Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank got a roasting from Laois councillors at the July council meeting, over the loss of services in branches.
A recent announcement by Bank of Ireland to introduce 100 cashless branches out of 250 prompted a concerned Cllr James Kelly to propose a letter to the Minister for Finance.
He is asking for more power for Credit Unions and Post Offices to “provide the local services that the banks are taking away from our communities”.
“It is a major concern, considering that Bank of Ireland reported a profit of €480m in the first half of 2017,” he said.
“This will have a major impact on local communities and businesses, it is a big slap in the face for our elderly. They want you to go online but a lot of older people have never been online, the very people who bailed out the banks,” Cllr Kelly said.
He listed services that he said banks have stopped.
“There is no foreign currency, no coin, a limit on cash withdrawals, it is desperately unfair. Give these services to the credit unions and post offices, to protect communities. Let them know Ireland doesn’t stop at Newland’s Cross,” said Cllr Kelly from Mountrath.
He was supported by Cllr Mary Sweeney, who works in Portlaoise library.
“I see it in work every day. People come in asking to print off their bank statements because the bank won’t even print their documents. It is a derogatory, backward move, showing incredible arrogance,” she said.
Cllr John Joe Fennelly said that “banks are beginning to cop on”.
“They are doing over-the-counter transactions in the morning times in Abbeyleix, taking cash over the counter,” he said.
Cllr Ben Brennan said that he is a member of a credit union board for 25 years, and said there is pressure on them too.
“The central bank is trying to write us off too. We were born to help the small person but it’s gone too big, and they have told us to amalgamate. The personal touch is completely gone in banks, you are told to use a machine, they are doing away with their own jobs,” he said.
Cllr Willie Aird believes the change could ultimately help credit unions.
“I support credit unions 100 percent, as a member myself. I see lots of people leaving banks for credit unions. They have made a stick to beat themselves with. I want to thank all the people who do voluntary work in credit unions,” Cllr Aird said.
“It may be a case that an ill wind doesn’t blow some good. With the campaign to keep post offices open, it would be great to see them provide more facilities, services that banks with their modern technology shy away from,” Cllr Tom Mulhall said.