With this week’s closure of their only bank branch, the residents of the Westfjords village of Þingeyri now need to drive 50 km to visit their money.
The closure of Landsbankinn branches in Þingeyri and Bolungarvík was announced suddenly last week and they closed this Thursday—though Bolungarvík is in talks to reopen its branch within a new multi-service center with others, including the post office. Landsbankinn is reportedly interested in the idea.
Since 2012, bank branches in seven Westfjords communities have been shut down. The region has also seen a major cutback in postal service provision and healthcare provision in the smaller villages are rural areas. The region’s district commissioners were recently merged from four to one. The changes have cut services and, crucially, taken away jobs.
Residents of the smaller communities in the northern Westfjords—such as Þingeyri, Suðureyri, Flateyri, Súðavík and Bolungarvík—increasingly need to visit service providers in Ísafjörður; often traveling long distances.
RÚV reports that now the Þingeyri branch of Landsbankinn has closed, residents need to travel 50 km in each direction to Ísafjörður for their nearest banks—Landsbankinn and Íslandsbanki.
Landsbankinn says it will offer ‘service visits’ to Þingeyri instead of maintaining a branch in the village.
Ísafjarðarbær municipality, which is in control of both Þingeyri and Ísafjörður, is calling on government help to open a joint service center in Þingeyri, which would include Landsbankinn. The municipality says the bank is interested and that “so much has been taken from so many villages across the whole country in recent years. We need to start making these villages more livable than they are becoming.”