Home Money Revitalized corner of Scotland showing banking centers CAN save High Street

Revitalized corner of Scotland showing banking centers CAN save High Street

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Promise: Jeff Prestridge met Jennifer Stephenson, above right, one of the many fans of the Cambuslang banking center

Stepping off the train at Cambuslang in South Lanarkshire you will be greeted by a multi-coloured mural welcoming you to the town.

It’s bold and daring, and alludes to the area’s coal mining history, its monuments and its glorious parks.

Cambuslang was once a prosperous town, famous for its steel manufacturing and the steel plates critical to shipbuilding at Glasgow’s shipyards. The community, just a 15-minute train ride from Glasgow (Glaschu), is a shadow of its former self, but the Cambuslangers don’t feel sorry for themselves.

Not even the recent news of the city library closing (municipal cuts) has deterred them. They are determined to fight back, to prove, against all odds, that the Cambuslangs of this world can survive and thrive.

Driven by a passionate local community council (all volunteers), the city has been adorned with battalions of planters ready to bloom. Its sidewalks have also been fixed so that you can walk safely. Small improvements, but important.

Promise: Jeff Prestridge met Jennifer Stephenson, above right, one of the many fans of the Cambuslang banking center

And among pubs, betting shops and fast food outlets, a banking center is breathing new life into the city’s main street. Without the community council’s relentless campaigning, it would never have gotten off the ground.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,” admits board president John Bachtler, who along with his lieutenant Mark Lauterberg made the center a reality. “None of the banks wanted to support Cambuslang, but the centre’s success demonstrates that meaningful banking services are an essential piece of the community puzzle.”

The centre, set up just over three years ago in a former butcher’s shop, was one of two “pilots” (the other was in Rochford, Essex). Today, 47 centers cross the country and 75 more have been approved.

Comprehensive community banks facilitate basic banking needs for businesses and personal customers of all banks. You can deposit cash and checks, withdraw cash, and pay bills. Community bankers from major banks are also present on select days to help with more complex needs.

Funded by the banks and operated by the Post Office, the centers can only open in communities where all banks (as well as building societies nationwide) have closed their branches.

Even then, centers can only be approved if it is deemed there will be sufficient demand for services. In the case of Cambuslang, it lost its last bank, TSB, five years ago.

Skeptics believe the banking giants see the centers as a short-term measure, designed to avoid criticism over the immolation of branch networks. As demand for commercial banking declines, centers (most with short-term leases) will close, leaving consumers with no choice but to go digital.

However, Cambuslang is demonstrating that centers are not mere patches, but a vital cog that allows communities to function better.

Since opening, usage has increased with a current average of 120 daily transactions, compared to an average of 97 since launch. In total, more than 70,000 banking transactions with a combined cash value of £21 million have been processed through the centre. Judging by the number of people who used the center when I visited on a rainy Friday, it is popular. A steady stream of people, of all ages, came to deposit checks or withdraw cash and several retailers visited to withdraw cash ahead of a weekend of trading.

Independent musician Jennifer Stephenson came to deposit some cash. The 40-year-old, an accomplished clarinetist, says the center ticks many boxes. “It’s good for our community,” he says. ‘This encourages people to spend here rather than in Glasgow or Rutherglen. It’s also good for older people who prefer face-to-face banking.’

Jennifer Taylor, a 39-year-old elementary school teacher, is also a fan. She works with Santander, which has a branch in Rutherglen, but the Cambuslang center is more convenient for her banking. She says. “It’s great to have a banking service on your doorstep.”

Jean Austin, 65, owner of local card and gift store Pandora’s Box, uses the center for cash and bank collections. And she adds: ‘My clients prefer to pay in cash. The center is good for them, for my business and for the community.” Liz Maclean, 57, manager of local pub Finlays, agrees. She uses the center to deposit her earnings three times a week.

‘My local bank branch became a Costa Coffee. I live here and love it, but it has its challenges. Unemployment is a problem. Parking is a problem and the main street has too many betting shops and fast food shops. “The center is one of the best things to open here in years.”

The centers only provide basic banking services. But with a little imagination (and donation) from the banks, they could be improved. A minority are open on Saturdays, when the demand for services may be greater. Hopefully this will change in the future.

The rules governing where a center can open mean that in some communities where Nationwide remains, small businesses are at a disadvantage as the building society does not offer business banking.

The cities chosen as hubs are decided by the Link ATM network, according to strict criteria. Gareth Oakley, chief executive of Cash Access UK, the bank-funded organization responsible for implementing the centres, says: “Cambuslang shows how much people value face-to-face banking, and shows the life a center can provide.” to the community.’

As for councilors John Bachtler and Mark Lauterberg, their quest for Cambuslang continues. They want the center to include a credit union, a debt counseling service and a library. Mark says: “We will not stand still until Cambuslang has the services it needs to thrive again.”

I wouldn’t bet against this determined couple succeeding.

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