It is now becoming apparent that there were going to be large swathes of the country that would be without any physical banking presence and that simply expecting people to do without any form of walk-in banking facilities was both unfair and unworkable. There had to be a role for the Government in ensuring that large rural districts and sizable towns were left with a functioning physical banking presence.
ICMSA is becoming increasingly convinced that rural Ireland is being asked to pay disproportionately for the mistakes made by both government and our leading commercial institutions. Just today we see that between AIB and Permanent TSB, some 64 branches are to close by the end of this year and the overwhelming bulk of that figure will be branches in towns all over the state.
The restoration of a bank system cannot be at the expense of a workable and functioning bank network that services all the people of the country equally. Just today’s announcements by AIB and Permanent TSB will see a situation where a county like Tipperary will lose a total of eight bank branches over an area that will hugely inconvenience rural customers and may, in many cases, mean that older and more immobile customers will simply cease travelling to banks with the serious implications for their security that entails., AIB’s tie-up with An Post would not cover the gaps in service opened by the mass closure of so many branches.
Obviously there’s room for An Post and AIB to engage closer and improve the services offered via the post office network, but we note that AIB is telling people that they’ll be able to use their ATM/AIB Debit cards at the post office without any reference to their more elderly customers who don’t use either of those facilities. What about them? Will they be able to deposit and withdraw over-the-counter or use cheque facilities in the manner they are used to?
This looks a little like too many other so-called reforms where garda stations, rural school, government and local authority, state agencies - and ironically, post offices themselves – are being closed in the name of cost-savings in a manner that effectively abandons their affected rural customers and users. It’s high time that some directing intelligence was brought to bear on this problem and a means of making the savings while keeping some form of over-the-counter presence in these districts was looked at.
Just closing down dozens of offices and effectively telling your customers to get used to it doesn’t really strike ICMSA as a coherent policy”, concluded Mr Comer.
President of ICMSA