POLICE were called to a bank after the Mayor of Calderdale refused to leave.
Coun Nader Fekri was left fuming after an ATM machine operated by Natwest on Crown Street, Hebden Bridge, swallowed his First Direct Bank card on Tuesday afternoon.
When staff said it was against bank policy to return it, he refused to leave and ended up staging a three-hour sit-in.
Coun Fekri said: “I went to the cash machine outside to use my bank card.
“Unfortunately, a paying in slip went in with the card at the same time and jammed the machine.
“I went into the bank and a helpful member of staff opened the machine. They gave me my paying in slip back, but they wouldn’t return my card.
“I was told it was policy not to - unless it was a Natwest account holder, which seems ludicrous to me given that I had identification.
“There is a poster in the corner which says ‘helpful banking’ but this clearly isn’t.”
Staff told Coun Fekri it was policy to retain the card and for him to ring a helpline if he wasn’t happy.
He did, and was told the card could be returned at the branch’s discretion.
But staff said there was no branch manager on the premises and still refused to budge. They sent an email to managers and left the mayor waiting without an answer - and his card.
Coun Fekri, who lives in Hebden Bridge, said: “I needed to go to Germany at 4am on Wednesday and I needed my card. They took my card and my cash hostage.”
Coun Fekri said the incident was very avoidable and nearly forced the cancellation of a Mayoral visit to promote Calderdale in its twin town of Aachen, Germany.
The peaceful protest only ended after police were called and Coun Fekri’s card was eventually returned.
Coun Fekri said: “I am thankful to the bank for having sorted out the matter peacefully. It just shows that it was within their power to return my card and they didn’t have to call the police.
“This petty bureaucracy puts ordinary people’s backs up. I am delighted that common sense has proveiled.”
Although bank staff continued to work throughout the incident, a cleaner was denied entry into the bank until the situation had been resolved.
A spokerperson for Natwest said: “We are governed the policy of other banks. Unfortunately these thinks happen. He is not our customer and we are not athourised to hand over a card which is the card of another bank.”