Sir George has been told by HSBC that they plan to close their Town Hall branch of the bank in the New Year.
"This will come as a blow to people in Whitchurch, as it is the only bank in the town. Over recent years, some important work has been carried out in the town to regenerate it, to attract new jobs and new shops, and to improve the quality of life of those who live and work there. The loss of the branch, if it goes ahead as planned, will be a serious setback. I would like to work with the Town Council, Borough and County Councillors to see if we can get the decision changed; and, if not, to see if we can attract another bank in to take over."
"This is a growing town, and people will not want to travel to Overton or Andover to conduct their banking transactions. I am in touch with the bank to see if we can have more time to find a solution. Three months notice is a very short time-scale and, while the bank say they have looked at measures to make the bank viable, they have not consulted people in the town about this. I believe the bank should engage in consultations with local people to see what needs to be done to make the bank viable. Some might consider switching their accounts, if that helped secure the future of the bank; and there could be a discussion about opening hours."
See letter below
26 October 2009
Dear Sir George
I am writing to let you know that after careful consideration, we have taken the difficult decision to close the HSBC branch in The Town Hall, Whitchurch at 3:30 pm on Friday, 22 January 2010.
I would like to stress that we never close a branch without first undertaking a rigorous study of customer activity, the sustainability of the premises and other important factors. We always include within this examination an assessment of whether the branch could be restored to commercial feasibility by changing its opening hours or operational model.
In the case of Whitchurch branch, I am sorry to say that use of the branch is such that it is simply not achieving the type of custom it needs to make it commercially sustainable. Whilst we recognise the value of our services to our Whitchurch branch customers, if the levels of business at the branch are balanced against the running and staffing costs of the premises, it is clear that the branch is no longer viable, and I am afraid it must close.
At HSBC, we have a longstanding commitment to managing our business sustainably, efficiently and cost effectively, for the benefit of both our customers and our shareholders. Occasionally, as is the case with Whitchurch branch, we will have to make a difficult decision in order to meet this commitment. However, these sound business principles have helped to ensure that HSBC has not needed to approach the UK Government for taxpayer support, and are one reason why we cannot envisage any circumstances where such action would be necessary.
In order to minimise the impact of the closure, we are writing to all our Whitchurch branch customers on 26 October 2009, giving them twelve weeks notice to allow them ample time to discuss the closure with our branch staff and talk through the many alternative banking channels open to them. Within the letter, we will let our customers know that their account number and sort code will remain exactly the same, and that they may do their banking at any of the other branches or fee-free cash machines in our nationwide network.
We will also notify our customers that we will automatically transfer the administration of their accounts to our Andover branch branch, which is around seven miles away. In addition, there are also other limited HSBC facilities available at our Overton service branch in 10 Winchester Street, Overton, which is four miles away.
Our Andover branch actually offers a wider range of services for our customers to make use of, including, longer opening hours, full counter service during the week, additional staff to assist with our customers’ banking needs, a range of self service banking machines, internet banking stations and access to cash 24 hours a day through an external fee-free cash machine. In addition there are several dedicated specialists at our Andover branch who can advise on our business banking products, our range of mortgage offers and the suite of Financial Planning services which are available to our customers.
We are fully aware of the responsibilities that banks have to the communities they serve and we are always very conscious of the impact a branch closure can have, and particularly the effect on people with mobility issues. For this reason, our branch staff will be identifying customers who have problems accessing banking facilities and providing them with advice and practical solutions, including training on phone and internet banking where appropriate.
Again, I am sorry that we have had to take this very difficult decision, but I hope that I have explained both the reasons for it, and the steps we are taking to help those customers who might be affected. I would also like to let you know that the closure will not result in any staff redundancies – all our staff from the Whitchurch branch will be redeployed in other local branches.
Acting Regional Director, Personal Financial Services