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Bates calls NatWest Charter A Smokescreen

Created on 15/08/2010 @ 09:12

Liberal Democrat AM Mick Bates has accused NatWest Bank of using the launch of a new customer charter as a smokescreen to hide bad news.

Although the charter pledges to extend opening hours at NatWest's busiest branches and maintain 'banking services' where it is the only bank left in a community, Bates says it omits to mention that simultaneously it is axeing small branches while reducing hours in other, mainly rural, branches.

For the past five months, Bates has been attempting to persuade NatWest to reverse its decision to slash the opening hours of three branches in Montgomeryshire at Llanfair Caereinion, Llanidloes and Montgomery.

He's joined protests outside the branches, organised petitions, written and met with NatWest executives including chief executive Stephen Hester and led a debate in the Assembly called 'Helpful, local banking: a thing of the past for rural Wales?'

Mick says: 'When I bought my  farm 33 years ago I could only proceed because my local bank, NatWest, was prepared to provide me with finance. It went out of its way to be helpful and I've stayed loyal to it ever since.

'My local branch is Llanfair Caereinion, three miles away from where I farm and I use it regularly. The service is excellent, the staff are exceptional and customers like myself appreciate it. Personal service is a big thing in a remote community like Llanfair Caereinion.

'So for the life of me I can't understand why NatWest has decided to slash the opening hours here and at the two other branches in Montgomeryshire. I find it disgusting that after taking huge sums of money from the taxpayer, NatWest is acting this way.

'In effect, my constituents are paying twice over - once for bailing out the bank and now the ultimate price in loss of service.

'As for its customer charter, it's a joke. How can its actions here be described as helpful banking? No doubt the next step will be for the bank to close our branches altogether. The bank is also urging customers to sign up to online banking but that's hardly helpful. A reliable internet service is not a reality in many rural areas in Mid Wales.'

Bstes has set up an action group with local councillors and businessmen to fight the reduced hours. He has also won support from consumer group Consumer Focus, which has written to NatWest warning that its move could increase the number of those who become 'unbanked' and so pay more for goods and services.

'We won't stop until we secure some sort of deal,' he said. He is pressing NatWest to agree to reinstate one day of banking per branch per week - Llanfair Caereinion and Llanidloes are currently open two days a week and Montgomery only one.



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