Toukley seniors putting up a fight to save local bank
WHICH bank branch will be next to close?
That's what Toukley Senior Citizens want everyone to ask themselves as they battle the closure of their local Commonwealth Bank branch on December 1, even as the bank boasts after-tax profits of almost $10 billion.
Over 700 people have so far signed prepared letters to the Commonwealth CEO Ian Narev, and a petition is also circulating protesting the closure - one of reportedly 38 branches axed this year by the big four banks nation-wide.
Member for Dobell Emma McBride joined Toukley Senior Citizens Club members at the bank recently to support their campaign to save the local branch.
She has also asked the Commonwealth to sit down with her and community representatives to discuss the issue.
"The Commonwealth Bank declared a full-year, after-tax profit of $9.93 billion this year, a 7.6 per cent rise," Emma said.
"Their profits are extraordinary and yet they are cutting local branches which provide services to their customers."
Local resident Robyn Storrier, 63, who lives with her 83-year-old mother, is helping spread the word for Senior Citizens Club members.
She said elderly residents like her mother were physically unable to stand for long periods in queues at the post office (which has no seating) to do their transactions, as the Commonwealth proposes customers wanting face-to-face local service should do.
Other options suggested by the bank include driving to The Entrance, a very busy centre with little disabled parking and a long walk from the bank, or Lake Haven, where Robyn said the parking is "like dodgems" and neither she nor her mother felt safe.
This argument was upheld by a resident in his 20s, who said he didn't even like trying to find a park in these busy centres. And, of course, many elderly residents no longer drive anyway.
Robyn said many of the residents in this traditional retirement area still used passbooks. They didn't have debit cards, never mind using the internet to do their banking, and many did not have the short-term memory to learn this new skill.
There was also the safety concern of the frail aged withdrawing or depositing money at ATMs on the street.
"The aged are becoming isolated and discriminated against," Robyn said.
It is disappointing that in a thriving community like Toukley, a major bank sees dollars, not community service. - Central Coast Mayor Jane Smith
Central Coast Council Mayor Jane Smith said she was disappointed by the planned closure and that "in a thriving community like Toukley, a major bank sees dollars, not community service".
"With an ageing population on the Coast, we all need to work together to ensure we deliver the services our community need, want and value."
She said she saw Council's role as fighting for its community and she would take their concerns straight to the Commonwealth - "I do hope they listen."
The call to save the bank has also been supported by Member for Wyong and Shadow Minster for the Central Coast David Harris, who said, "The big four banks make billions of dollars in profit every year and they have a social responsibility to provide services to communities like Toukley that have an older population."
Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast and the Hunter, Scot MacDonald said: "I believe it is incumbent on the Commonwealth to ensure its less able, mobile or IT-savvy customers are not left behind".
But despite all this, a the Commonwealth spokesperson was clear that the decision was final and the closure would go ahead despite the protest, of which the bank was aware.
She said the bank regularly "reviewed its footprint", opening and closing branches as a result, and understood that "some members of the community may be disappointed and inconvenienced" by the Toukley decision.
Over the past five years, she said "we've seen a 35 per cent decline in the number of transactions at our Toukley branch" and argued that 28 per cent of customers who did transactions at Toukley also used Lake Haven.
Residents can join the campaign to save the Toukley branch by signing the petition at Toukley Senior Citizens, 1 Hargraves St (opposite Coles). Anyone dependent on their local bank branch, including Toukley, is also encouraged to go to the @SaveCommBankToukley Facebook page, download, sign and send off the letter protesting branch closures.