Angry residents of small villages held a protest outside the head office of Unicaja bank in Malaga yesterday, after the announcement that 11 branches are to close on 18 March. They say this will leave them with no banking facility unless they go to the nearest town, which in some cases is 20 kms away and means that people who rely on public transport will have to be out all day if they need to visit a branch.
Unicaja is the bank with the largest presence in Malaga province: it has 150 branches and 370 ATM cash machines.
“Unicaja started after the merger of several savings banks. It has got to where it is today thanks to the savings of thousands of local people, but now it is so big it doesn’t care about us,” said a man from Almáchar, where the local branch has already reduced its hours and is only open on three mornings a week.
Earlier this month Unicaja Banco signed an agreement with the provincial council to take joint actions against the digital divide, and announced that it would be installing ATMs in nine small villages in the Serranía de Ronda and La Axarquía, but people who will be affected by the closure say this is not enough. In fact, the mayor of Almáchar, Antonio Yuste, who was at the protest yesterday, says that if Unicaja closes the local branch the council will close all its accounts with the bank and will urge other authorities to do the same.
The protest lasted for an hour and a half, and just before the end several mayors went in to the head office and handed over a petition with over 1,000 signatures, calling for Unicaja to reconsider the planned closures.