Outrage at decision to leave growing town with just a single bank

Nationwide Building Society in Harleston, which is due to close
Nationwide Building Society in Harleston, which is due to close

Customers have labelled a decision to close a south Norfolk building society as “disgusting.”

Nationwide has announced it will be closing its Harleston branch from 2pm on January 31 - directing customers to its branch in Diss, a 40-minute round-trip in the car.

The closure will leave Harleston with only one bank, Barclays, following the closure of the town’s branch of HSBC only six months ago.

Letters were sent out to customers earlier this week putting the closure down to declining customer usage, profitability, an expiring lease and the proximity of other branches.

But Harleston Town Council chairman Eric Bird said he understood the building society was well used, adding that the 120 homes recently approved for the town will only

increase customers.

Mr Bird said: “I think it is absolutely outrageous. The worst part of it all is that when HSBC closed earlier this year, Nationwide took on a lot of their customers. They must have had some idea at the time that the branch was not viable.

“I will be writing to Nationwide on behalf of the town council to express my disgust.”

The nearest Nationwide branches to Harleston are in Diss and Beccles, and many customers fear that the closure will have a detrimental effect on local businesses, driving residents to neighbouring market towns to do their shopping along with their banking.

Speaking outside the branch in The Thoroughfare, one customer said: “I work in Harleston Monday to Saturday so when am I going to be able to travel to Diss or Beccles to bank my money? It’s disgraceful.”

Another customer who switched to Nationwide when HSBC closed said: “The thought of having to drive to Beccles or Diss to pay cheques in is outrageous.”

Irene East, head of corporate affairs for Barclays in the eastern region, reassured customers that they would not be closing their Harleston bank.

She added: “Our Harleston branch was refurbished this year, which shows our commitment to our local customers and our staff. Although we do review from time to time our branches where our customers need and use them, we have no plans to close our branch in Harleston and our staff would welcome anyone who would like to talk to us about opening an account.”

A spokesman from Nationwide said the decision to close the branch had been “carefully considered” as part of an ongoing review of the Nationwide business and its distribution arrangements.

She said: “We have written to all our customers who currently use the branch to explain the situation.

“The welfare of all of our employees is very important to us and we are doing everything we can to minimise the impact on those affected by this decision. We are confident that we will be able to redeploy the vast majority of affected employees into neighbouring branches.”

The spokesman would not say how many people were employed at the branch.