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22 September 2018

Barclays Closure Letter

Dear Emma,

Thank you for your letter informing me about the closure of the Hazel Grove Branch of Barclays.

Sorry that this reply took a little longer than I would have liked, I took the time to speak to the residents of Hazel Grove about this closure and thought that I should feed the general gist back to you.

Bluntly, they think you are wrong to close this Branch.

Not even slightly wrong, they think almost to a person that I spoke to that this is the wrong thing to do for Hazel Grove, for Barclays and for your customers.

I have seen the stats that some of your competitors publish for their justifications of closures and I find them flawed, skewed to give the answers that they want.

We have now lost Halifax, 1 Post Office, RBS, HSBC and now Barclays in Hazel Grove. I wonder what it was about the area that had you all open branches here in the first place if you are all to flee the area as quickly as you have?

To respond to the points you made in your letter to me:

Nearest Physical Branch - 2.8 miles away in Stockport Town Centre. Not exactly convenient is it? In the middle of the mostly pedestrianised centre of Stockport. If I were to drive from Hazel Grove Library (in the middle of the Ward and a fair starting point) Google Maps predicts that the journey would take by car approx 17 minutes one way. I would have to park, lets allow 5 minutes and £1.10 for that at the nearest Public Car park at SK1 2DW. Then a 5 minute walk to the branch, transact my business then return. I accept that there are also other jobs or shops I might visit in the Town centre whilst I am there but you will find that many of the residents of my ward do not regularly visit the Centre of Stockport, and just for the avoidance of doubt I call a regular visit to the Centre of Stockport more than once a fortnight, fairly infrequently for banking for some.

Thats a round trip of an hour, if I use the bus, its about 40 minutes from the same point one way.

Nearby Post Office - 0.1 miles away, you are entirely correct there is a Post office counter in the Local Asda store. I’d like to ask if Barclays have considered or offered to help Post Office Counters staff this site?
Have you seen the queues this Post Office has at times? It is primarily a Post Office and not a Bank, therefore, it is not really set up to deal with many of the enquiries that customers will often make at your current counters.

I note that all UK banks have been promoting their smartphone solutions to banking and I applaud you all for opening up many of the services to immediate self serve on a smartphone. I use my banks’ app often, but there are a lot of customers out there that do not want to be forced to use a smartphone. I point out that sales of basic phones are on the up because there is a large section of the population that want to disconnect. There is also a large section of the local population in my ward that does not use these devices and you are cutting them off.

You asked me three questions about the impacts of this closure and what I thought Barclays could do to help reduce them. No other bank has asked those of me previously and I hold out a sliver of hope that there might yet be a chance to rescue the situation.

I accept that there is a cost to a branch network, I also accept that many of the services that are provided by banks can be delivered through lower cost channels. The bit that all the cost accountants forget is that human interaction between customer and bank. For years you have trained staff to have excellent customer services skills that enable then to help customers through complex transactions, offer help when the situation financially is not in the customers favour and advise when your customers are unsure about what they should do in a given situation. All this is lost when the Branch network is reduced or removed entirely.

Your customers stay with you for a variety of reasons, one of the biggest being the helpful and knowledgeable staff that they can go to at any time during the banking day. The idea of an accessible local branch is built into the very fabric of our local society and you risk creating a breed of customer that will chop and change and no longer be customers for life because there is no local friendly face of Barclays, you risk becoming a faceless corporate monstrosity only relevant to people because of the latest Daily Mail story about banker excess in a very small part of the organisation based in the City of London or further afield.

I’d like to suggest that as a very minimum you find some way to maintain a cash machine in Hazel Grove, even better one of the cleverer automatic cheque deposit machines.

I’d like to to explore a way of retaining a Barclays local Customer service person that has s kiosk or space within one of the other stores or even the Civic Hall in partnership with the Council to provide face to face advice about how to access the Banks Services or even to walk them through the banking apps.

I think that Hazel Grove will be lessened by the departure of Barclays Bank and I’d love to find a way to reverse or revise that decision because you do contribute to the whole of this village by being here, serving its residents, keeping a tidy building and car park and providing direct quality banking services to the area.

The responses of residents are more sad and disappointed to lose Barclays from the area and I hope that there can be a way of you being convinced to retain some presence in this Village.

I am happy to discuss my comments further at any time, my mobile number is 07976 951448. I hope that I have given you something to consider on behalf of the Residents of Hazel Grove.

Regards

Julian Lewis-Booth
Hazel Grove Ward Councillor

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