Politicians express RBS Cumbernauld branch closure concerns

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 14:55 on 5 June 2015

SNP    Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)

Stuart McDonald has raised concern of the closure proposals in questions to the Chancellor. Picture: courtesy of Bill Henry.

TWO Cumbernauld politicians have wade into the debate over the future of the closure-marked RBS branch in Cumbernauld Village.

Cumbernauld’s Member of the House of Commons and the area’s Member of the Scottish Parliament have both expressed personal concerns at the news that one of the town’s historic bank branches will close within three months.

Their comments come after the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) made its intention to shut the bank’s branch in Cumbernauld Village public, late last month.

RBS chiefs issued a statement late last month, confirming that Cumbernauld Village’s RBS branch will close within three months. 

Based in the Roadside area of Cumbernauld Village, banking chiefs at RBS say that the branch will close in August, as part of a nationwide cost-cutting exercise.

Customers, however, have been promised continued service via the Main Street sub-post office and pharmacy, which had its external ATM blown up and broken into only six months ago.

“We have taken the difficult decision to close the branch on the 20 August 2015,” a spokeswoman for the Royal Bank of Scotland confirmed.

“We are working hard to ensure there are a number of alternative ways for people in the area to continue to bank with us,” she added.

The bank says that branch customers will still be able to access important services via the Village’s sub-post office, located a stone’s throw away from the closure-marked bank branch. 

“We have reached an agreement with the local Post Office, which is 0.14 miles away from the branch so that our customers can check their balance, deposit and withdraw funds, and business customers can get coinage,” the spokeswoman explained.

She added: “There are four Post Offices within three miles of the branch. There are also five free to use ATMs within one mile of the branch. Our nearest branch, RBS Cumbernauld Tay Walk, is 1.4 miles away.”

In explaining the rationale behind the closure of Cumbernauld Village’s historic RBS branch the bank’s spokeswoman said: “We’re closing this branch because the number of transactions taking place at RBS Cumbernauld Village branch has dropped by 29% since 2011 and only 63 customers use the branch on a regular weekly basis. 

“47 of these customers already use other branches in the area,” she added.

The move drew criticism from the Unite union, with the union’s Deputy Scottish Secretary attacking the bank’s plans, claiming that the move will leave residents living further away from Cumbernauld’s town centre all but forgotten.

Attacking the bank’s announcement, Mary Alexander said: “This makes a mockery of the RBS motto ‘making everyday banking easy’,” adding: “It shows a clear abandonment of their customer charter commitment to maintain ‘the last bank in town.’”

“It is bad news for small communities and local businesses that depend on local banking services,’’ she added.

Adding his voice to the criticisms levelled at RBS, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth’s SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament has spoken of his “disappointment” at the news.

The SNP MSP said: “I am disappointed to hear of the intended closure of the RBS branch in Cumbernauld Village and its loss to residents in the Village and the surrounding area.  I am particularly concerned business and trade customers will no longer have the convenience of an easily accessed local bank.”

“I have been reassured by the Bank that staff will not lose their jobs with the branch closure and that they intend to sell the property in the next few months which should hopefully ensure the building isn’t left vacant in the long term.

“While RBS have informed me they will be communicating information on alternative banking arrangements to customers the closure of the branch in Cumbernauld Village sees the loss of a valuable local facility.”

Stuart McDonald, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s Scottish Nationalist MP added his voice to the criticism of RBS.

“A new wave of branch closures by RBS continues a troubling trend and will pose significant problems for people and small businesses across Scotland, including Cumbernauld Village,” the SNP man said.  

“We need to remember that this is a taxpayer owned bank, so the UK government has to explain why it is leaving RBS to continue stripping away valued local services – and these are questions I will be asking,” he added.

The area’s new MP – who has only been in post for less than one month – has lodged four written questions, asking the UK Treasury what their response is to the closure announcement, and whether the government will be prepared to step in.

Lodged on Tuesday (2nd June), Mr McDonald’s four written questions ask the Chancellor, George Osborne whether “the Government will take steps to prevent further closure of branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland pending a review of such closure”.

The Nationalist’s second question asks Mr Osborne about “what discussions he has had with the Royal Bank of Scotland on plans to close further branches; and if he will make a statement.”

Mr McDonald’s third question asks the Chancellor whether “he will ensure that any review of the Government's stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland (a) includes representation and consultation with all stakeholders and (b) assesses the costs and benefits of all available options, including alternatives to reprivatisation.” 

In fourth and final question the Treasury, Mr Donald asks of the Chancellor whether “he will commission an independent review of the Government's stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland.”