Representatives from bank show commitment to Staplehurst
In December 2016, NatWest announced they would be closing their branch in Staplehurst due to security concerns. This followed two ram-raids of the building in 2007 and July 2016.
On hearing the news, concerns were raised for the future provision of banking in the area. This was after customers were told they would need to use services available in Cranbrook or Maidstone instead. Particularly affected by these changes would be a number of elderly customers and residents of nearby Leonard Cheshire Disability Home Sobell Lodge, who use the bank on a regular basis and would struggle to travel.
In order to clarify the situation for current customers and ensure a good service would still be provided, local MP Helen Grant hosted a meeting in her Maidstone office on Friday 27th January 2017. Mrs Grant was joined by the Chairman of Staplehurst Parish Council Rory Silkin, Maidstone Borough Councillor Louise Brice and no less than five representatives from NatWest.
The meeting was an excellent opportunity for the MP and councillors to express their concerns for those more vulnerable constituents who may not be able to travel to other branches. It also helped to open a channel of communication between the Parish Council and NatWest who pledged to work closely in the future.
Whilst it was confirmed that re-opening the branch was not on the table, representatives from the bank offered to review a number of proposals where banking could be made more accessible for residents. These were as follows:
A confirmation that they were already exploring the possibility of a mobile bank to visit the village once a week with the potential to commence in 3 months' time. (Timing is indicative, as it involves many variables that are not within NatWest's control (satellite signals, parking permits etc.). A commitment to revisit a feasibility exercise on installing an ATM in an alternative location in the village. NatWest will work with the Parish Council on a possible location. An agreement to explore extending the opening hours of Cranbrook and Maidstone NatWest branches to accommodate additional customers.An agreement to assess the functionality and resourcing of the Cranbrook branch for disabled customers and additional users.The implementation of a community banker commencing early April, who will work with local customers and the Parish Council.
Speaking after the meeting Helen Grant MP said:
"I am grateful to NatWest and their representatives for taking the time to visit my office today. I understand their concerns for the security of their staff and customers but many customers in this area still require face-to-face banking facilities. I am pleased however that they have demonstrated a willingness to fill the gap that will be left in Staplehurst. I feel they have shown a commitment to working with the local community."