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Lloyds Bank, left high and dry by ill mayor, asks 40-year customer Melvyn Hill to officially open Hornchurch branch

Melvyn Hill, centre, with (from left to right) Deborah Garrard, Vicki Tear, Janice Barry, Lindsey D'Arcy, Mr Hill, Gill Neary, Julie Cavalla, Nav Lakhanpal (bank manager), Stephen Willner and Lesley Bardley Melvyn Hill, centre, with (from left to right) Deborah Garrard, Vicki Tear, Janice Barry, Lindsey D'Arcy, Mr Hill, Gill Neary, Julie Cavalla, Nav Lakhanpal (bank manager), Stephen Willner and Lesley Bardley

Friday, October 4, 2013
7:00 AM

Popping out for a routine Monday morning trip to the bank, retired teacher Melvyn Hill little expected he’d be asked to officially open it.

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But that’s what happened after the Mayor of ­Havering failed to turn up to the relaunch of Lloyds Bank in Station Lane, Hornchurch.

After a brief panic, staff hit upon a smart idea – why not ask a loyal customer to do the ­honours?

Melvyn, 70, said: “I usually go there on a Monday. I was asked by a gentleman, who I know, how long I’d been with the bank and if I could cut their ribbon.”

The worker must have been delighted by the answer – Melvyn’s been using the branch for in excess of 40 years.

Melvyn, of Emerson Park, had only visited to collect his pension, but was more than happy to oblige.

He grasped the ceremonial scissors and declared the new-look bank – demerged from TSB as part of the UK government’s bail-out deal for the group during the financial crisis – open for business.

So how did it feel to step into the mayor’s shoes?

“How disappointed they must be,” laughed modest Melvyn. “The mayor can have his shoes back as soon as he likes.”

It later emerged Cllr Eric Munday hadn’t known about his appointment because of a paperwork mix-up. “I’m sure Mr Hill did a much better job than I would have done, and I’m very grateful for that,” he said.

Branch manager Navjot Lakhanpal said: “The staff were proud to have the ribbon cut by a long-standing customer, Mr Hill.

“The mayor had been booked but didn’t turn up, and luckily enough we had this customer in our branch at the time.”

It isn’t the first ribbon Melvyn’s cut. “I used to work as a teacher,” he said, “so I had a lot to do with things like fetes being opened – but there was nothing like this.”

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