Fears are being voiced that TSB’s plans to cut its Hawick branch’s opening hours by two-fifths could be a precursor to shutting it down altogether.
The bank’s Hawick High Street bank currently opens five days a week but that will be cut to three days weekly from the end of July, sparking concerns over its long-term future.
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont is among those fearful that that decision to open only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays is not the end of the story and that what would be the town’s third bank branch closure in as many years could follow.
“Time and time again, we see services like bank branches cutting their hours as a step towards full closure,” he said.
“Making it less convenient to visit a bank inevitably reduces usage and gives the bank an excuse to close a branch completely.
“I am determined that this should not be allowed to happen.
“Losing another bank would be a big blow to Hawick which would threaten all the positive work being done in the town.
“I’ve written to TSB to make this clear to them, but I’d also urge Teries to make sure they use their branch as much as possible.
“After the Royal Bank of Scotland closures and now this news, it is clear to me that more needs to be done to protect vital banking services in the Borders.”
Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall agrees, saying: “Last week’s announcement that our local TSB branch is to scale down its opening hours will, I’m sure, be viewed by many as an extremely worrying development.
“This is yet another clear indication of how our High Street banking facilities are addressing a footfall shortage, with customers more inclined now to bank online.
“These huge organisations really do need to think of those loyal customers who live rurally and, at times, have poor broadband facilities.
“I’m glad that, for the time being, this is only a reduction in opening hours and not a total closure.
“Whilst it may well have changed names over many decades, records show that this business has been trading in our town since around 1887.
“All of us in the town are hoping that this announcement won’t be a repetition of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s closure and see it disappear from our High Street altogether.”
TSB cites a fall in customer numbers as the reason for the forthcoming reduction in hours at its Hawick branch, one of more than 150 it runs in Scotland.
A spokesperson for the bank said: “Our customers use banking services in different ways, and that is why we try to adapt our offer to deliver them the best possible service however they choose to bank.
“This means investment in both branches and digital channels.
“We continually review our branch network, and as part of this, we have taken the decision to reduce the number of hours our Hawick branch is open. From the end of July, it will open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“Our customers still have access to our digital and telephone banking services, and if they need to complete many personal banking tasks when our branch is closed, they can always use the local post office in the town.
“Our TSB partners will be working with our customers to support them as we make this change.
“There will be no job losses as a result of this change.”
The TSB is one of three banks left in Hawick following the closure of its Clydesdale branch in August 2016 and RBS in June last year, the other survivors being its Bank of Scotland and Santander, both also in High Street.