ANZ closed its Lithgow branch without notice on Friday 14 January, leaving customers and even staff shocked and looking for answers.
Lithgow Council Mayor Maree Statham, Federal Member for Calare Andrew Gee, Bathurst MP Paul Toole and Lithgow Chamber President Peter Pilbeam have all called on ANZ Bank to provide answers to its Lithgow customers who are now forced to bank online or travel to the Blue Mountains.
Lithgow Mayor Maree Statham is concerned about ANZ Bank's unexpected move.
"After the devastating floods last week, this feels like another blow to our community in the Lithgow region. The Council would like to encourage ANZ to review their decision in light of the responses of our businesses and people," Cr Statham said.
Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole, said "the ANZ Branch provides an important service to the public and businesses in the Lithgow area. The loss of a major bank's presence in Lithgow is of serious concern and I ask the ANZ Bank to reconsider their position and to keep their doors open."
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Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee said in a statement that the Lithgow community deserves answers.
"I think it's outrageous that the ANZ has closed the Lithgow branch with no notice to the community whatsoever," Gee said.
"The big banks have been using COVID-19 as an excuse to close branches all across country NSW and Australia, and my grave fear and concern is that they may be doing that with the Lithgow branch - using the pandemic as a cover to permanently shut it.
It's not on and we won't wear it.Andrew Gee MP
"What the ANZ and its Chief Executive Officer now need to do is make a very clear statement, no ifs or buts, that this branch will reopen at the beginning of April.
"There's been a lot of doublespeak by the big banks about closures in recent times, and that's why I'm calling on the ANZ and its CEO to make a very clear statement to the community to address their concerns that they're not just going to use COVID-19 as an excuse to permanently close this branch.
"It's not on and we won't wear it."
ANZ General Manager NSW, Michael Wake told the Lithgow Mercury that ANZ apologises for the disruption and that ATM services are available in Lithgow and 'nearby' Blackheath and Mt Victoria.
"Like many businesses, due to the ongoing impact of COVID, we have had to alter the operating hours of some of our branches and our Lithgow branch is temporarily closed. We apologise for the inconvenience this will cause," he said.
He continued: "The Smart ATM at Lithgow continues to operate which enables our customers to access many of the same transactions they could in a branch, including making withdrawals and to deposit cheques and banknotes.
"There are also ATMs operated by other major banks which customers have fee-free access to. In addition, there are atmx ATMs in nearby Blackheath and Mt Victoria..."
Residents left in the lurch
The Lithgow Mercury took to social media to ask locals what they thought of the branch closure. Many were upset at the fact there was no notice, with some long-time customers considering moving their business elsewhere.
Jane Lush-Fenton has banked with ANZ Lithgow since 1990 and said it was 'shameful' the way the bank has treated its staff and customers.
"My parents came to Lithgow in 2001 and the ANZ helped them immensely as they were coming from Canada. My husband and his family have banked there for a lifetime," she said.
"Our children bank there. Most importantly, we all know the staff and they know us. The Staff were exceptional and we were always greeted by name and felt truly cared for. ANZ should be ashamed and so should all their Directors and Investors. It is a disgusting way to treat Staff, Customers, Businesses and our Town. Shame on ANZ."
Will ANZ start reimbursing people for fuel usage?Lithgow resident
"I'm a customer and have been for decades. I smell a rat. If I didn't have my mortgage with them, I'd move to another financial institution," One long-time customer, Kas Hilton wrote.
"Although it doesn't impact me - I do most of my banking online - Lithgow's demographic is such that there's the potential for many customers, including business people, to be affected. As a small community, that's what irks me. The lack of communication with customers and staff points to the bank's permanent closure, otherwise why be so underhanded?"
One man from Lithgow who wanted to remain anonymous said he prefers to use a physical branch said he's forced to travel to do his banking. He has a disability that often requires his wife to drive him to Bathurst or Katoomba to use an ANZ branch.
"The ATM helps a little bit but if I have to do anything means I have to take a whole day to go to Bathurst," he said.
"My wife will have to take the day off work, it's very disruptive for us. And with fuel prices - we'll use half a tank of fuel. Will ANZ start reimbursing people for fuel usage?"
"I've been a loyal ANZ customer for over 30yrs. I'm reassessing options now due to the disrespectful lack of communication and the idiocy to blame this on COVID," said Linda Jane Wallwork.
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