a-week.
NatWest is the second bank to close in the town, following the exit of HSBC last year.
Nevertheless, Mr Kirby was positive about the town’s future.
“Halstead is very lucky as we have very few empty shops,” he said.
“The high street is changing and we may be over-populated with charity shops, but I’d rather a charity shop or service then empty shops.”
He added: “With a rising population, you would have thought there was still a need for a bank.”
The bank has cited a 15 per cent reduction in transactions – which it expects to drop further – for the decision to close the branch.