TSB branches in Hawick, Kelso and Peebles to close

All but one of the Borders’ TSB branches will close following the banking chain’s announcement yesterday.

By Kevin Janiak
Thursday, 1st October 2020, 12:13 pm
Hawick High Street's TSB branch is set to close.
Hawick High Street's TSB branch is set to close.

Branches in Hawick, Kelso and Peebles are named in the 164 branches the bank is to close as part of its three-year strategy which began in November 2019, leaving the Galashiels Channel Street branch as its sole Scottish Borders facility.

Customers in Berwickshire who visit the branch over the border in Berwick are likely to be among the hardest hit, as that branch is also on the list for closure on March 3 2021.

The Hawick branch has a stay of execution until June 2, but the Peebles and Kelso branches, which have been closed since lockdown, will not now reopen and are effectively closed for good.

The TSB in Peebles, also in line for closure.

Bosses at the bank said yesterday that the move comes due to more customers switching to online banking.

The move will also see 969 people lose their jobs country-wide, with 120 new roles being created, bringing a net loss of 849 jobs, the bank claiming the vast majority of which will come from staff coming forward for voluntary redundancy.

But the decision will hit customers in the Borders hard, with it being such a rural area, with a large ratio of elderly residents who may not be able or willing to bank online.

Hawick has been hit particularly hard with bank closures in recent years, and the TSB branch, situated in the High Street, recently cut its opening hours in the town.

Kelso's TSB, also on the list of the bank's branches for closure.

Town councillor Stuart Marshall told The Southern: “This announcement will be met with some real sadness within our town and if we are honest I think the recent scaling down of branch opening hours was unfortunately only a stay of execution.

“The building itself has been a bank on our High Street since 1887 and its closure brings to an end a remarkable era of fantastic service to our community.

“My thoughts are with the terrific staff who were all so popular with the customers.”

The closures in Peebles and Kelso seem perhaps the most surprising, given the relative strength of the towns’ high streets.

The branch in Galashiels' Channel Street is the only Borders TSB branch to survive the cull.

Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston said: “This is very disappointing news for Kelso and for staff and customers of the branch.

“This is obviously a sign of the times and people’s online preferences, but there are still many people, including a lot of elderly clients who don’t have computers and like the face-to-face contact.

“I just hope alternative arrangements can be put in place to cater for these people.

“The bank is in a prime location and I hope the property can be kept respectable until another business can fill the space.”

His Kelso colleague, councillor Euan Robson added: “It’s very disappointing news, which does seem to mark a lack of commitment to the Scottish Borders

“Whilst it’s not surprising, I nevertheless think this is another example of banks putting the bottom line before customers.”

Mr Robson said he would write a letter to TSB, asking them to reconsider, but added: “On past form, banks take these decisions and very seldom rescind them.”

John Lamont MP said: “This is another bitter blow to banking customers in the Borders.

“I know that many now feel they can do their banking online, but vulnerable customers rely on having access to cash and having someone to discuss any issues they are having.

“This is not to mention the business owners in Kelso and Hawick who may now struggle to deposit cash and pick up floats.

“However, I feel most sorry for the TSB employees who have been left in the lurch.

“Whenever people come to me for help about banking issues they are always very complimentary of the staff, and the great service they provide for their local communities.

“I have already been in touch with management at TSB to discuss how this will affect their employees and communities who rely on their local branch.”

Tweeddale MP David Mundell has expressed “deep concern” at the announcement of the Peebles branch closure and said the decision will particularly impact on older, other vulnerable people and local businesses as well as the staff involved.

He plans to contact the bank for further clarification and establish if every possible avenue has been explored to reverse the decision.

He told us: “The irony is that TSB have always put great emphasis on being Britain’s ‘local’ bank which is hard to justify if they are removing their branches from towns the size of Peebles.

“Online and telephone banking are not an alternative for many of my constituents, particularly in rural areas where there are poor internet or mobile phone signals.”

He added: “The proposed loss of the part-time TSB counter service at Peebles adds to those concerns and I will continue to highlight this issue on behalf of my constituents.”

Yesterday’s statement from TSB read: “The changes have been driven by a significant shift in customer behaviour, including a reduction in the number of customers using branches and a significant acceleration in digital adoption.

“As part of TSB’s strategy, the bank had previously set out its intention to reduce its branch network in order to remain competitive compared to the wider industry.

“These changes today accelerate the pace of the overall branch transformation.”

Debbie Crosbie, the bank’s chief executive, said: “Closing any of our branches is never an easy decision, but our customers are banking differently – with a marked shift to digital banking.

“We are reshaping our business to transform the customer experience and set us up for the future.

“This means having the right balance between branches on the high street and our digital platforms, enabling us to offer the very best experience for our personal and business customers across the UK.

“We remain committed to our branch network and will retain one of the largest in the UK.”

The bank claims it will invest in its remaining branch network “to offer high quality banking services, fully integrated with improved digital capability,” and that it was “taking steps to support vulnerable customers and those in rural locations”.

The statement went on: “TSB is further enhancing its partnership with the Post Office including adding the ability to deposit and withdraw cash using a card, for both business and personal customers, and collect coin change from pre-agreed locations.

“Alongside this, TSB is pleased to be partnering with G4S Cash Solutions to set up a cash collection service for its business customers.

“TSB will introduce 100 mobile advisors to provide additional support to some communities across the country where branches are closing.

“TSB plans to work with local authorities and key community organisations to identify suitable locations for mobile advisors.”