Helen Martin: Stop the rot with new type of bank

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WE can all, in one way or another, hold banks responsible for losing us money, the very opposite of what they were created to do which was keep our savings and income safe and even help us increase our wealth.

That was bad enough. But to add insult to injury, they are now treating us all as idiots. RBS seriously expects us to believe that they are closing branches because customers have all migrated online and some branches “hardly see a customer”.

They closed my local branch at Marchmont, despite the long queues snaking along the street and customers occasionally having to wait up to half an hour to speak to a teller in exceptionally busy periods. I sent a letter of complaint about that.

Now they’ve announced the closure of my “home” branch, North Bridge, and I fear for the only remaining one I use, Bruntsfield, having the shutters rolled down too. Like the others, it has plenty of customers. And like the others it is in a prime property area.

There is no point in penning another rant to customer service because all these buildings will be sold to make money for the bank, cut overheads and reduce staff, and therefore service to customers – including those who conduct their financial affairs online. The other day I witnessed, not for the first time, a distraught woman explaining that a money transfer she did herself hadn’t gone through. Maybe there was a simple explanation, or maybe she’d pressed the wrong key and had lost it forever. In either case she needed the branch to help rather than trying to solve it with e-mails or a faceless call centre.

Of course just before RBS started its abandonment of branches on high streets and, even worse, in rural areas, it created its own vastly expensive “palace” in Gogarburn with the money it made from us all. And there’s no sign of prudence in its sponsorship of large events – where it can offer luxurious corporate entertainment to special friends and business associates, while paying the customers diddly-squat interest on savings – or its bonus culture which was the root of economic collapse.

The frontline staff of the bank, who I have always found to be friendly and efficient, are just as disillusioned by the way the corporate hierarchy – who appear to know as much about customer relations as I do about the autumnal breeding habits of Antipodean molluscs – are running 

The bank is still 80 per cent owned by us, yet it appears neither public nor government, can do anything to stop their appalling self-interest, ruthlessness and cavalier attitude towards customers and our regard for them which is dwindling even faster than our savings.

The fallback position which petrifies political action, is that we need banks, and that may be true. But do we need the type of banks we have today which, for most of us, seem to be holding the economy back rather than helping it flourish?

Competition is meant to be opening up. What we need is not more of the same, but a completely different high street model that actually works for the customer rather than the bankers. Remember the promises to split speculative, casino-type “banking” away from those banks dealing with individuals and small businesses? Whatever happened to that?

Obesity stems from lack of common sense

CHILDREN should be given water or milk at mealtimes. That was the advice from “senior government advisers”.

If ever we needed proof that Britain was dumbing down, that was it. Apart from fruit juice at breakfast or exceptions for parties, I don’t think I know a single family who would be daft enough to regularly give their kids fizzy drinks or fruit juice with meals. They are treats, not sustenance.

Seems the epidemic we need to worry about isn’t obesity or diabetes but loss of common sense.

Time to ditch the giant TV screen

THE Sheraton Hotel doesn’t want the giant Festival Square screen shining into its dining room, the council doesn’t want it facing the road distracting drivers by showing full motion images or advertising.

We almost got rid of it last year because this “gift” from the BBC was costing too much for the council to run – then London advertising agency SIS Digital leased it only to discover now that it has all the technological advertising application of a bill board.

Like all unwanted gifts, it should go to charity or community groups who could show static ads for their causes. If they don’t want it, tear it down, sell it for scrap and move on.

Know your audience

TALKING of being out of touch with the punters, Better Together thought John Major telling us to vote “no” would be an asset, and a pro-independence rally last week starred Tommy Sheridan. Neither could have had much less appeal unless they’d resurrected Jimmy Savile on centre stage.

Chance for local stores to shine

IT’S an ill wind . . . Homebase on St Leonard’s Street, the only big DIY store left on the South Side, is to be replaced with student accommodation, a cause of some concern for local residents.

On the bright side I can think of at least three local hardware shops and two paint stores who will be ecstatic that their little businesses will now have at least a chance of surviving.