Nearly two thirds of bank branches now closed
NEARLY two thirds of the UK’s bank branch network has been lost over the past 30 years, analysis from Which? suggests.
Banks and building societies had 20,583 branches in 1988, according to parliamentary records, but the consumer group’s analysis of current account providers suggests the figure has dwindled to 7,586 branches.
The consumer group said that while this may not be a complete likefor-like comparison, it gives a good indication of the size of the network 30 years ago against current levels.
The figures come after a catalogue of branch closures across South Wales in recent years.
Two months ago, Lloyds Bank announced it would be closing its Cardiff Bay branch and its business branch in the centre of the city.
Earlier this year, the Co-operative bank shut a branch in Aberdare, which has already seen the closure of its HSBC and NatWest branches.
Elsewhere across South Wales, Porth, Mountain Ash and Treorchy have also lost their HSBC branches with other banks closing in Tonyrefail, Llantwit Major, Talbot Green, Ferndale, Pontypridd, Nelson and Ystrad Mynach.
In May this year, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) said it was shutting branches in Cardiff Docks, Barry and Newport.
In recent years, Cardiff banks run by the “big four” banks – HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest – have closed in Birchgrove, Cardiff Bay, Canton, Llandaff, Rhiwbina, Churchill Way and Whitchurch.
Which? said a fifth (19%) of people now live more than 3km from their nearest branch as the crow flies and nearly one in 10 people (8%) have to travel more than 5km. Some 6% of people are now more than 6km from a bank, it said.
People can access their high street bank accounts at the Post Office’s branches.
But a survey of more than 2,000 people found nearly half (45%) of people were unaware that they could use a post office for banking purposes.
The consumer group said that with many communities potentially struggling through the double blow of bank and ATM closures, action is needed to ensure people are not financially excluded and denied access to cash.
Ceri Stanaway, Which? money editor, said: “The true scale of bank branch closures in recent decades is staggering – and has left millions of people struggling to access the vital financial services and cash that they need.”
A spokesman for trade association UK Finance said: “Bank branches play an important role in the life of local communities and decisions to close them are never taken lightly.
“Consumers are increasingly choosing newer ways to help them with their banking, using technology to check balances and make payments – or even speak to your bank 24/7.”