Around a third of the UK’s bank branches have shut within the past 5 years, according to new research from Which?.
Hundreds more which remain open have reduced their opening hours, with some just open for 1 or 2 days a week. The shrinking bank branch network has been driven by a wave of closures by major high street names.
RBS closed 74% of branches, NatWest shut 49% and rural areas have been hit worst of all. A total of only 6,549 bank branches remain. In addition, Which? found 1 in 10 free-to-use ATMs have closed or switched to fee-paying in a 17-month period after major changes to how the network is funded. The consumer organisation reports that deprived areas are losing free cash machines at a much faster rate than affluent ones – forcing thousands of people in poorer communities to pay up to £2 per withdrawal.
In contrast, the 11,500-strong post office network- with 53% of branches in rural areas and 12% in urban deprived areas – is increasingly the nearest outlet for people to withdraw cash and access basic banking services. Citizens Advice is currently undertaking research into how well Post Office banking services are being delivered and what other banking services post offices could offer to support local communities. For further details see their new blog.