The closure of Little Common’s last remaining bank will have “huge impact” warns the chair of its business association.
Kathy Harmer is “really angry” about the announcement made by NatWest that it is soon to pull out of the village.
At present the branch operates just three days a week but this has provided opportunity for residents and traders to deal with their finances. It will close on July 25.
NatWest told the Observer the number of customers using this branch has dropped by nearly a quarter as more and more use alternative ways of banking, including by telephone, in post offices, by app and online. The branch is open for 17.5 hours a week and there are only 25 customers who regularly use the branch each week. The bank is planning to spend £700m on improving services nationwide, with branch refurbishments, investment in digital banking and upgrading the ATM network.
Little Common Business Association will hold a public meeting on Monday at the Royal British Legion club in Meads Avenue from 6.30pm so that local views and objections can be expressed.
It will be attended by Lisa Lott and Mark Clancy, both representing NatWest, Councillor Stuart Earl, and Steve Fenton from the Post Office who will be taking on some of the branch’s transactions to maintain a local service.
Kathy Harmer is hoping for clarification on how businesses are expected to cope when the branch is gone.
She said: “This is the only banking facility we have now. They are claiming people can use the Post Office but it is not clear at all how business customers can do that.
“There’s a lot of elderly people round here who don’t know how to use an ATM and trying to park in Bexhill to visit the branch will be a nightmare. But of course if people do manage to get parked they are going to spend their money in Bexhill, they are not going to come back and spend their money here. We have maximum occupancy now in Little Common - which we are really proud of - so this is a blow for us.
“When the other banks closed down NatWest promised it would never close, would never let the village down, and it has.
“I think this will have a huge impact - there’s a lot of upset over it. It is a real disappointment. We are just getting somewhere with the village with no empty shops and now this. Both traders and residents are appalled that NatWest is doing this.
“NatWest is saying this is not a cost cutting exercise, but I fail to see the logic, because what people really want is a service from them, not a lick of paint somewhere else.”
MP Greg Barker cannot attend but is “very concerned” and said: “This is the only remaining bank which offers a service to local business, many of them small independent traders and provides a valuable service to local residents. I have raised my concerns at the highest level with NatWest.”