Some towns no longer have a bank or won’t have a bank by the end of the year. Latest figures published by Which? Say nearly 2,900 branches nationwide will have been lost between 2015 and the end of 2018. In the West Midlands alone 208 branches have or will be closed by the end of the year.
The banks say a significant drop in footfall makes many branches unviable. But many people are upset and feel their communities are being treated unfairly.
The people affected the most are local businesses who operate during business hours and need to deposit cash quickly. Also the elderly who are unlikely to use online banking.
The problem is worse for those living in small towns and villages. Some towns now have no high street bank at all and if they thought they could visit a larger town nearby to do their banking, they will be more than likely shocked to find these branches also closing down.
The problem causes a huge knock on effect to smaller businesses who will see a significant drop in footfall as banks bring in customers to their local areas. These customers tend to do their shopping on a day when they need to visit their bank, so if the bank closes down shoppers will have to visit larger towns and cities.
Fewer and fewer people are using cash these days and businesses are adapting to the changes in high street banking by introducing new payment methods. However for those who do not have online banking or know how to access it local authorities are stepping in to help.
In some towns local chambers of commerce are stepping in to offer tuition in online banking to help people in rural communities. You can also call you bank and they will offer you help in how to get set-up and use the online services they offer. Local watchdogs are urging banks to consult properly with locals before closing branches and offer more support to those who will be affected by them. Post offices have also been widely touted as an alternative and as a potential solution to the dwindling number of bank branches. However post offices don’t offer the same services as your local bank branch so they cannot be considered as a like for like substitute. Online and mobile banking is undoubtedly on the rise but figures suggest a third of people do not access online banking at all, so there is a danger these people will be cut off from all financial services if bank branches continue to close.
Online and digital banking is also not a great option for people in rural areas as internet speeds and coverage are not up to speed with the rest of the UK. So it simply is not an option for some people.