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Church leader slams Barclays over Swaffham branch axe

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Canon Stuart Nairn has called for a review of Barclays' decision to shut its Swaffham branch (1938091)
Canon Stuart Nairn has called for a review of Barclays' decision to shut its Swaffham branch (1938091)

A church leader has accused bank bosses of having a “total disregard” for their customers by planning to shut their nearest branch.

Town councillors in Swaffham are set to hold talks with Barclays chiefs this week over the impending closure of its Market Place branch this summer.

The banking giant claims it has no choice but to close the premises in late July, because of falling customer usage levels.

But the Rev Canon Stuart Nairn, whose Nar Valley group of parishes covers several nearby villages including Narborough and Castle Acre, has written to Barclays bosses demanding a rethink and has urged members of his congregations to follow suit.

In a letter to the bank’s chairman, John McFarlane, he wrote: “Maybe the Barclays branch could operate only on three days a week but to shut it completely shows a total disregard for the customers upon whom you depend.

“People have grave concerns about the security of online banking.

“Many of us handle a lot of cash for which we need open and accessible banking outlets.

“I urge you to encourage your advisers to think again and to reverse the decision to close the Swaffham branch completely.”

He also asked: “On present evidence how long before there is only a Barclays branch in Norwich having pulled out of the rest of the county?”

Barclays has claimed that only 208 people solely use the Swaffham branch to do their banking, while around a third had used other branches during the past year.

It also said that around 70 per cent of customers also used other platforms, such as online or phone banking, an increase of 17 per cent in the past six years.

In documents published to explain the proposal, the bank said: “We want to make staying in control of your everyday banking as easy and convenient as possible.

“Over the years, we’ve introduced many ways you can bank without having to come into a branch.”

But Canon Nairn argued regular queues in the branch demonstrated the public need for it to remain open and claimed staff had shown an approach that was “almost like a religious mantra” in attempting to persuade customers to use alternative methods.

He wrote: “As a market town it (Swaffham) serves a large hinterland of small villages.

“Many charities and churches rely upon the services of your bank as well as individuals, families and retailers – all of whom still handle considerable sums of cash.

“We live in an area, especially in the villages, where internet connection is poor.

“It is also an area of aged population many of whom do not have access to computers.”

Copies of the letter have also been sent to the town’s MP, Elizabeth Truss, and the prime minister, Theresa May.

Members of the town council had been due to meet Barclays managers last Thursday to voice their concerns about the closure plan.

However, officials say the talks have now been rescheduled for Wednesday after one of the Barclays contingent was unable to attend.

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