Nationwide closure 'another nail in coffin' for Cookham

A decision that will leave Cookham without a bank or building society in the village has been described as ‘another nail in the coffin’ for the community.

The Nationwide Building Society branch in Station Hill, the only physical bank or building society left in the village, is set to shut down on Thursday, December 17, with the nearest branches now in Maidenhead or Marlow.

Another branch in Burnham is also earmarked for closure in December.

The decision to shut the Cookham branch, which has served the village for decades, has left many members of the community puzzled and upset, particularly older residents, who are unable to make the journey further afield without help.

Miriam Blazey, manager of Elizabeth House, a day centre for Cookham’s independent seniors, called the move ‘the wrong decision’ for the community.

She said: “For a place like Cookham so spread out, they need a proper financial institution here. There’s no point asking us to go to Maidenhead while telling people not to use public trans-port during the pandemic.

“The general feeling is it’s the wrong decision for our community. It’s one thing we don’t need given everything we have gone through with the pandemic, locking down the elderly, here is one thing we didn’t anticipate, it’s just one more nail in the coffin.”

Many Elizabeth House members independently manage their own finances, but struggle physically to travel to the branches further afield, and are often unable to remember all the security information and pin numbers needed to use online banking.

Miriam added: “I would never put some of my members on a bus and say go to Maidenhead, they wouldn’t have a clue what bus to get on. When they are out they can get frightened and have panic attacks. It just does not work. They haven’t thought about it from a human point of view.”

Following the announcement that the Cookham branch will be closing, a petition was created to keep it open. At the time of going to press, it had gathered about 670 signatures.

Cllr Mandy Brar (Lib Dem, Bisham and Cookham) appealed for a rethink. She said: “People are very upset, especially some of the older people. Some of them have dementia, how are they going to get to Maidenhead or Marlow on public transport?

“This is the only place you can do your banking in Cookham, it’s a big loss.”

Cllr Brar, who runs Hill-crest Stores, added that she will keep a copy of the petition at her shop if any customers want to support it.

A Nationwide spokeswoman said: “Branches are important to Nationwide and we know our members value the personal service they offer.

“We continue to look at how members are using our branches, and from time to time we must make difficult decisions in the interests of our wider membership.

“Over the last five years we’ve seen a decline in transactions in Cookham and Burnham, and a high proportion of members already use surrounding branches, so have decided to close these branches.

“We’re investing in our Maidenhead and Marlow branches, and believe in the long-term this will provide members with an even better face-to-face experience.”

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