Recent bank closures prompt public meeting about ‘filling the gap’

Tony Greenham, founder and director of South West Mutual. Picture: Graham Flack

Tony Greenham, founder and director of South West Mutual. Picture: Graham Flack - Credit: Graham Flack

A public meeting has been called to find ways to maintain Sidmouth’s ‘vibrant economy’ in the wake of recent bank closures.

The Future Forum of the Vision Group of Sidmouth is inviting residents to find out more about proposals to set up a regional bank, which may ‘fill a gap’ as the town will have just two banks left from June 20.

The group has invited South West Mutual director Tony Greenham to talk about the company’s plans to create a range of banking services as soon as 2020 at the meeting on March 12.

The Herald reported last year how the bank would be owned by its members and would look to have 21 satellite branches across Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.

Peter Murphy, from the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said: “We have seen several banks close their high street branches here in Sidmouth and East Devon over the past year – and there is real concern that this will have an impact on both business and residential communities.

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“We see all around us the signs of a vibrant local economy and maintaining access to modern banking facilities is fundamental not only for local business but also for our residents.

“It is essential we continue to plan to fill the gap left by current bank closures and provide for further retrenchment in the future.”

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The meeting was arranged off the back of the news that Santander would be leaving the town this year on June 20.

Peter said: “The meeting is like a focus group. South West Mutual want to know they are welcome. Do the people of Sidmouth like the idea of a bank that’s owned by its members? Would they be prepared to bank with them if they got the banking license?”

Mr Greenham spoke at last Wednesday’s East Devon District Council cabinet meeting where councillors agreed to invest in the bank alongside South Hams and West Devon councils.

During the meeting, East Devon District Council’s chief executive Mark Williams described the project as ‘extremely high risk’ but said the ‘social and environmental benefits justify the risk’.

The public meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 12, at 7pm in the Leigh Browne Room of the Dissenters’ Hall.

The meeting is open to all.

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