POLICE were called to a stand-off in a row over a credit card between the Mayor of Calderdale and NatWest bank staff at a branch in Hebden Bridge.
Councillor Nader Fekri, a university lecturer and Justice of the Peace, said he had been determined to stand his ground and after three hours, and without being arrested, staff returned his card which had been swallowed up by a cash machine.
Last night, he finally withdrew the cash he needed to fly to Germany for an event in Halifax’s twin town, Aachen, adding “The Hebden Bridge one has been freed.”
Councillor Fekri said he had tried to withdraw money from the cashpoint outside the NatWest in Crown Street, using his First Direct card, at about three o’clock
“I put it in with a bit of a receipt stuck to it and jammed the machine,” he explained. “I went in and apologised and they took the back off the machine and were very helpful until I asked for my card back.
“They said ‘It’s not our card and you can’t have it back – bank policy – you could be anyone’.
“I pointed out I had a passport and a card saying I am the Mayor of Calderdale and they gave me a helpline number and I rang it and was told it was at the discretion of the bank. If they had said they didn’t want to give it back, I might have taken that, but they kept insisting they could not. It was just so frustrating.
“They emailed somebody and by this time it was getting on for the branch closing, at 4.30, and I said I was not prepared to go while they were keeping my bank card hostage.
“They said they would call the police and I said I would rather you didn’t. But eventually, around 6 pm, after the police had come, and I had called in a friend from the Hebden Bridge Times, they took a signature off me and took my passport to make a copy and I got my card and got money at another bank.”
Coun Fekri says he feels the reaction was over the top. “They actually asked the police to make sure the staff got to their cars safely, but were told the police were not a private bodyguard service,” he added. “I was firm but not stroppy or rude. It was the bank that escalated the situation.”
A NatWest bank spokesman said it was normal to hold onto retained cards belonging to other banks.
Coun Fekri, who was born in Iran but moved to Britain in 1968, when he was eight, has been a member of Calderdale Council since 2004 and was chair of the Lib Dem group 2010-2011.
He lives in Hebden Bridge with his wife, Helen, and three sons.