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06 Jul 2022

County Derry bank branch set to close

The move is part of a raft of closures across Northern Ireland.

County Derry bank branch set to close

Ulster Bank are set to close their Maghera branch.

Another County Derry town will be left without a bank branch after a series of planned closures were announced yesterday.

The Ulster Bank branch in Maghera will close as part of the bank's overall restructuring plans, with branches in Holywood, Warrenpoint, Dunmurry, Antrim, Ballymoney, Larne, Comber and Clogher all set to suffer a similar fate.

Bank workers were informed of the move yesterday, with some redundancies likely across the various branches.

An Ulster Bank spokesperson said the move was part of the ongoing shift away from in-person banking.

"As with many industries, most of our customers are shifting to mobile and online banking, because it's faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives," they said.

"We understand and recognise that digital solutions aren't right for everyone or every situation, and that when we close branches we have to make sure that no one is left behind.

"We take our responsibility seriously to support the people who face challenges in moving online, so we are investing to provide them with support and alternatives that work for them."

Sinn Féin MLA for East Derry, Caoimhe Archibald, said she had asked Ulster Bank for a meeting to discuss the closures.

"It is deeply concerning to hear the announcement today of plans by Ulster Bank to close nine branches across the north from September 2022," she said.

"This will firstly be a huge blow to workers in branches affected and my thoughts are with the workers and their families getting this difficult news. 

"I have today asked Ulster Bank for a meeting regarding potential redundancies as a result of the closures; there should be no compulsory redundancies and I stand with unions and workers in opposing this.

"I have also contacted the Financial Conduct Authority in relation to these branch closures and whether the regulator's guidance has been met.

"The announcement of these closures comes on the bank of a swathe of branch closures which is eroding the availability of banking services in small towns and rural areas across the north.

"This has an impact on staff, on customers who don't or can't use digital services and on small local businesses."

John O'Connell, General Secretary of the Financial Services Union (FSU), said the rationale for closure did not 'stand up to scrutiny'.

"This decision will come as a shock to a lot of people and will cause huge distress for staff and local communities," he said.

"The Financial Services Union will be opposing these closures and reminding the Bank of its societal role in providing services to local communities.

"If Banks continue to cut services, you leave people with no choice but to use digital platforms. There are many people who are unable for varied reasons to bank online.

"Ulster Bank have put profit before people and shown a complete disregard for communities and particularly older people and vulnerable people who will be without banking services due to this announcement.

"The FSU will oppose compulsory redundancies and urge politicians from all political Parties to come together in opposing this decision.

"Banks have lost the trust of people since the banking crash. Closing services is not the way to rebuild that trust," he added.

Towns in the county have been hit by several branch closures in recent years, with Danske bank closing its Kilrea branch in December 2020 and Limavady's Bank of Ireland branch closing in late 2021.

This will affect me, what should I do next?

The Consumer Council has advised customers to review their banking needs following the announcement of the closures.

Jenny Redman, Head of Financial Services, said many people still rely on face-to-face banking.

"Our research shows that 21% 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," she said.

"Consumers can continue to visit their nearest Post Office to pay in cash and cheques, withdraw money, and check their balance. Basic banking services is something the Post Office provides for all banks in Northern Ireland.

"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.

“The Consumer Council is continuing to monitor the impact of branch closures across Northern Ireland and is working closely with the financial sector to represent consumers.”

"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 contact@consumercouncil.org.uk

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