A North West London town is set to be hit with the latest in a long list of bank closures as another branch prepares to shut its doors next month.
The elderly and disabled are most concerned about the closures as many don’t have internet access and fear they could ‘get mugged at cash points’.
NatWest announced in November that the branch on Station Parade in Willesden Green will close on February 27. The bank claimed just two personal customers used the branch on a regular basis in 2022.
A resident who didn’t want to be named but has lived in Willesden Green for more than 40 years has called on the bank to withdraw its closure notice as the elderly, disabled, and those with mobility issues will be ‘most badly impacted’ by the branch shutting. In a letter to the Wembley Matters blog that she is scared of using cash points and can’t access online banking.
She said: “People of my generation don’t use the cashpoint outside the bank for fear of being mugged and instead use the cashpoint inside the bank. If we have to use the outside cashpoint we feel insecure and fearful. Someone I know was mugged when withdrawing money at the cashpoint and theft takes place even during daytime.”
She added: “At the moment I am just about able to do online banking but some people don’t have internet access. I am unable to use a mobile phone App which NatWest offers as an alternative. I suspect many other elderly people are in the same situation.”
Charity Age UK claims that branch closures and the rise of digital banking has put the many older people who rely on these services ‘at risk of being unable to manage their own money’ and could lead to those affected being ‘cut adrift from society’.
The resident also said it would be ‘difficult or impossible’ for the elderly or disabled to travel to branches in Kilburn or Golders Green – as suggested by NatWest – and pointed out the importance of having local branches as staff know them well and praised them for the way they treat customers.
She said: “On one occasion I visited the bank with a builder who had done some work for me and needed a cash payment. The cashier leaned over to me and whispered, ‘Are you okay? You are giving him a lot of money’.”
The Lloyds branch is also expected to close the following month, on March 21, When NatWest closes in February and Lloyds a little later there will be just one bank branch left in Willesden Green, the Barclays on the High Road.
In a joint letter to the two banks, the ward councillors for Willesden Green, Cllr Saqhain Choudry, Cllr Janice Long, and Cllr Tom Miller, called the closures ‘deeply disappointing’ and have called for a ‘banking hub’ to open so customers of all banks have a physical premise to go in the town.
The councillors said: “With uncertainty over the future of other branches looming, too, Willesden Green has now fallen victim to the surge of branch closures that is blighting local small businesses, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups.”
They added: “We therefore will be submitting a formal request to LINK to undertake a review of Willesden Green in light of these branch closures, asking that they assess the viability of opening a banking hub to guarantee that residents and independent businesses still have access to these essential services.”
At the time of the closure announcement, a spokesperson for NatWest said: “As with many industries, most of our customers are shifting to mobile and online banking, because it’s faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives.
They added: “We understand and recognise that digital solutions aren’t right for everyone or every situation, and that when we close branches we have to make sure that no one is left behind. We take our responsibility seriously to support the people who face challenges in moving online, so we are investing to provide them with support and alternatives that work for them.”