Sharma and Bale highlight local disappointment with intended closure of NatWest branch in Pangbourne

Alok Sharma, Member of Parliament for Reading West, and Pangbourne District Councillor Pamela Bale have expressed their disappointment at NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) response and lack of engagement with local customers with respect to the intended closure of NatWest’s Pangbourne branch on 23rd November 2011.

Alok and Pamela held a meeting in Pangbourne on Friday 14th October, to discuss the planned branch closure and, along with representatives of NatWest and RBS, the meeting was attended by local residents and business representatives who expressed concerns about the short notice given of the intended branch closure, the manner in which information regarding the closure had been communicated and the apparent lack of a rational explanation of the decision to close the NatWest branch in Pangbourne.

At the meeting in October, local people explained that the closure of the busy Pangbourne branch would have an impact on the vulnerable members of the community who currently bank with NatWest and who are most unlikely to be users of internet banking. In addition, attendees at the meeting raised the issue of the potential impact of the closure on the future prosperity of Pangbourne, explaining that a reduction in services will affect the sustainability of the village and its ability to support neighbouring areas.

Unfortunately, at the October meeting, the NatWest and RBS representatives were unable to give any detailed rationale for the closure of the Pangbourne branch.

Alok said: “Following October’s meeting I have been in contact with a number of senior executives at NatWest and RBS, including the RBS Group Chief Executive Steven Hester, Brian Hartzer, RBS Group CEO responsible for Retail Banking, Joseph Donkor, RBS Regional Director for the South West, Jennie Bartlett, Local Chief Executive of NatWest, and Rebecca Wright, Regional Public Affairs Manager at RBS. Unfortunately, no one from NatWest or RBS has been able to answer the question as to whether the Pangbourne branch is profitable or not. Due to lack of any response on this issue, I can only assume that the branch is profitable and there is some other reason for closing it down.”

Alok continued: “Brian Hartzer wrote to me on 25th October stating:

‘I want to stress that we keep our branch network under constant review to ensure we are able to offer the best service we can to our customers...

Should the situation change in Pangbourne, we will of course look at the banking services we provide in the area.’

I have to say there has been absolutely no willingness by NatWest or RBS to engage in any meaningful dialogue to review the closure decision and NatWest’s local customers and I have been incredibly disappointed at this lack of response. There is clearly still an opportunity for Mr Hartzer and NatWest to make good on their words and engage on reviewing the closure decision and many of us locally would be happy to provide input to find a way of keeping the branch open.”

Pamela Bale, West Berkshire Councillor for Pangbourne, said: “I am most concerned at the way NatWest has dealt with the closure of the branch in Pangbourne. In addition to lack of information about the reasons for their decision, they have demonstrated lack of understanding of the local geography and transport systems, and will lose local business – and hence reduced profitability – as many residents and businesses will now be forced to transfer their accounts to the other Banks which maintain a presence in Pangbourne. I hope those people who come to Pangbourne to do their banking and then use our local shops and businesses will be able to continue to support the village.”

Jenny Holliday, a Pangbourne resident who has organised a petition with 400 signatories against the intended closure, said: “I am very disappointed that NatWest has not taken into consideration that Pangbourne is a thriving village. NatWest has shown no appreciation of the impact on local businesses. I was also amazed to receive a call last week from their contact centre asking if I was satisfied with my local branch.”

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