Tewkesbury floods leave Abbey bank customers up creek

Posted on April 25, 2008 · Posted in The Independent

Hundreds of customers of the Abbey bank will be without valid debit cards tomorrow, as the impact of the floods spreads.

The manufacturer of Abbey’s debit cards is in Tewkesbury and had to cease production as staff were unable to work during the worst of the flooding.

Abbey’s customers whose existing debit cards expire today may find they have to wait until later this week before their new cards arrive, preventing them withdrawing funds from cash machines or using cards for store purchases.

“Customers should take out some extra cash [today] just in case,” suggested an Abbey spokesman.

He said that “a few hundred” customers were affected, while most awaiting replacement cards should find their cards arrive in time. “Most were sent out before the floods,” he said.

Abbey declined to identify the manufacturer involved, but said the problem was caused by staff not being able to work for two days. The bank’s spokesman defended the delay in sending out the cards and denied difficulties had been caused by sending out cards too close to expiry dates.

“It’s hard to anticipate something like this,” he said. “It’s probably the only time in recent history there has been this kind of interruption. Floods are not forseeable. We have runs of tens of thousands of cards and probably a couple hundred will be delayed.”

Tewkesbury Chamber of Commerce and Industry said similar problems were afflicting many local businesses. Bruce Keen, chairman of the chamber, said commerce in the town remains “very disrupted” despite the floods receding.

“People haven’t been able to get to work because it was not safe – there was no water for toilets and things like that, so some employers have had to turn staff away,” he said.

Now the biggest problem is the damage to stock. The cost is difficult to estimate, but “is going to be massive,” said Mr Keen, whose company supplies woodworking machinery. “How long will it affect the area? Will it be weeks or years? I think it will be at least a year before it’s back to normal. We had a foot of water in here. A lot of machines will be contaminated and we have to be careful.

“Even people selling bathroom equipment and so on are badly affected because there might be some bacteria left behind [by the floods]. So they have had to scrap things.”

Mr Keen says that keeping a sense of optimism is essential now in order to put Tewkesbury back on its feet. “We have to keep our heads up and keep smiling,” he said. But he didn’t sound very cheerful.