NatWest to close Manningtree branch in ‘kick in the teeth’ for town

NatWest in Manningtree

NatWest in Manningtree - Credit: Archant

A bank’s decision to close a branch in Manningtree has been lambasted by the town mayor as “madness”.

Needham Market (red shirts) v Harlow Town. Mark Morsley

Needham Market (red shirts) v Harlow Town. Mark Morsley

NatWest has announced it will close its branch on the High Street on November 30, although it plans to keep its cash machine.

The move means from December Barclays will be the only bank in Manningtree.

Mark Morsley, mayor of Manningtree Town Council, said: “We are stunned. NatWest has been in the town for a long while, more than 50 years.

“It’s a really strange decision. In the next five years there will be an expansion of property built in this area, including in Lawford and Brantham, and footfall will increase.

“Like a lot of smaller towns we have struggled in the past but at the moment we are quite buoyant, the shops are all full, and there is an influx of people coming into the town. So to me the rationale behind it is madness.

“It is a disgrace, and there is absolutely no thought for the customers in the town whatsoever.

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“The concern is in a small town with a lot of small retailers there’s a lot of cash changing hands, and particularly with a large elderly population not everyone wants to use online banking.

“This is a kick in the teeth.

“I also worry about what will happen to its large premises in the town centre.

“If another bank comes in then fine, but that is unlikely. It is probably too big for a shop, and I can see it sitting there becoming derelict.”

Mr Morsley said the town council would write to NatWest to make its opposition known, but added he believed the decision was a foregone conclusion.

NatWest has made arrangements for customers to access some facilities, such as checking their balance, deposit and withdraw funds including coins for businesses, at the local Post Office.

A spokesman for the bank said: “We have taken the difficult decision to close the Manningtree branch.

“We are working hard to ensure there are a number of alternative ways for people in the area to continue to bank with us.

“The number of transactions taking place at Manningtree branch has dropped by 34% since 2011 and only 56 customers use the branch on a regular weekly basis. Of these, 25 customers already use other branches in the area.

“We are committed to following the UK Government protocol on branch closures, and we have made the decision following careful consideration of a wide range of factors including branch usage and the alternative ways our customers can bank with us locally.

“Our customers are increasingly using alternative ways to bank with them such as online and mobile banking.

“Between now and the closure date we will engage with all of our customers, local businesses and the wider local community to make sure they are aware of the alternative ways of accessing their banking with us in the local area, and to answer any questions they might have.”

Andy Fletcher, community leader for Barclays Essex, said: “We currently have no plans to close our branch in Manningtree, however we do constantly review the way we work to ensure we can deliver a service that is shaped around the way our customers are choosing to carry out their banking.

“In order to stay relevant and competitive, we will continue to evolve the shape and size of our branch network. The number of physical Barclays branches will reduce over time, but our branch network and the colleagues who work in them remain a vital part of our offering.”