Second blow for Alnwick banking as Yorkshire Building Society announces closure plan

Alnwick's Yorkshire Building Society and HSBC branches.
Alnwick's Yorkshire Building Society and HSBC branches.

An under-threat Alnwick building society could close in the spring, it has been revealed today – just 24 hours after it was announced that one of the town’s banks will shut this summer.

The Yorkshire Building Society (YBS) Group is proposing to close its Bondgate Within-based branch in May. The news comes just a day after the Gazette reported that the town’s HSBC office – which is next door to the YBS – will shut on Friday, June 16, 2017.

The Yorkshire has started a consultation period with six members of staff in Alnwick.

A spokeswoman said that if the proposals go ahead, ‘we will do everything we can to try to minimise roles at risk through natural turnover, redeployment or relocation’.

She added that all colleagues put at risk of redundancy would receive specialist internal and external support to help the transition into different roles within the group or externally.

If the branch does shut, the nearest other YBS options in the area will be an agency in Berwick and branches in North Shields and Newcastle.

Alnwick town and county councillor Gordon Castle has described the news as really depressing.

He said: “Yet another loss of high-street banking on top of the HSBC closure announcement is bad news for Alnwick and will be very inconvenient for rural customers who have previously travelled in to use the branch.

“I’m beginning to wonder if Alnwick will have any high-street banks left before long. It is very depressing, but completely outside the control of anyone not in the banking business.”

The Alnwick site is one of 20 throughout Britain which has been put forward for closure in May.

The YBS Group, the second biggest mutual behind Nationwide, has also announced plans to shut 28 Norwich and Peterborough (N&P) branches from September this year. The company says it would maintain a high-street network of 260 branches and agencies across the UK, with YBS as the sole high-street brand.

The Society plans to close its N&P current accounts to existing customers, and withdraw the N&P brand from the high street over the next year.

The Society will work with affected customers and will contact them to outline what these proposals mean for their specific circumstances.

The YBS Group says the proposals are designed to deliver better long-term value to its 3.3million customers, enabling the mutual to increase focus on one high-street brand and continue to invest in its core mortgages and savings businesses, making its services as easy and simple as possible for customers.

Mike Regnier, chief executive of YBS, said: “As a mutual, it is important that we always act in the best long-term interests of our membership and evolve the business in line with their changing needs.

“We believe these proposals give us greater focus on providing existing and future members with the things they want from us most: a safe place for their savings and funding to buy their own home, and providing these in an easy and simple way.

“We continually review all areas of the business to ensure we remain focused on what our members require while utilising their money as effectively as possible. This means we must sometimes make adjustments to the way the business operates.

“We remain fully committed to providing the face-to-face service that many of our members value and are planning to maintain a strong and sustainable national branch network.

“The driving forces behind the proposed branch closures are shifts in market conditions and an increasing desire among customers to transact digitally rather than on the high street.

“We therefore no longer believe it is the right commercial position for us to continue to maintain these 48 branches across the N&P and Yorkshire network.

“The changing landscape of the current account market means continuing to provide this service and extend it to new customers would require a significant increase in our investment in this part of the business.

“Although we understand the proposal may be disappointing to current account customers, it follows thorough research and assessment.

“We believe the level of investment required would not represent good long-term value for the wider membership.

“The Norwich and Peterborough brand has been part of YBS since 2011, and inevitably, some of our colleagues and members will be disappointed by these proposals.

“The values of the N&P and Yorkshire brands are synonymous and we believe operating with YBS as our sole high-street brand would allow us to run the business more effectively and efficiently, enabling us to deliver better products and services for our members. These proposals would help us achieve that aim and further reinforce Yorkshire’s position as one of the most trusted financial services providers in the UK.”

The list of YBS branches affected by the closure proposals: Market Street, Abergele; Huddersfield Road, Mirfield; Bondgate Within, Alnwick; Agincourt Square, Monmouth; Victoria Road West, Cleveleys; Bank Street, Newquay; Brighton Road, Coulsdon; George Street, Oban; High Street, Cowbridge; High Street, Paisley; Argyll Street, Dunoon; High Street, Prestatyn; London Road, East Grinstead; Selsdon Parade, Addington Road, Selsdon; Town Street, Farsley; Wakefield Road, Waterloo, Huddersfield; Lewisham High Street, Lewisham; Crescent Road, Windermere; Church Street, Llangefni; Towngate, Wyke, Bradford.

Last week, Yorkshire Bank confirmed that it will close 39 branches in 2017, 18 of which were in its heartland county. Branches in Bradford, Hull, Filey, Goole, Knottingley, those in Leeds city centre, Headingley, Chapel Allerton and Woodsley, Normanton, Ossett, Pickering, Richmond, Ripon, Todmordon, Wath-upon-Dearne and two in Sheffield will shut by the year’s end. It is anticipated that 200 jobs will be lost as a result of the closures.