A group of local councillors met with Ulster Bank representatives this week to highlight concerns about the bank’s plans to close its branches in Dromore and Rathfriland.
In November last year the RBS-owned bank revealed controversial plans to shut 11 branches across Northern Ireland as part of a series of cost-saving measures.
According to Ulster Bank, the decision was taken due to a radical change in the way customers use banks, with more and more opting for online banking.
The Rathfriland branch is due to close on June 6, while the Dromore branch will shut on June 19, leaving both towns without a bank.
During the meeting, councillors went to great lengths to stress the need for continuing to offer communities and businesses in Dromore and Rathfriland a face-to-face banking service.
Aldermen Ian Burns, Elizabeth Ingram and Paul Rankin, along with Councillors Hazel Loane and Seamus Doyle, concurred that the closures would be “a major blow for both towns”.
The council delegation expressed grave concerns about how the imminent closures would negatively impact the towns.
“In addition to job losses and loss of prime site ATM provision, local shoppers and businesses will be greatly inconvenienced with the nearest Ulster Bank branches located seven and nine miles away. More worryingly, the absence of a bank will encourage shoppers to take their business elsewhere, putting additional pressure on retail businesses that are heavily reliant on local trade,” they said.
During the meeting, Ulster Bank’s Terry Robb and Dan McGinn described how the bank is helping existing customers prepare for and adjust to the closures.
A spokesman for Ulster Bank said there is “no plan to revisit the decision” to close the two branches, but he stressed that the bank will be “bringing both a Community Banker and a Bank on Wheels stop to Rathfriland.”