Coolamon Shire residents have been left in the dark over the future of major banks in the region.
Almost two weeks have passed since the Finance Sector Union announced NAB, the last of Australia’s four big banks with a branch in Coolamon Shire, would be cutting its Ardlethan branch, but no further information has been forthcoming.
According to Coolamon Shire Council general manager Tony Dongehue, it’s been radio silence between NAb and his council.
Mr Donoghue told The Daily Advertiser neither he nor his staff had been contacted by NAB and said “practically no public consultation had been made” in the region.
“We heard about the branch closure at the same time as media,” he said.
“We haven’t heard anything more from NAB and we haven’t seen any public consultation in the area.”
Mr Donoghue said it was just another “small step” towards the decline of regional towns.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire,” he added.
Coolamon mayor John Seymour said a decision on the branch’s future could be made as soon as Monday, March 19 but expressed frustration with the lack of communication.
“But we’re completely in the dark about this,” he said.
“I think, if we’re being honest, the big banks are up and leaving without speaking with us because they don’t care about smaller communities.
“It’s sad but I think that’s just the way they operate.”
Branches in Lockhart, Culcairn, Grenfell, and Barham will also be shut by NAB, FSU has predicted, while the ANZ is closing its doors at Temora, Forbes and Narromine.
The banks have so far argued customers’ increasing use of online banking as justification for closing branches.
NAB told media in a statement that 80–90 per cent of its customers at Grenfell, Culcairn, Ardlethan, Barham and Lockhart did their banking at other branches.
Finance Sector Union National Secretary Julia Angrisano continues to disagree.
“Banking is an essential service, especially in regional communities – and customers rely on their bank having a branch that they can access,” she said.
“When a branch in an area like this closes, it hurts workers in areas where jobs are scarce, as well as the local community and its economy.”
NAB did not respond to requests for comment.