Nearly two thirds of bank branches now closed

Cynon Valley - - NEWS -

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.”

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