Speaking ahead of a meeting with the Financial Services Authority, Mr Hazzard said: “It appears that Danske officials care little for customer service or indeed the impact that this decision will have on local people across the South Down area.
“Danske officials have displayed a level of contempt for local customers that will lead many to believe that they have learnt nothing from the recent banking scandals. It is clear that Danske view their customers in South Down as nothing more than figures on a page.
Mr Hazzard added: “Following on from similar closures across the constituency, I have serious concerns that we are seeing the out workings of a very deliberate carve-up by the banking sector. With towns and villages being left to one bank or another, it will be local people who will pay heavily for the lack of competition as the banking sector seek to capitalise on the isolation of their customers.
“I will be speaking to the Financial Service Regulator as a matter of urgency in regards to the on-going marginalisation of services in our constituency.”
IN a statement from the Danske Bank to Down News regarding branch network closures, it was announced that three of its branches will close. They are in Newcastle, Castlwellan and Warrenpoint.
A spokesperson for the Danske Bank said: “Danske Bank has announced that three of its branches in County Down will close and merge with larger branches in the area.
“Newcastle, Castlewellan and Warrenpoint branches will close on Friday 10 May 2013. Newcastle and Castlewellan will merge into Downpatrick branch and Warrenpoint will merge into Newry branch. Staff in the branches affected will be relocated to other branches. Danske Bank has written to customers of the three branches to inform them of these changes.
Tony Wilcox, Danske Bank’s Managing Director, Retail and Private, said: “I fully understand that this news may be disappointing for customers. In writing to our customers I have reassured them of our continued commitment to meeting their banking needs.
“Banking as an industry is not alone in responding to the changes in consumer habits. The increasing popularity of the internet in so many other aspects of life, from shopping to socialising, is also changing the face of banking. Increasingly, our customers are turning to the convenience of conducting their banking over the telephone, online or through a smartphone or tablet app. As a modern and progressive bank, it is important that we keep pace with the changes in how customers use branches, and respond to those trends which require continued investment in our online services.
“We have reminded customers of the different ways they can do their banking with us but I would encourage anyone concerned about their individual circumstances to talk to staff about the choices available.”
Danske Bank’s ‘real time’ banking between branches means that customers can use any branch of Danske Bank in Northern Ireland as their own, depending on where is convenient for them.”
He explained that in the last year Danske Bank has continued to introduced some enhanced services for customers. Customers with debit card based accounts can check the balance on their accounts, withdraw cash and make personal or business cash and cheque lodgements at Post Office® branches.
“Danske Bank has also extended its Saturday opening hours. Downpatrick and Newry are just two of the branches now open until 4.30pm every Saturday, providing an enhanced weekend service for customers.”
Rogers Says Mergers Will Hit Loyal Customers
SDLP MLA for South Down Sean Rogers has expressed his concern regarding changes to Danske Bank Branches in his constituency. Mr Rogers said: “I am extremely disappointed to hear that Danske Bank Branches in Warrenpoint, Newcastle and Castlewellan will close on 10 May 2013. I understand that Newcastle and Castlewellan branches will merge into Downpatrick branch and Warrenpoint will merge into the Newry Branch.
“While I have been given written assurance from senior management at Danske Bank that these mergers will not lead to job losses I am worried about the effect this will have on the experience of customers. The bank has said that the changes reflect that the nature of branch banking is changing.
“Such justification of closures will be cold comfort to the loyal customers of the branches concerned many of whom are part of the older generation who still prefer to do their banking on a face to face basis. Furthermore a reduction of service for people in rural areas, who have a limited access to broadband, is extremely concerning.
“Many customers will be greatly inconvenienced by having to change to a different branch to conduct their banking. At a time when confidence in the Banking industry is low these closures only serve to increase peoples stress and reduce customer confidence.
“Rural areas require proper access to banking and the loss of these branches will mean travel pressure for customers and indeed redeployed staff. I would ask Danske Bank to consider the effect closures will have on the local community.
