Protest to save landmark Toxteth bank

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Protesters stood outside the NatWest bank in Toxteth

Protesters stood outside the NatWest bank in Toxteth

A local community has been out in force in an attempt to save what has been dubbed a ‘unique’ community bank.

NatWest in Toxteth is set to shut its doors on 27th March with locals fearing the knock on impact on the community could be disastrous.

Reverend Robert Gallagher, of St Margaret’s Church, Toxteth, told JMU Journalism: “In the 1981 riots the bank was raised to the ground and NatWest bank came back and said ‘we’re here for the long run’.

“It’s been an integral part of the community. This is a little village centre here; shopping, banking, people meet here, talk here.

“It’s also a community that has lost an awful lot; post office – gone, school – gone, law centre – gone. And now the bank is going.”

The bank was the first in the country to offer a drive-thru cash machine service. Demand was so high last year that a second cash machine was installed outside the building. But RBS, who own NatWest, have said that due to a low footfall the bank will be closing.

The nearest NatWest bank will now either be on Allerton Road, which is a bus journey away, or on Oxford Street, but that branch is being closed down in 2017 and moved onto the University of Liverpool campus, or in Liverpool One.

Rita Smith, who runs the Peter Kavanagh’s community pub in Toxteth, is outraged at the proposed closure. She told JMU Journalism: “There are people in the community who are physically or mentally challenged.

Toxeth NatWest protest

Toxeth NatWest protest

“My staff from the pub have helped to build up their confidence by going to the bank with them. Now they will go to the bank on their own.

“If they have to go into town to bank the process will have to start all over again. It’s tragic, absolutely tragic.”

Although there had been speculation for some time that the bank was closing, the first time the community was made aware that it was definitely going to happen was when a notice went up inside the bank several weeks ago.

It read: “Our decision to close Liverpool Prince’s Road branch permanently from 4.30pm on Wednesday 27th March hasn’t been an easy one.”

Ms Smith told JMU Journalism: “We were hoping that through the meetings that we had with NatWest we would be able to put our point over and they’d be sympathetic to us but it looks like that hasn’t happened so this is why the protest today has taken place.”

There are unconfirmed reports that a supermarket giant may make a bid on the iconic building, which stands at the crossroads of Upper Parliament Street and Catherine Street. For many locals this would hurt the community further as local shops and businesses would be put into competition with the supermarket chain.

A NatWest employee at the Toxteth branch, who wished not to be named, told JMU Journalism he is not worried about his job as they have been told they have been transferred, but is aware that the skills they have developed to be able to work successfully in the community will be lost.

Locals hope that community groups will be able to establish and run their own community bank but this is all dependent on the support of NatWest or whether they, or RBS, sell the property to the highest bidder. Reverend Robert Gallagher claims the bank is more than just a place to sort finances; it is a hub and meeting place for the community.

He told JMU Journalism: “My wife comes to this bank to bank our church collection. She comes back with all the news and stories of what has been happening in the community.”

A petition is currently underway in an attempt to save the bank.

Additional reporting by Madelaine Cornforth

About Alice Kirkland, JMU Journalism