1. ITV Report

Somerset loses another high-street bank as Natwest closes its Cheddar branch

Photo: ITV West Country

Cheddar is joining an ever-growing list of towns and villages being hit by a bad time for high street banks.

NatWest says the number of transactions in its Cheddar branch have dropped by nearly half in the last six years.

The bank has decided to close the branch, leaving customers considering whether to switch their accounts.

People are facing a decision over whether to change banks. Credit: ITV West Country

Natwest says the fact that more customers are banking online has lead to the decision to close the branch.

"The way people choose to bank with us has changed radically over the last few years. Between 2010 and 2015, mobile and online transactions have increased by over 400% and mobile transactions alone have increased by 1,350%.

"Since 2011 we have seen the number of transactions in the Cheddar branch by 45%. These customers are actively choosing to bank in different ways. In the Cheddar branch 59.9% of customers are choosing to use our digital banking options.

"We know that not all of our customers are comfortable and familiar with using online or mobile banking, so we have created a new specialist taskforce of TechXperts who will be dedicated to supporting our customers with training and support with digital skills."

Natwest says more customers are banking online which has reduced footfall. Credit: ITV West Country

The Post Office says it hopes to benefit from the closure of the Natwest branch by attracting extra customers who prefer to bank offline.

It's definitely an opportunity in so much that it creates footfall and extra customers potentially will be coming into the shop. So yes it will be potentially a business boost for us but that's an essential part of keeping the Post Office thriving.

– Richard Helps, Postmaster, Cheddar Post Office

As well as encouraging people to use the Post Office, NatWest has created a community banker for Somerset to give advice to customers.

It is just another example of the huge changes rural banking has seen - as the once popular walk-in branch becomes ever rarer across the West Country.

The Post Office is hoping to attract people who currently bank with Natwest. Credit: ITV West Country

Local MP James Heappey is encouraging people to switch their accounts to support the remaining branches in the town.

The evidence is that remarkably few people switch their bank account. But the reality is that the reason branches are closing is because they are not being used by enough people to justify them being open. Now we can beat the banks up about that, and I have done in parliament, but the best way to ensure a branch stays open is to switch your account to those that are still in your town or still in your village and switching is actually a really easy thing to do.

– James Heappey