“The SDLP have already written to the Irish Bank Officials’ Association (IBOA) seeking a meeting and seeking clarification on number of issues that are currently causing concern for customers and staff. My party colleagues and I will continue to press for proper access to banking.”
Hazzard Condems Danske Bank For Disadvantaging Rural Customers
Chris Hazzard MLA (Sinn Féin) has said that the recent decision from Danske Bank to close branches in Castlewellan and Newcastle clearly demonstrates that “the banking sector needs to start acting in the interests of their customers.”
Burns Stunned by Proposed Bank Closures
Sinn Fein Newcastle area Councillor Stephen Burns said: “This will have a massive impact on the local communities concerned. It is just disgraceful that local businesses had been fore-warned in front of other regular customers.
“We now have one of three banks in Castlewellan open now and this does not auger well for the town’s main street with more empty premises. Newcastle and Castlewellan will look now less attractive to tourists and visitors to the area.”
O’Boyle Says That Staff Will Not Be losing Jobs in the Mergers
Newcastle councillor Carmel O’Boyle (SDLP), a Danske Bank Castlewellan branch customer, said: “I received a letter this morning explaining that the Castlewellan and Newcastle branches will close on 10th May, with the ATMs still available until the buildings are sold. While I rarely go into the branch anyway and do most of my business with this bank through online banking, I was in the Castlewellan branch on Wednesday, but none of the staff mentioned this to me. The nearest branch will now be Downpatrick.
“From a personal point of view, we intend to keep our accounts with Danske Bank, as this is not the main bank we use. However, I am sure that this news will cause a great deal of inconvenience for some of their customers. As well as the letter, I was contacted by email and by voicemail. One bit of good news is that none of the staff’s jobs in these branches will be lost, so they will be relocated to the other banks. In addition to this, the Danske Bank branch in Downpatrick will be open on Saturdays, which should help people to conduct transactions should they need to do so.
“I suppose this is just another example of how banks and businesses are trying to streamline their affairs in order to cut costs and in this case, to protect jobs. I do forsee though, that some customers will decide to change to another bank that has branches closer to Castlewellan and Newcastle. I am sorry to see these branches going, but at least it will mean that staff jobs will be protected.”
O’Neill Says Closures are a Disgrace
SDLP Councillor Eamonn ONeill said: “The recently announced closures of the Dankse bank branches in Castlewellan and Newcastle are nothing short of a disgrace. Normally there would have been some effort at public consultation or at least an attempt at staging local closures. The impact of this announcement is to leave both towns reeling with shock.
“Both branches are historically very well established and have under the Northern Bark delivered a good service. The Castlewellan branch in particular is one of the longest established local branches of any bank. All the more reason for local people to be shocked and annoyed when all the years and generations of use and support by local businesses and families count for nothing as Danske regulates its business in its own interests. It really is disgraceful the way people have been treated!”
UKIP Anger at Branch Closures
UKIP representative Alan Lewis said that he had received a number of concerned calls regarding the bank branch closures. He said: “I have been getting many calls about Northern Bank closures in the District. Taking vital banking services from our towns is driving out custom. This has an adverse effect on small town traders.
“I’ve heard today of a number of elderly people who will find it difficult travelling elsewhere to a bank. Down District Council needs to begin a process of actively encouraging banks to keep their smaller town branches open providing much needed local banking services for rural areas.”
Alliance Says Customers Will Be badly Hit
Newcastle Councillor Patrick Clarke has criticised plans by Danske Bank to close local branches, saying it is a further blow to the area’s rural communities.
He said: “It is really disappointing to hear of more bank closures in the area, especially following the closure announcement from Bank of Ireland in recent weeks. This is bad news for local customers – especially in such a rural area – who rely on having local access to banking facilities.
“While I welcome the bank’s pledge to ensure a smooth transition for customers whose accounts will be moved to a nearby branch, consideration must be given to the upheaval and concern this will cause for many in each community affected.
“I would urge Danske Bank to ensure it has the correct help facilities in place to help local people adjust to these changes.”
” Two bank closures within such a close proximity as Newcastle and Castlewellan simply beggers belief. Dankse are clearly putting profit before people.”]]>