State Member for Wallsend, Ms Sonia Hornery MP, has called on the NSW Government to do more to ensure the most vulnerable in the community are not being left behind following the announcement of another bank branch closure.
The Newcastle Permanent issued a statement late yesterday advising the community that it will be closing their Fletcher Branch on 26 March.
Last year Ms Hornery wrote to the Newcastle Permanent about branch closures and asked for statistics of people who are not registered for digital or online banking. Unfortunately the Newcastle Permanent didn’t respond.
According to data released by other banks, around 45% of people aged 70 years or over in the Wallsend electorate are not registered for digital banking. As a result of this branch closure, a large section of the community will be left without an alternative as they are not registered for digital banking.
“In recent years, banks have been retreating from the Wallsend Electorate, abandoning customers in the western suburbs as branch after branch is closed,” Ms Hornery said.
“The last six months have seen more banks close branches in the western suburbs.
“The Newcastle Permanent have now closed 50 percent of their branches in the Wallsend electorate in the last 3 years, Cardiff, Lambton, Newcastle University, John Hunter Hospital and now Fletcher.
“The Greater Bank has closed its Lambton and Jesmond branches and the Commonwealth Bank looks like it has closed its Wallsend branch, which hasn’t reopened 9 months after it closed its doors.
“Now the Newcastle Permanent are closing their Fletcher Branch. A branch that is in an area with very little public transport and no other financial institutions in the vicinity.
“Last year, I wrote to all the major financial institutions about the levels of online banking within the Wallsend electorate, after concerns were raised with me by sections of the community.
“Of the banks that did respond, almost half of their customers aged 70 and over and 28% of bank customers in general are not registered for online banking.
“The continued closure of these banks without any thought or care for a significant number of their customers is having a huge impact on the community.
“Families and carers are forced to wear the brunt of these closures with customers forced to travel further to get access to their money.
“Some relatives and neighbours are telling me they are helping by taking elderly or disabled customers to visit another branch of their bank during work hours so that they can be sure that they have enough money to do the shopping or pay their bills.
“In many cases, these customers are withdrawing larger sums of money when they are visiting branches as they are unable to visit the branch as regularly.
“This is a huge security risk for those vulnerable members of our community who may be targeted by thieves.
“These highly profitable financial institutions and our Government need to do more to ensure that the most vulnerable in the community are not left behind,” Ms Hornery said.