Another banking blow as Ulster Bank announces closure of 10 Northern Ireland branches
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Ulster Bank has announced that it will close 10 Northern Ireland branches next year.
In total, the following branches are impacted: Ballynahinch, Crumlin, Downpatrick, Glengormley, Kings Road, Lisnaskea, Lurgan, Ormeau Road, University Road and Waterside.
News of the closure, which is expected on March 5, first reached Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart and Diane Dodds MLA ahead of customers being told of the decision.
An Ulster Bank spokesperson, confirmed: “As with many industries, most of our customers are shifting to mobile and online banking, because it’s faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives.
“We understand and recognise that digital solutions aren’t right for everyone or every situation, and that when we close branches we have to make sure that no one is left behind.
“We take our responsibility seriously to support the people who face challenges in moving online, so we are investing to provide them with support and alternatives that work for them.
“We will be investing over £3m across our branch network in the next two years, following £3.25m of investment in 2023. We will be making no further changes to our branch network until at least 2026.”
The spokesperson also revealed that ‘comparing January 2019 and January 2023, counter transactions for personal customers have decreased by 45%’ in Lurgan.
In response Diane Dodds MLA said she and other DUP colleagues ‘will be seeking a meeting with Ulster Bank’.
She continued: ”This unfortunately represents a real blow to not only the local businesses in Lurgan but also many older people who maybe are unable to use online banking and the staff who work in this branch.
“Ulster Bank have said today that their decision is due to the reduction in use of their Lurgan Bank Branch, with more and more people switching to online banking.
“Last year we saw nine Ulster Bank branches close across Northern Ireland and now further closures planned for next March. I along with DUP colleagues will be seeking a meeting with Ulster Bank to put forward our case for the branch in Lurgan.
“Unfortunately we have seen the closure of Danske Bank last year and also the Halifax in October this year leaving Lurgan businesses and local people with less and less opportunities to visit a branch.”
Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart also expressed her disappointment at the decision.
The DUP representative, said: “Losing the Ulster Bank branch in Lurgan is another hammer blow to the town, and to the community in Lurgan and surrounding area. This is just the latest bank to depart our high street, and reflects the move by more and more banks to transit their business online or via mobile banking. This is their response to fewer people using the bank in person, which has been the case in Lurgan for some time.
“This decision does however leave older people in particular feeling vulnerable, as that face to face interaction whilst banking is removed from our town centres. It is vital that alternative means of banking are promoted. Our Post Office network offer a wide range of banking services and this can be an alternative for many. We also need to look at Banking Hubs being provided in more towns that offer that one stop shop for a range of banks.
“In consultation with Ulster Bank I am assured that all staff will be offered alternative employment which will assuage fears of job losses. However my thoughts are with the staff as they come to terms with this announcement, and face change as a consequence of this closure.”
McKeown disappointed by Ulster Bank closures
Expressing sympathy to the staff, SDLP councillor Gary McKeown, added: “It’s deeply disappointing that we will lose these bank branches that people have relied on for many years. These branches are used by a wide range of people and are a mainstay of the local community, attracting footfall to the area which generates income for small businesses.
“We have seen a huge number of bank branches close in recent years, and while I understand that there has been a shift towards online banking, we must ensure that face-to-face banking services are still available for those who prefer in-person banking or rely on it. Many older and vulnerable people struggle to access online services and their needs must also be catered for.
“My thoughts are with the staff impacted by these decisions, many of whom will have worked in these branches for a number of years. This is particularly upsetting given the large pre-tax profits announced earlier this year by Ulster Bank’s parent company NatWest, which is 39% owned by the UK government.”