Northern Ireland

Ulster Bank closing 11 more branches in Northern Ireland

Ulster Bank
Image caption The bank said it will be seeking 40 voluntary redundancies

Ulster Bank is to close another 11 branches in Northern Ireland next year, reducing its total number to 44.

The company said it will be seeking 40 voluntary redundancies as a result.

The branches will be closed next May and June. A bankers' union said it meant several communities would see the closure of "the last bank in town".

Ulster Bank said it made the decision because more of its customers are using digital banking services. It shut nine branches in March.

'Deeply disappointing'

The Ulster Bank branches set to shut next summer are:

  • Ballyclare, County Antrim
  • Dromore, County Down
  • Moira, County Down
  • Draperstown, County Londonderry
  • Dungiven, County Londonderry
  • Portrush, County Antrim
  • Killyleagh, County Down
  • Rathfriland, County Down
  • Castlederg, County Tyrone
  • Irvinestown, County Fermanagh
  • Stewartstown, County Tyrone.

The Financial Services Union (FSU) said the closures were "deeply disappointing" for both customers and staff.

"Closing down a bank in a community has a very significant impact," said the union's general secretary, Larry Broderick.

"We can't just allow banks make that decision based on short-term, cost saving criteria. Too much is at stake for a local community."

'50% of branches closed in five years'

He added that the Bank of Ireland, First Trust Bank and Danske "have all closed a significant number of branches in recent years, often leaving Ulster Bank as the last bank in town".

"Unfortunately, this announcement will mean that seven communities will now see their final bank close."

Ulster Bank is currently the only bank in Rathfriland, Stewartstown, Killyleagh, Moira, Portrush, Dungiven and Castlederg.

Mr Broderick called for a "strategic plan for the future of branches" and said that Ulster Bank should "at the very least, put in place additional mobile bank for the areas worst hit".

'Bad news for small businesses'

In a statement, Ulster Bank's managing director, Sean Murphy, said: "Closing a branch is never an easy decision and one we do not take lightly.

"In line with the industry-agreed UK protocol on branch closures, we are writing to customers of these branches to inform them of alternative branch locations in their area and the range of banking services available on their mobiles, online, telephone and in post offices.

"We are also communicating directly with staff in those affected branches."

The FSU said that when next year's closures are completed, Ulster Bank "will have closed 50% of its Northern Ireland branch network since 2013".

Rural communities 'abandoned'

The Consumer Council has calculated that by the end 2017, the total number of all bank branches in Northern Ireland will have fallen by 38% since 2010.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the decision to close the branches was bad news for small businesses.

Wilfred Mitchell, NI Policy Chair of the FSB said the announcement was "most disappointing, especially when there was an understanding that there would be no further closures affecting the last Ulster Bank within a community".

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said he had requested an urgent meeting with Ulster Bank, as the closures were another example of the "abandonment of rural communities".

"The priority must be to protect staff and local services," he added.

Ulster Unionist Finance Spokesperson, Steve Aiken MLA, said the closures would make banking more difficult, "especially for people who have limited access to online services".

Sinn Féin MLA Emma Rogan said the branch closures would "come as a blow to bank staff who will be facing an uncertain future".

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