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N&P's decision to close under fire

PUBLISHED: 09:46 04 December 2009 | UPDATED: 08:57 01 August 2010

A COUNCILLOR has angrily hit out at Norwich and Peterborough building society's decision to close its Halesworth branch.

It was announced this week that the popular outlet in the Thoroughfare will close in March as the company looks to cut its overheads.

A COUNCILLOR has angrily hit out at Norwich and Peterborough building society's decision to close its Halesworth branch.

It was announced this week that the popular outlet in the Thoroughfare will close in March as the company looks to cut its overheads.

This will leave the Ipswich Building Society and three other banks in the town, and adds to the growing number of empty shops in Halesworth.

Last night Tony Goldson, town councillor and Suffolk county councillor described the closure as a “severe blow” to the town and particularly to elderly people who like to bank over the counter.

He also questioned why the society would choose to shut what he believes is a successful outlet,

10 Norwich and Peterborough (N&P) branches will close in the region in response to the recession, however the Halesworth branch is one of only two branches to be closed in what they regard as their “heartland.”

Both branches, the other being in Norwich, are said to need substantial investment to bring them up to the standard of other branches and so have been singled out for closure.

Mr Goldson said: “The branch itself is very successful,” he said. “The people of Halesworth are an ageing population and like to be able to go into their local branch and do business that way. A lot of people rely upon it. They offer you internet banking, but people don't all want to do internet banking. There are other branches, but you've got to have a car.

“I think they're going to lose a hell of a lot of business. It's a hell of a blow to the people of Halesworth. It's in the centre of town and it's going to be another empty shop.”

It is hoped that there will be no redundancies at Halesworth and that the four staff that work there will be deployed at branches elsewhere.

Matthew Bullock, chief executive of N&P, blamed the irresponsible lending of the banks for the closures.

“We are so sad that the dismal state of the financial markets since the collapse and rescue of the banks has brought us to this,” he said. “We were very reluctant to take this step because we still fundamentally regard our branches as the best means of serving our members. But having made significant cost efficiencies at our head office in Peterborough, and with our income this year markedly down and looking set to reduce further next year, we have had to make this very tough decision to include the branch network in our cuts.”

A spokesperson for N&P added they were desperately sorry to be closing the Halesworth branch and urged customers who are wary of using the internet to try postal banking.

She said that investments had been made at other branches to bring them up to date, but because Halesworth had not been renovated it had to be considered for closure.

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