Closures after drop in customer visits

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Newtown St Boswells will soon be without a banking branch once the Bank of Scotland closes its doors in the town on October 19.

Also closing that month are the branches in Lauder (October 24) and Coldstream (October 26) after what the bank says was a “careful review of branches in the local area”.

The branch in West Linton, Peeblesshire, is closing earlier, on July 4.

The bank, which became part of Lloyds Banking Group in 2009, cites a change in the way its customers use its services as the main reason for closing the branches.

A Bank of Scotland spokeswoman confirmed the above closures, and said: “These closures, and the others announced today, are due to reduced or low levels of demand, and in some cases because of a local overlap of branches.

“We apologise for any inconvenience that these changes may cause, and have informed customers of the closest alternative branch.”

The spokeswoman went on to add that both towns will be visited by one of its mobile banks.

She continued: “We will be introducing more mobile branch services to support customers in some of our more rural and semi-rural communities, alongside other ways to bank locally.

“There are three new routes, one of which will cover both the Newtown St Boswells and Lauder locations, offer services such as making deposits, withdrawing cash and paying bills.

“We remain committed to our Bank of Scotland branch network and branches will continue to play an important role in our multi-channel approach to meeting customer needs; at the same time we are investing heavily in digital and mobile to give our customers choice.”

Staff at the branches will be offered alternative roles in other local branches, however, across the 24 Bank of Scotland branch closures announced this week, there will be approximately 30 redundancies, which will consist of part of the reduction of roles previously announced as part of the banking group’s 2015-17 strategy.

Local MSPs John Lamont and Christine Grahame have strongly criticised the decision, saying that the move will see these communities lose a key service.

Mr Lamont said: “This is very concerning news and I am deeply disappointed that the Bank of Scotland have chosen to shut these branches.

“This move will see communities lose a key service, in addition to putting jobs under threat.

“I know that the branches in Coldstream and Newtown St Boswells are highly valued by those in the community who use them, and many of these customers will be angered to hear this news.

“It now means a total withdrawal of banking service for Newtown and Coldstream.”

The bank says that in Newtown, 13 customers regularly use the branch on a weekly basis, with only eight in Lauder and West Linton, and 16 in Coldstream.

Mr Lamont said that the local bank branches are a lifeline to those who find it difficult to bank online or by telephone.

He said: “Although the Bank of Scotland says that customer numbers have been falling, I know that these branches are used by local businesses and people who struggle to bank online or over the phone.

“The Coldstream branch moved to reduced opening hours last year, despite being very heavily used, in what now appears to be a move towards closing the bank entirely.”

And Ms Grahame told us: “I understand that many people are increasingly moving away from in-branch banking, however, it is important to remember that some people are not able to do so.

“Some older or vulnerable people are not able to switch to digital or telephone banking and it’s important to take that into account.

“A phoneline for calls or internet is not free, after all. In addition, local businesses still require to bank cash personally. I am seeking reassurance that appropriate steps will be taken to ensure such customers are able to access the banking services they need.”

With the Royal Bank of Scotland closing in Newtown St Boswells three years ago, this move does leave the Borders’ administrative centre without a bank.

There is a free cash machine in the town’s Co-op store in the Station Yard, and a post office within the headquarters of Scottish Borders Council – where personal customers can withdraw cash or check their balance for three hours on a Monday, three hours on a Tuesday and two on a Thursday.

The closest branch – and most accessbile by public transport – to both Newtown and Lauder branches is in Galashiels – 7.42 miles and 10.32 miles away respectively.

The full timetable of the Bank of Scotland mobile branch vehicles will be available at bankofscotland.co.uk/mobilebranch shortly before the new service begins to operate.