Bank branch closures “should be suspended immediately”

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Banks are invited to immediately suspend plans to close branches, following an “alarming acceleration”.

Analysis by whom? There have been 736 branch bank closings so far this year, with another 220 slated for 2022.

Closures peaked between June and August of this year, with 298 branches closing, which equates to an average of 99 branches closed across the UK per month during this period.

This is a significant spike from an average of 52 branches closed per month over the previous six years.

In total, since January 2015, banks and mortgage companies have closed or scheduled the closure of 4,734 branches, which ones? the researchers found.

Anabel Hoult, which one? Managing Director, said: “The alarming acceleration of bank branch closures has left many people dependent on them for essential banking services at risk of being abandoned, which seems to run counter to the work being done overall. sector to protect access to cash.

“While many people can now bank digitally, millions of people are not yet ready or able to do so. Tighter controls on branch closures must be put in place to ensure that people who depend on cash can access it.

“We call on banks to suspend any branch closure programs until proposals to protect access to cash are implemented. The government also needs to urgently push forward long-promised legislation that ensures consumers can continue to access cash for as long as needed. “

Hoult wrote to banks on UK Finance’s Access To Cash Action Group, warning that the rate of bank branch closings is seriously undermining industry efforts to deal with declining access to cash.

He said that whenever a decision is made to close a bank branch, an independent assessment should be made of the cash needs of the affected community; a summary of this assessment should be made public to ensure transparency and accountability; and continued access to the most appropriate type of benefit should be put in place to ensure that there is no lack of availability for those in need, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

If the banks are unable to meet these commitments, which ones? believes they should suspend their branch closure programs until they are able to do so, or until legislation to protect access to cash has been implemented.

The UK government has pledged to pass legislation to protect access to cash in March 2020.

Which? collected data on bank branch closings by tracking announcements and contacted banks to confirm numbers. He said when a bank refused to do so, he included numbers from bank listings and other sources.

David Postings, Managing Director of UK Finance, said: “Ensuring continued access to those who need it, now and in the future, is something the banking and finance industry has already publicly committed to providing.

“Within this framework, the Access To Cash Action Group was created earlier this year and is chaired by Natalie Ceeney and brings together businesses with the largest branch networks, Post, Link, Consumer Groups and UK Finance.

“The group will shortly be presenting detailed plans on how the industry will meet its commitment to preserving access to cash, including findings from pilot programs that have tested different ways to help people access cash. cash.

“The work was undertaken at a time of steadily declining branch office use, with an increasing number of clients choosing to use new technology to manage their money.

“But technology is not for everyone and the industry absolutely recognizes that branch offices remain an important part of local communities and therefore any decision to close one is never taken lightly.”

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said the bank “is in fact a vital public service”, adding: “As such, it has a social responsibility that goes far beyond the current primary concern of achieving huge profits “.

Here’s how branch closures across the UK have stacked up in 2021 so far, according to Which? :

  • January – 43
  • February – 52
  • March – 98
  • April – 37
  • May – 54
  • June – 98
  • July – 129
  • August – 71
  • September – 73
  • October – 52
  • November – 29

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