Mobile bank cuts to hit Lochaber residents

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Community representatives in Lochaber have condemned RBS’s latest plans to slash mobile bank van services in the area, with elderly residents expected to be the worst hit.

RBS revealed this week that residents in Spean Bridge and Roy Bridge will see visits from mobile bank vans cut from two 45-minute visits a week to just 15 minutes.

Among other areas in Lochaber, the mobile banking van will visit Acharacle and Strontian for just 20 minutes each a week, leaving residents with more than an hour’s drive, possibly involving a ferry crossing, to the nearest RBS branch in Fort William.

Similarly, banking vans will visit Invergarry – 25 miles from the nearest RBS branch – for 30 minutes a week, down from an hour and a half.

John Fotheringham, of Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Achnacarry Community Council, said the mobile bank service is popular in Spean Bridge and Roy Bridge, especially with young mothers and the elderly.

‘RBS doesn’t appear to want to promote the service and its current location in Spean Bridge won’t attract tourists or casual users,’ he said. ‘The reduction in service times appears to be a forerunner to withdrawal of the service entirely.’

Mr Fotheringham said he has particular sympathy with Roy Bridge residents who, having recently lost their outreach postal service, are now losing their ‘lifeline’ banking service as well.

‘Maybe if the provider was actively to promote the service there would be no reason for any reduction, particularly as Spean Bridge is likely to see new developments shortly,’ he added.

A spokesperson for RBS said the cutbacks were in response to the changing ways customers are banking. The spokesperson said: ‘We have reviewed the schedules of our mobile branches and added more stops. Many of these new stops will cover areas where, unfortunately, an existing branch will be closing, but also some communities where we haven’t had a branch before.

‘This does also mean that in some communities we may have to spend less time, but we welcome feedback on how these services are running, and have already committed to reviewing these timetables on a monthly basis.’

However, Lochaber MSP Kate Forbes said she was ‘deeply concerned’ by the proposals as not everybody in rural areas use online banking.

‘While many people are choosing to bank online or to bank on their phone app, not everybody is, not everybody can and not everybody will,’ Ms Forbes said.

‘It is absolutely vital that customers’ needs shape the future banking provision in order to ensure rural Scotland is not left behind.’

Lochaber MP Ian Blackford, who is helping to lead the campaign against the Mallaig branch closure, highlighted the incongruity of cutting mobile bank services at the same time as bank branches.

He said: ‘First of all, they announce their intention to close branches, many of which provide vital personal services in remote areas. They then offer mobile  banks as an option, but now say there are not enough to go round and make visits so short as to be unusable.

‘The present situation of reducing the number of locations combined with ridiculously short opening times is  just not acceptable.’

Highlands and Islands Enterprise has extended its rural banking survey by an extra two weeks to give individuals, businesses and community groups a chance to have their say.

The survey asks about the importance of being able to withdraw and deposit cash locally, experiences of using Post Office and mobile banking services, and the perceived impacts of local branch closures. The survey closes on Friday April 27.