After the announcement that Donaghadee Ulster Bank branch is to close in February, I arranged for a a delegation of representatives from the town -including the Donaghadee Commerce and Development Group – to meet with a team from Ulster Bank Management to discuss service provision post-closure.
While the Bank team confirmed that the decision to close the Branch was irreversible and that, based on their geographic and footfall criteria, it “should have been closed long before now”, they expressed gratitude at the opportunity to meet with the delegation and an openness to reacting to their concerns.
In a far-ranging conversation during which Ulster Bank Head of Branches, Stephen Cruise and his team accepted the petition from over 800 angry Donaghadee residents in which they demanded that the Bank be more understanding of the needs of the community, the delegation did manage to secure a number of guarantees of continued service post-February.
Contrary to the letter from Stephen Cruise in which he said that the nearest ATM would be in Bangor, he has now guaranteed that the Bank will continue to provide that service in the same place for as long as they own the building.
Stephen has also guaranteed that the Bank will secure a new site for the ATM in Donaghadee should the Bank building be sold and the new owner not wish to inherit it.
Stephen Cruise did confirm that the Post Office will be able to accept deposits during working hours which will be a relief for traders who might have assumed they would have to travel to Bangor to make a deposit.
He also mentioned that the Bank would look into the possibility of providing a Fast Lodgement type facility for businesses that might need to use the night safe in Bangor to solve the problem of having to make a return trip to retrieve the safe.
In some specific matters, businesses need to talk with a Bank official who understands their business. So I was pleased to learn that the Bank will be encouraging their BDM to visit businesses at their own premises.
While the Bank team assured the delegation that Branch staff would be ramping up customer education on online and telephone banking after Christmas, I was most concerned that the Bank would continue to offer some level of face to face service. I had asked that the Bank consider adding Donaghadee to their mobile Bank on Wheels service. As a result of the petition and this delegation, I and am pleased to be able to assure residents that the Mobile Bank will be coming to Donaghadee for one morning every week from mid-February.
The mobile service means that customers who prefer to do their banking with a real person rather than a computer screen will be able to do so every week. And the Bank has assured us that if there is a demand for the service, they will consider adding a second weekly visit. So the more we use it the better.
With both the Bridewell and Town Hall buildings lying empty in town, I wanted to know if the Bank would pass the building over to a Trust to run on behalf of the Donaghadee residents.
I pointed out that if left empty the building would gradually become a liability for the Bank and an eyesore for the town. I am pleased to report that Stephen Cruise was very open to a discussion on the future for the building and confirmed that the Bank will consider any ‘viable option for the building’.