Woolwich has been slammed for poor service and labelled as a declining brand in an astonishing outburst from the normally reticent Building Societies Association.The BSA says Woolwich, which demutualised in 1997, has been outshone by smaller building societies as it has not demonstrated suitable “management, promotion, care and understanding”. But the Barclays-owned lender, which is to become a mortgage-only brand once all its branches are rebranded as Barclays next year, has hit back in a bitter war of words. A Woolwich spokeswoman says: “The BSA is entitled to its opinion but it is a bit like Norwich City saying that Arsenal cannot play. We are investing heavily in the brand, have launched market-leading mortgage products and we see Woolwich as a great brand.” The BSA says: “Closing all the Woolwich branches highlighted the decline of this once great brand. The commitment to maintaining its high standards of customer service has changed as a result of shareholder pressure. Size does not mean everything as the excellent results of many building societies much smaller than Woolwich have demonstrated.” Woolwich has pledged to double its amount of broker-based business by improving its service after Barclays chief executive John Varley admitted poor performance in the mortgage market. The company is presently embroiled in a dispute with North London broker Henri Berest who is seeking compensation through the courts after suffering what he claims to be poor service.