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banks move into community centre sparks claim it could displace local groups

Bank’s move into community centre sparks claim it could ‘displace’ local groups

Banking giant Barclays has sparked a row after it emerged it will be operating full time out of an Inverness community centre facility that has been used by other local groups. Barclays is closing its branch in Union Street in Inverness on Friday of this week, and with it the city will lose the bank’s over-the-counter services like cash withdrawals and deposits. However, it has plans to run a Barclays Local in the city, and it has now emerged that this will operate out of a room in the city’s Spectrum Centre from Monday. When it begins operating inside the High Life Highland-run community centre’s Concourse Room, it will offer a five-days-a-week “cashless banking site where customers can meet a colleague face-to-face for banking support”. The bank says the Barclays Local will open on weekdays from 9.30am to 1pm and 2pm to 4.30pm. However, news of the bank’s new home has not been universally welcomed, with a leading member of the Highland Greens raising fears that the bank’s full-time weekday occupancy of the Concourse Room may prevent community groups that have used the same room in the past from booking it again in future. Anne Thomas, who is the co-convener of the Highlands and Islands Green Party and intends to contest the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency seat in the next General Election, also raised concerns over Barclay’s past support for polluters and “genocidal regimes”. She said: “I’m very disappointed by the decision of High Life Highland to let the Concourse Room at the Spectrum Centre to Barclays Bank now their local branch has closed. This room has been well used by community groups of all sorts. There was no notice given to regular users. “Barclays has a terrible reputation for funding the worst polluting oil and gas companies, apartheid and genocidal regimes. Many of us changed our bank accounts in the 1980s due to its support of the South African apartheid and many people recently have done the same due to its funding of companies responsible for the largest climate change effects. “There was a protest outside their AGM recently with both Palestinian support groups and climate activist groups. There was also one outside the Inverness Barclay’s Branch 18 months ago. “This building is owned by the council and should not be used to house such a controversial business and prevent use by the organisations it was designed for. It is also the only small room which is suitable for disabled people. The other smaller rooms are upstairs and lacking disabled access which I would always look for when booking it for organisations I belong to. “This sort of arrangement, if permanent, would need planning permission for a change of use and it is unclear whether this has happened. “Groups I know of which have used the room over the last year are Highland Cycle Campaign, Community Assembly on Energy organised by Extinction Rebellion, Highlands and Islands Green Party, Highland Palestine and it is also used by the NHS and often for Community Consultations.” High Life Highland has insisted that no bookings have been displaced by the new Barclays Local facility, although a statement from the organisation did not reveal if Barclays’ presence would prevent future bookings of the room that have yet to be made. A spokesperson for High Life Highland said: “We can confirm that Barclays Bank are leasing a room at the Spectrum Centre, Monday to Friday… and that no other bookings have been displaced as a result. “Final decisions relating to hires and lets at the location are not made by High Life Highland but by representatives of the Spectrum Centre Board with all income going directly to them. High Life Highland works in partnership with the Board to support the operation of the city centre location.” Confirming its move into the Spectrum Centre’s Concourse Room from Monday, a spokesperson for Barclays said: “As visits to branches continue to fall, with the majority of people preferring to bank online, we need to adapt to provide the best service for all our customers. This is reflected at Inverness, where we are delivering new ways to support our customers and the community with options for those who need in-person services. “In Inverness we plan to open a Barclays Local – a cashless banking site where customers can meet a colleague face-to-face for banking support, as they would in a branch and without the need to travel. We have been working with the local community to identify a suitable location and are pleased to announce that from Monday, May 20 we will have a physical presence 5 days a week at the Spectrum Centre Inverness, Concourse Room,1 Margaret Street, Inverness from Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm, and 2pm to 4.30pm.” Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

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