NatWest is accused of ‘banking on the cheap’ with mobile unit in Sidmouth

Steve Clarke outside NatWest Bank. Ref shs 18 18TI 3049. Picture: Terry Ife

Steve Clarke outside NatWest Bank. Ref shs 18 18TI 3049. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Banking bosses at Natwest have been accused of avoiding rates after unveiling plans to operate from a car park, following the closure of a town branch.

Sidmouth business owner Steve Clarke has criticised the scheme, which will see banking tellers work out of a mobile unit on the Ham East Car Park.

It comes weeks after the closure of the High Street Natwest Bank, which was originally set to shut on June 27.

Banking bosses announced that it would be axing 259 branches, along with a dozen in Devon – including in Axminster and Chard, in December.

At the time, they the Royal Bank of Scotland said the move reflected the public’s changing banking needs.

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It was revealed that transactions in the NatWest Sidmouth branch had reduced by 27 per cent since 2012. The branch only had 67 customers visiting the it on a weekly basis.

Natwest said 50 per cent of customers were now choosing to bank digitally with it on a regular basis instead.

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The mobile bank now plans to set up shop in the car park every Friday between 2.15pm and 3pm, from today (Friday, May 11).

Steve, who owns The Rendezvous in Fore Street with his wife Lyn, said: “We have four other banks in the town that pay rates.

“It doesn’t seem right that they have packed up shop and now plan to bring in a mobile bank to park outside and avoid charges.

“Do we all come back in a chip van and fill up the car park up to avoid paying rates?

“How far does it go?

“If a business packs up and goes, they don’t come back in a mobile coffee shop or fish and chip van.

“It is unfair competition. I could understand if you didn’t have a bank in the town.”

Sidmouth Town Council Chairman Ian McKenzie-Edwards, said: “Natwest are trying to do banking on the cheap in Sidmouth.

“I can understand the concerns being raised.

“But, I can understand that the way they are going that there just isn’t enough people banking in person to justify having a full branch in Sidmouth.

“However, I don’t support it. It is a reduction in facilities, although it isn’t like a shop.”

The Herald approached NatWest for comment, but the firm had not responded as we went to press on Friday.

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