THE closure of Danske Bank in Fivemiletown will have a "deeply damaging impact" on the community, an MLA has warned.
DUP MLA., Deborah Erskine, was speaking after the bank announced it will close four brick-and-mortar branches - including in Fivemiletown - on September 16.
In response, the Consumer Council have urged all local customers to "review their banking needs" ahead of the planned closures. The branches earmarked for closure include Fivemiletown, Cookstown, Lurgan and Kilkeel.
Deborah Erkine said the annoucement was "deeply disturbing", and she is subsequently seeking a meeting with Danske bank to see if a solution can be reached.
“It is deeply concerning that constituents have received notice today that the Fivemiletown Danske Bank Branch is due to close on September 2022.
"My thoughts first go out to the staff who will be directly impacted by this decision to close.
"The closure of local banking facilities, particularly in rural areas will have a deeply damaging impact on the local community in Fivemiletown and will only place additional pressures on those who depend on these services being available in their locality.
"I have spoken with Danske Bank regarding this closure this morning and I am seeking a meeting with them to discuss this issue further to see if any solution can be reached.
"It is of critical importance to me that those most vulnerable in our rural communities are still able to access these facilities on their doorstep.”
The Consumer Council said that around half of consumers have been majorly impacted by the closure of a bank branch in the last three years.
Scott Kennerley, director of Financial and Postal Services at the Consumer Council, said: “Whilst many consumers are choosing to access their banking services through the internet, apps and over the phone, there are still many who rely on face-to-face banking through their local branch.
"Our research shows that 21 per cent of consumers have been affected by a bank branch closing in the last three years, with almost half of those affected saying it had a major impact on them and the local community.
“Before each branch closes, we would advise customers to think about their needs and preferences and liaise with their local branch to discuss the options that are available to them. If the bank is unable to meet these needs, consumers may wish to switch their accounts.”
Danske Bank has carried out an Impact Assessment for each branch closure and the document includes information on alternative banking services available to consumers, including information on other banks in the local area, details of the nearest Post Office, local free-to-use cash machines and other ways to bank them.
Scott added: “We understand that as Danske Bank is a voluntary member of the Access to Cash Action Group, LINK will now determine whether a new solution should be provided to meet the affected community’s cash needs as a whole. The Consumer Council will engage with the Access to Cash Action Group to understand what steps will now be taken to support the consumers affected by these decisions.”
The Consumer Council’s website has a number of free resources to assist consumers. Consumers can also get in touch with the Consumer Council for free independent advice by calling Freephone 0800 121 6022 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.