Another town in County Derry will be left without a bank branch after a series of planned closures were announced yesterday.
Ulster Bank’s Maghera branch will close as part of the bank’s overall restructuring plans, with branches in Holywood, Warrenpoint, Dunmurry, Antrim, Ballymoney, Larne, Comber and Clogher all set to suffer the same fate.
Bank workers were informed of the move yesterday, with layoffs likely at individual branches.
An Ulster Bank spokesman said the move was part of the continued move away from in-person banking.
“As in many industries, most of our customers are turning to mobile and online banking because it’s faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives,” they said.
“We understand and recognize that digital solutions aren’t right for everyone or in every situation, and when we close branches, we need to make sure no one is left behind.
“We take seriously our responsibility to support people who are having difficulty getting around online, so we are investing to provide them with support and alternatives that work for them.”
Sinn Féin MP for East Derry Caoimhe Archibald said she had asked Ulster Bank for a meeting to discuss the closures.
“It is deeply concerning to hear today’s announcement of Ulster Bank’s plans to close nine branches in the north from September 2022,” she said.
“This will be a blow to the workers at the affected branches first and my heart goes out to the workers and their families who receive this difficult news.
“I have today asked Ulster Bank for a meeting regarding potential redundancies following the closures; there should be no compulsory redundancies and I join unions and workers in opposing this.
“I have also contacted the Financial Conduct Authority about these branch closures and whether the regulator’s guidelines have been followed.
“The announcement of these closures is accompanied by a series of branch closures that are eroding the availability of banking services in small towns and rural areas of the North.
“It impacts staff, customers who don’t or can’t use digital services, and small local businesses.”
John O’Connell, general secretary of the Financial Services Union (FSU), said the rationale for the shutdown did “not stand up to scrutiny”.
“This decision is going to shock a lot of people and cause enormous distress to staff and local communities,” he said.
“The Financial Services Union will oppose these closures and remind the Bank of its societal role in providing services to local communities.
“If banks continue to cut services, you leave people no choice but to use digital platforms. Many people cannot, for various reasons, bank online.
“Ulster Bank has put profit before people and has shown complete disregard for communities and in particular the elderly and vulnerable who will be without banking services as a result of this announcement.
“The FSU will oppose mandatory layoffs and urge politicians from all political parties to unite in opposing this decision.
“Banks have lost people’s trust since the banking crash. Shutting down services is not the way to rebuild that trust,” he added.
Towns in the county have been hit by several branch closures in recent years, with Danske Bank closing its Kilrea branch in December 2020 and the Bank of Ireland Limavady branch closing at the end of 2021.
This will affect me, what should I do next?
The Consumer Council has advised customers to review their banking needs following the announcement of the closures.
Jenny Redman, head of financial services, said many people still rely on face-to-face banking.
“Our research shows that 21% of consumers have been affected by a bank branch closure in the past three years, and nearly half of those affected said it had a major impact on them and the community. local,” she said.
“Consumers can continue to visit the nearest post office to pay cash and checks, withdraw cash and check balances. Basic banking services are something the post office provides to all Northern Ireland banks.
“Before each branch closes, we advise customers to consider their needs and preferences and to connect with their local branch to discuss the options available to them.
“If the bank is unable to meet these needs, consumers may wish to switch accounts.
“The Consumer Council continues to monitor the impact of branch closures across Northern Ireland and is working closely with the financial industry to represent consumers.”
“The Consumer Council’s website offers a number of free resources to help consumers.
Consumers can also contact the Consumer Council for free independent advice by calling the freephone number 0800 121 6022 or emailing [email protected]