On Friday 14th October, Alok Sharma, Member of Parliament for Reading West, and Pangbourne Councillor Pamela Bale held a meeting to discuss NatWest bank’s recent announcement that it intends to close its Pangbourne branch on 23rd November 2011.
The meeting was held in Pangbourne and, along with representatives of NatWest and RBS, was attended by concerned members of the local community including residents, business representatives and Chairman of Pangbourne Parish Council, Liz White.
Those attending the meeting expressed concerns about a number of issues:
Jenny Holliday, a Pangbourne resident who has organised a petition against the intended closure, said: “I was shocked and angry when I received the letter from NatWest as I have been a customer for 36 years. There was no consultation, and no reasons given. I started a petition and have over 400 signatures to date. I contacted the Reading Chronicle who printed an article and this has attracted national interest from the Daily Mail.”
Royston Hine, owner of award-winning local butchers Greens of Pangbourne, said: “Apart from the loss of a local banking facility for businesses, we shopkeepers are concerned that if people have to go to Tilehurst or Reading to do their banking, they may not come to Pangbourne to shop. While local people are likely to remain loyal, Pangbourne is a hub for many small surrounding villages and the loss of even a percentage of their trade would be detrimental to the viability of some village shops.”
Paul Sampson, Director of Green Parlour, said: “We depend on the Pangbourne branch for banking of daily takings and change facilities. The closure will disrupt our business.”
Pamela Bale, West Berkshire Councillor for Pangbourne, and Liz White, Chairman of Pangbourne Parish Council, said: “We are concerned about the impact on the vulnerable members of the community who currently bank with NatWest and who are most unlikely to be users of internet banking, as well as the potential impact on the future prosperity of the village. Tilehurst and Reading may not be many miles away, but a visit using public transport takes time and effort – a change of two infrequent buses to get to Tilehurst.”
Councillor Bale continued: “Pangbourne is currently a vibrant village, and is identified as a Service Village in the West Berkshire Council draft Local Development Framework as it currently offers a wide range of shops and facilities. A reduction in services will affect the sustainability of the village and the ability to support neighbouring areas. Taking away the NatWest bank, which offers the most accessible banking services in the village, will have a significant effect on the future of Pangbourne.”
Alok said: “On hearing of this potential closure, I wrote to the Chief Executive of RBS, which owns NatWest, to try to understand the rationale for NatWest’s decision to close the Pangbourne branch. I was pleased that Jennie Bartlett, Local Chief Executive of NatWest, and Rebecca Wright from RBS were able to attend the public meeting but, unfortunately, they were not able to explain the commercial rationale for the closure of the branch. However, they certainly understood the strength of feeling amongst the local business and personal customers of NatWest. I am following up this week with the aim of talking directly to key decision makers at NatWest and I hope it may be possible to get NatWest to look again at this decision.”