Bank to close Ballycastle branch

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FIRST Trust Bank has announced its Ballycastle branch will close in November, writes Nevin Farrell.

The decision has been slammed by SDLP councillor Donal Cunningham who called for a meeting with bank officials.

Ballycastle is one of five branches to close in Northern Ireland.

A First Trust spokesperson said: “A review of the First Trust cost base has been concluded with the aim of moving the bank forward as a streamlined, more cost-effective organisation. The review of our branch network has considered how customers are using our branches, how they’re adapting to innovations in technology and, in that assessment, some locations have been found to be unsustainable.

“First Trust Bank announces today that it will be closing four sub-offices and one branch later this year. The closures will be on a phased basis – Belleek, Co Fermanagh (a sub-office of Enniskillen) in October; Ballycastle, Co Antrim, Shipquay Street, Derry (a sub-office of Meadowbank) and Dromore, Co Tyrone, (a sub-office of Omagh) in November, and Jordanstown, Co Antrim (a sub office of University Road, Belfast) in December 2012. “Four of these five closures are sub-offices which have been operating on reduced opening hours, two of which open only two days a week.

“The branch closures will not result in any compulsory job losses as staff will be facilitated in alternative locations.”

Gerry McGinn, Managing Director, First Trust Bank, said: “As a community bank, it is never easy to make the decision to close branches. We are very aware that many customers may be disappointed with this news and our staff will do everything they can to minimise any inconvenience caused.

“All impacted customers will receive a letter about the changes from 31 July 2012, outlining that their accounts will be automatically transferred to the nearest alternative branch offering the full range of banking services.

“This transfer will not affect their account numbers, sort codes, or the existing operation of their accounts. We have also provided customers of each of these branches with a dedicated contact number for any queries they may have.”

Cllr Donal Cunningham, meanwhile, has called for a meeting with First Trust. He said the Ballycastle branch will close on November 9.

Councillor Cunningham branded the closure move a “disgraceful decision” which he said put profits ahead of local services.

He said he will be asking for an urgent meeting to make a case for the Ballycastle branch.

“As a local council, we have been trying to improve services in Ballycastle so it is a shame to see a bank try and undo some of that good work.

“The closure will mean customers have to travel to Coleraine for their next nearest branch.

“While two other major banks, Northern and Ulster, have branches in Ballycastle, this is a blow for all customers. It severely impacts on those who have mobility problems. Not everyone is able to use internet or telephone banking, so this announcement will disadvantage them,” said Cllr Cunningham.