Banking services not best left to whims of private sector

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With the announcement that the Ulster Bank is to close there will soon be no banking facilities anywhere on Belfast’s Antrim Road from Carlisle Circus to Glengormley.

One by one all of the local banks have withdrawn. Danske Bank, First Trust and now the Ulster Bank are all leaving this busy residential and commercial area without a direct banking service: a pattern all too familiar throughout Northern Ireland.

Whatever other excuses the banks put forward this is really about reducing their costs and increasing their profits. They are callously ignoring the day to day needs of local people and local businesses all of whom need to avail of banking services on a regular basis.

It is ironic that given the millions of pounds of taxpayers money that the banking industry received to bail them out just a few years ago that their response is to inconvenience their customers and make life even more difficult and stressful for older citizens.

Banks should not be allowed to take these kind of community effecting decisions in isolation. There is no reason why all branches have to close on the Antrim Road when discussions between them could have ensured that at least one remained open.

Ultimately, of course, the provision of banking and other financial services is not best left to the whims of the private sector and should be a nationalised facility with full and open accountability for all its actions.

Gemma Weir, Workers Party, Belfast BT15