ANGRY residents and councillors are protesting over the decision to close the only bank in Rishton.
Rishton’s branch of the HSBC, on High Street, is set to close on Friday, February 12, despite protests from residents.
Around 260 people have already signed a petition pleading for the bank to be retained.
With the closure of the bank, many residents will face a trek to the nearest branch, which is more than two miles away in Accrington.
The move has been seen by many as an attack on the town’s community.
Ward councillor Harry Grayson said: "I am an HSBC account holder and I first heard about this when I got a letter through the post telling me it would close.
"I thought it was rather ironic that the motto of HSBC is ‘The World’s Local Bank’ when in reality, they are anything but.
"I wrote to HSBC about this to express my disgust as a councillor. I also wrote to residents asking them to get in touch, and many of them have.
"No consultation has been done with residents at all and they have just not taken the Rishton community into consideration.
"What about elderly and disabled people? They will find it hard to get to another branch. Also, around 40 per cent of our population is aged 45 and over.
"I am not suggesting they are all technophobes, but many people do not have the internet to do on-line banking.
"This is an example of putting profit before people. But I believe banks have a social responsibility to the communities they serve."
He added that the closure would hit the town in other ways, with many businesses going elsewhere to conduct their transactions, potentially losing the town revenue.
Councillor Grayson’s fears have been echoed by angry Rishton residents.
One Rishton resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "I was one of the people who objected originally when we heard it would close. I just think this is all part and parcel of destroying our community. What will go next? Will the Post Office close down?
"It is a focal point in the town and there is no other bank. It is also very handy for residents. It is a shame they care more about money than about people."
Dean Butler, 48, of Station Road, Rishton said: "Like a lot of people, I use the cash machine here and it is very convenient.
"But the fact is things have been changing for a long time and it is harder now to have face-to-face contact with your bank.
"We don’t want it to close as it is the only bank in Rishton. It will be a real shame when it goes."
Patrician Glenn, of Brideshead Close, Rishton, said: "A lot of people I know use the bank regularly and now they will have to go to Accrington. Old people could have problems doing that."
A spokeswoman from HSBC said: "A decision to close invariably reflects a long-term decline in customer use of the branch, and this was very much the case at Rishton.
"In the whole of 2009, the branch opened no new accounts, while usage of the branch was, in the month of September, on average just nine personal customers per hour and three business customers per hour.
"HSBC monitors customer usage at all our branches and make decisions regarding changes in staff levels, opening hours and our branch locations based on that usage, the potential for growth and long-term viability.
"HSBC does not make a decision to close a branch lightly. We appreciate the impact such a move can have on some customers and do what we can to minimise the effects and address community concerns.
"The nearest alternative is Accrington and the team members who have been working at the branch will be redeployed to other branches."
She added: "We do not hide from our responsibilities and accept that we are accountable to the communities in which we do business.
"For this reason, senior managers are available to meet with community representatives and to attend community meetings to answer questions and explain the reasons for decisions."
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