Monday, May 20, 2024
BANKING BOOST FOR KILKEEL

BANKING BOOST FOR KILKEEL

BANKING services are soon to return to Kilkeel. Yesterday, it was confirmed that Northern Ireland’s first banking hub will open at 47 Greencastle Street. A year after the busy coastal town’s last bank shut, forcing customers to travel to the likes of Newry, Castlewellan and Downpatrick for in-person help and services, it has been confirmed that a lease has been signed for the office, which will assist Barclays, Ulster Bank, Santander, Bank of Ireland and Danske Bank customers. They will operate on consecutive weekdays and although no start date has been revealed local MLA Diane Forsythe has suggested this could be as early as November.

Last September it was confirmed that the local town was one of 13 across the UK which would be part of a network of hubs, offering a shared branches service. They operate in a similar way to branches, but their services are shared, with banks providing staff on rotation so that trained specialists from different banks are available on different days. Providing a counter service, these hubs are dedicated places where the public can access everyday personal and business banking services over the counter, such as withdrawing and depositing cash, or paying in cheques. They are also somewhere customers can speak in person with a representative from their bank, as well as dealing with banking enquiries and more complicated transactions such as mortgages, loans and pensions.

These ‘community bankers’ are also able to offer debt advice and help with fraud prevention on their dedicated day of the week. Owned by Cash Access UK, these hubs are advertised as ‘bringing back banking to the people and areas that need it’. Depending on who they bank with, customers using the Kilkeel hub will be able to access a range of services for personal and business banking along with paying utility bills and topping up your gas and electricity. In a statement released to the Mourne Observer, Cash Access UK, the organisation set up to protect nationwide access to cash, confirmed the new hub’s town centre location. It said community bankers will “work on rotation” from the premises, between 9am and 5pm weekdays, and confirmed the banks and a building society who have signed up.

Barclays will operate from the site on Mondays, the Ulster Bank will be there on Tuesdays whilst Santander will take the mid-week slot, the Bank of Ireland will operate on Thursdays and on Fridays Danske Bank customers will be catered for. “Banking hubs offer a counter service run by the Post Office, where customers of all major banks and building societies can withdraw and deposit cash, make bill payments and carry out regular banking transactions,” the statement read. Acknowledging that “finding a suitable location is a significant step forward,” the statement added that the team at Cash Access UK “are now working hard to secure planning consents and get the new premises ready, and that the community will be updated on progress and an opening date “as soon as they can.”

Cat Farrow, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, added: “We’re really delighted to confirm today’s news. The Banking Hub will make a big difference and will be the first to open in Northern Ireland.” South Down MP Chris Hazzard described the update as “welcome progress in bringing vital cash and banking services to the community of Kilkeel” and said he looked forward to the hub’s opening. Speaking last Wednesday (6 September), Ms Forsythe described the hub’s imminent opening as “great news for the town”.

A year ago today I welcomed the announcement that Kilkeel would be getting a new banking hub as one of 13 to be rolled out across the UK,” she said. Confirming the service’s launch “is very close”, she added: “The closure of all banks in Kilkeel has caused a major impact on our rural community, who have to travel miles to access cash. “The new hub will help to fill gaps in access to cash.” Alan Knox, president of the local traders’ group, also welcomed the hub’s imminent opening, and said it will provide “muchneeded” services. “Kilkeel Chamber of Commerce welcome the latest news of the impending opening of Northern Ireland’s first banking hub in Kilkeel,” he said. “With no bank branches left in the town, the banking hub is a much-needed service provider for our local community and businesses to access their banking needs and queries instead of being forced to travel to Newry or further afield.” Added Mr Knox: “We hope the banking hub proves successful and that further local banks, mainly AIB, will soon sign up to the scheme, further enhancing the service provided.”

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