TSB branch closures – and in particular Bo’ness and Grangemouth

Every so often, there is a flurry of dismay as bank after bank reviews its local branch network and finds much of it unviable.

The Trustee Savings Bank was originally a mutual organisation and was jointly owned by those saving and borrowing. Its earliest principles: to encourage saving by ordinary people and overseen by trustees led to a much wider movement across the UK.

A significant change occurred in 1986 when the group was floated on the London Stock Exchange as part of Margaret Thatcher’s encouragement towards share ownership. In reality, the vast majority of ‘ordinary’ people who bought shares then sold them and it was then folded into the Lloyds Bank in 1995 who in turn sold it in 2009.

TSB failed to invest sufficiently in technology for a long time and had a major issue when it tried to migrate to a new platform after a further takeover by the Sabadell group in 2015. This was followed quickly by a further IT glitch in 2019.

It therefore has an urgent need to make savings and has led to plans to close many branches not just the one in Bo’ness.

This is not to provide an excuse for them – I have written numerous articles about how our entire financial system exists to serve the banks and government as businesses and not our society. For example: see recently https://www.independentview.org/post/financial-choices

I am reflecting on the fact that the branch network itself is an out-of-date concept. The vast majority of people use online banking with the exception of the elderly such as my Father who will be 87 in a few weeks.

What does he use his branch for? He pays a visit as he gets to have a social chat with the tellers. He sometimes withdraws money, but he is capable of doing that via a ‘hole-in-the-wall’. If he needs to speak with someone, he will often use the telephone.

In other words – he can use a local post office that will provide the same function. He also sometimes goes into town for a coffee.

Local businesses who trade mostly in cash will want to use a local branch to deposit funds safely – but then let us look at how even traditionally cash-based businesses such as a taxi company are now predominately using card payments. Do we imagine for a minute that post-Covid will see a return to cash in the same way?

It is too simple to simply deplore bank branch closures, ask for a meeting with the local public affairs representative as the likelihood is that the closure will take place regardless. This minimal action of course must be done – but we also need to consider the wider issues.

We need to look at CAUSE and not just EFFECT. The cause is that the current banking system is run as a business where profit is the primary driver with some limited attempts to meet the needs of consumers. The EFFECT is that as a result they seek to close branches.

Rather, we need to be looking at how we have passively accepted the fact that our society exists to serve banks. We have a chronic issue with our financial system in the UK and the City of London is now known as one of the world’s major money laundering locations. The withdrawal from the European Union ensures that regulation will become considerably weaker.

I previously wrote about how we should set up a Scottish retail bank based on mutual concepts – where it exists to serve both its savers and investors. We have to accept that regulation will still be undertaken by the weak bodies put in place by the UK Government – but doing nothing to support our societies, our local small business that are the backbone of our communities is no longer acceptable. This is exactly the sort of idea I want to promote for the benefit of Scotland in our national parliament.

We also need to reimagine our places – the old concept of the high street has changed. I will be writing further about this as I undergo my campaign for selection.

We are in the business of change. We need people who can help develop national strategic policies that will serve us now and into independence.


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