Local MP Alan Mak led community leaders at a meeting to lobby senior officials from NatWest over the planned closure of the town’s branch at a meeting at Emsworth Community Centre. At the meeting organised by Mr Mak, the Emsworth MP asked NatWest to reconsider their initial decision to close the branch in June, and NatWest have promised to review the position.
Mr Mak had already secured a concession from the bank that they would bring a mobile bank to Emsworth twice a week if the proposed branch closure goes ahead. Working with local councillors Lulu Bowerman and Rivka Cresswell, a site has been secured for the mobile facility in the car park of Spice Village, an Indian takeaway, should it be needed.
At the MP’s meeting, NatWest confirmed a mobile bank would visit twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays for two hours, an increase of half-an-hour a day after talks at the meeting. The mobile branch will visit Emsworth on Friday 7 April and Tuesday 9 May to introduce customers to the mobile branch and the services available. NatWest will also invest in signage to promote the new mobile bank.
After being pressed about concerns that some residents would not be able to access services online, NatWest also reassured community leaders that regular technology training sessions would be run in the town, offering advice on how to use internet banking and avoid fraud.
Mr Mak said: “NatWest’s decision to close their Emsworth branch is very disappointing, but they agreed at my meeting to think again. In the meantime, I have secured a firm commitment from NatWest to keep a presence in the town through a mobile bank, which is a positive step. Thank you to Emsworth’s councillors and community leader for joining my meeting, and adding their strong voices to my campaign.”
The meeting at the Emsworth Community Centre was attended by Cllr Bowerman, Cllr Cresswell, county councillor Ray Bolton, Emsworth Business Association chairman Giles Babb, Chair of Emsworth Forum Stephanie Elsy; Phoebe Atkinson; and Sarah Wraith; and NatWest Local CEO for the Portsmouth area.
Cllr Cresswell said: “Thank you to Alan for organising this very constructive meeting, we are pleased that NatWest will be able to continue some form of banking in Emsworth. I will be working alongside my fellow councillors and the Emsworth Business Association to minimise the impact of the bank’s closure.”
The bank is scheduled to close on 7 June, and aside from the new mobile unit, customers will also be able to use the Emsworth Post Office to make transactions. Three free-to-use ATMS are within a mile of the closing branch.
NatWest Local CEO for the Portsmouth area Sarah Wraith said: “We are very much aware how difficult the decision to close this branch was for our customers. After listening to them and understanding their needs we have decided to introduce a mobile branch service to the community and it will be in place from June 2017. The NatWest mobile branch will visit Emsworth for two hours every Tuesday and Friday.”
Photo caption: Alan Mak MP with Emsworth community leaders and NatWest representative at his meeting