The closure of another Newcastle Permanent branch in her electorate has upset Wallsend state MP Sonia Hornery.
The financial institute’s CEO Bernadette Inglis announced this week it was shutting a further three outlets – this time in Fletcher, Medowie and Woy Woy – on Friday 26 March.
The operating hours at Dubbo, Lismore, Orange, Grafton, Ballina, Bathurst, Mudgee, Armidale and Muswellbrook will also change late next month, from 9am to 1.30pm, to reflect customer usage patterns at these locations.
“Fletcher, Medowie and Woy Woy all have expiring leases and, unfortunately, witnessed a near 30% – or more – decline in branch use in the past five years,” Ms Inglis said.
“However, the staff will be redeployed to nearby outlets.”
Ms Hornery said it was a sad situation for local residents – and is now calling on the NSW Government to do more to ensure the most vulnerable in her community were not being left behind.
Last year, she wrote to the Newcastle Permanent about branch closures and asked for statistics of people who weren’t registered for digital or online banking.
According to her office, she didn’t receive a response.
That claim was disputed by a Newcastle Permanent spokesperson who said they responded to Ms Hornery by letter on 16 September 2020.
Following the release of data by other banks, about 45% of people aged 70 years or older in the Wallsend electorate are not registered for digital banking.
As a result of this latest closure, a large section of the community will be left without an alternative, Ms Hornery said.
“Recently, banks have been retreating from the Wallsend electorate, abandoning customers in the western suburbs as branch after branch is closed,” she explained.
“Newcastle Permanent has now shut 50% of its outlets in the electorate in the past three years, Cardiff, Lambton, Newcastle University, John Hunter Hospital and now Fletcher.
“The Greater Bank terminated its Lambton and Jesmond branches and the Commonwealth Bank looks like it has closed its Wallsend branch, which hasn’t reopened for nine months.
“The Fletcher [outlet] is in an area with very little public transport and no other financial institutions in the vicinity.”
Ms Hornery confirmed she’d written to all the major financial institutions in 2020 about the levels of online banking within the electorate, after concerns were raised by sections of the community.
“Of the banks that did respond, almost half of their customers aged 70 and older and 28% of bank customers in general are not registered for online banking,” she said.
“The continued closure of these banks without any thought or care 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 people 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.”
The Newcastle Permanent spokesperson said their decisions had been made following customer and branch employee feedback and consultation.
“With COVID-19 last year, we have made great progress with supporting our customers of all ages through online and phone banking because,” they added.
“Although our branches remained open throughout the pandemic, many did not wish to go to the branch.”