Fears for Emsworth businesses as NatWest cuts opening hours

The NatWest bank in Emsworth
The NatWest bank in Emsworth
streetwise Elizabeth Gullen''File photo dated 24/05/06 of a recent Scottish Power energy bill and money. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday September 15, 2009. Inflation slid to its lowest level in almost five years during August, official figures showed today. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) fell from 1.8% to 1.6% over the month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It was last lower in November 2004. Unchanged household ENERGY bills this year compared with big hikes 12 months earlier dragged down the rate of inflation, along with falling food prices, the ONS said. See PA story ECONOMY Inflation. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire PPP-171004-100100001

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THE leader of a business association has vowed to fight tooth and nail to keep the last bank in town.

Giles Babb says the loss of three of Emsworth’s four banks in just over a year has had a major impact on businesses.

NatWest is the last one standing following the closure of Barclays, Lloyds and Nationwide.

And there were fears that NatWest was on its way out too after the opening hours were reduced last week and it is now closed on Saturdays.

But the banking giant has confirmed that those hours are being reviewed following concerns over the closure of its branch in Leigh Park.

Mr Babb, chairman of Emsworth Business Association, said: ‘It’s fantastic news that NatWest are looking at increasing the hours again.

‘We want to try and encourage people to use NatWest as much as possible.

‘We were very worried when they shortened their opening hours and closed on a Saturday.

‘We didn’t want this to be the beginning of the end.

‘The queue for the cashpoint outside NatWest was ridiculous last Saturday.

‘We would like them to open up again on Saturdays, at least for the morning.’

But Mr Babb says damage has already been done.

‘Some of the traders have seen a downturn in their trade because we have lost Barclays.

‘People are bypassing Emsworth and going to bank in Havant and that’s having an effect.

‘Before, people would pop into the shops while they were here doing their banking anyway.’

In Leigh Park customers fought to stop the closure of NatWest, just months after Nationwide shut its doors.

It means customers there have to go into Havant to do their banking.

Mr Babb added: ‘I’m not sure everyone is aware that you can do transactions at the Post Office.

‘Old people in particular should be made aware because many don’t have a computer and can’t do online banking.

‘They don’t need to go into Havant, they can still come here.’

A NatWest spokeswoman said: ‘We reduced the opening hours at the Emsworth branch because fewer customers were using the branch.

‘However we constantly review the opening hours of our branches based on customer demand and are considering increasing the hours as a result of the nearby Leigh Park branch closing.’