Devlin Leads Delegation To Ulster Bank Over Newcastle Branch Closure

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Newcastle area SDLP Councillor Laura Devlin has along with the Chairman of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce Eric Ruddle and a Down District Council official, met with senior representatives of Ulster Bank to discuss the proposed closure of the town’s branch.

[caption id="attachment_53236" align="aligncenter" width="540"]Local concerns over the Ulster Bank in Newcastle. Local concerns over the Ulster Bank in Newcastle.[/caption]

Cllr Devlin said: “At this meeting I highlighted the need for this banking facility to remain within the town. I stressed that Newcastle is home to a high number of elderly residents – many of whom are not familiar, or simply not interested, in Internet Banking.

“And importantly, our local traders want, and need, to lodge cash in their local bank and to have this credited to their accounts without delay. I also discussed the need for the continued provision of a night safe.

[caption id="attachment_47029" align="alignright" width="250"]Councillor Laura Devlin Councillor Laura Devlin[/caption]

“The Bank admitted that there was a noticeable uplift in footfall come the Summer but that in general the trade didn’t warrant the Branch to remain open and given the economic climate and the need to invest in IT, they had no option but to close the branch. There was no budging on this.

“Banking Officials did however agree to a ‘bank on wheels’ – essentially a mobile bank in the town for 3 hours each week. I appreciate that this is not ideal and not what we had hoped for but it is better than a total withdrawal from Newcastle.

“They also reaffirmed their commitment to the continued provision of an ATM in the town and outlined their enhanced working with the Post Office which from the 1st of this month allows Ulster Bank lodgements. Again, I stressed the importance of cash flow to a small business and how the lag time between lodging the cash at the Post Office and it being credited to an account wasn’t sufficient.”

Cllr Devlin also said that she understood the Ulster Bank is actively identifying vulnerable customers and doing their best to smooth the transition to a new Branch, the Post Office or an introduction to Internet Banking.

She added: “Whilst I fully welcomed there would be redundancies, I do believe that staff should now know where they are due to be posted after the Branch’s closure. I have been assured that this is a work in progress and everyone should know soon. The staff in the Newcastle Branch are fantastic and deserve to be able to plan for their future.

“I also raised the matter of the Castlewellan Branch with Officials and sought assurances in respect of its future. I understand that its footfall is higher than Newcastle and no further closures will take place in 2015.

South Down SDLP MLA Seán Rogers also added: “In light of  the Council’s meeting with Ulster Bank, I have asked to meet with Post Office officials to discuss their additional banking services with a view to improving the lag time that Laura has highlighted and to explore the possibility of a night safe.”

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