DARLINGTON Building Society branches are reopening on Saturdays from this week as it extends its policy of putting customers first during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Society has adopted an “open for business” strategy throughout the crisis by making an initial commitment to open branches between 9am and 1pm Monday to Friday.

To ensure the safety of staff and members, social distancing measures were put in place, along with protective screens, PPE, hand sanitiser, and increased cleaning.

The weekday opening hours were increased from 9am to 2.30pm from June 15, and now branches are to open from this Saturday, between 9am and 2pm, to give members more time to make essential transactions.

Chief executive, Andrew Craddock, is proud that his staff have maintained a strong service to customers that has exceeded many other financial institutions.

Apart from a two-day closure of Northallerton branch, when a staff member tested positive for the virus, all branches have opened every day apart from Saturdays.

Mr Craddock said: “That record is a remarkable achievement by the staff. We had to react quickly, with IT staff moving heaven and earth, and others having to juggle childcare and the support of elderly relatives, but the way people have pulled together is tremendous.

“Now, we are in a position to go further for our customers by extending the opening of our branches to Saturdays, to give our members more options and make it as convenient as possible.”

During the lockdown, staff have also been making telephone calls to some of the Society’s most vulnerable members, just to keep in touch.

Ninety-five per cent of head office staff, and 100 per cent of the mortgage team, have been working from home, with DBS making an early decision not to participate in the Government’s furlough scheme.

Instead, staff were given an assurance that they would remain on full pay, with no redundancies, for at least the remainder of 2020.

“We are a strong, resilient business, with reserves that have been built up over more than 160 years, and we felt it would be wrong to take the Government’s cash when we were able to stand on our own two feet,” said Mr Craddock.

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