The closure of these banks has left a large population of the nation struggling to access important financial services nationwide. In a just-concluded survey by the Consumer Charity; Two-thirds of the bank and its building society branches have been closed over the past 30 years. 20,583 closures were recorded in 1988 up to the 7,586 we have today.
However, the effect of these closures is felt hugely by the citizens of the country. The loss of those sites has left 19% of the population more than nearly 2 miles away from their nearest branch. Although 8% of the population has to travel more than three miles, the Scottish communities are the most affected by these closures. Scotland accounts for 70 out of the communities farthest from a branch even though less densely populated. The south-west and east of England are believed to be disproportionately affected due to the size of the regional population.
Popular money editor, Ceri Stanaway 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. There is simply no substitute for a dedicated branch that has been closed affecting many people. The number of services it offers, and now the customers are faced with having to travel long distances if they are to maintain a good bank-customer relationship.”
These closures have rendered some communities “bank-less”. Among the villages and towns now lacking a single bank branch are Lymm in Cheshire, Sturminster Newton in Dorset, Fishguard in Pembrokeshire and Broseley in Shropshire.
Banks like RBS, Barclays, HSBC, and Lloyds have reduced the number of branches at their disposal in recent years. This was done in a bid to cut cost amid a digital banking demand by a larger populace. This has caused the lenders and all bank users to turn to the Post Offices banking service. The post office banking service is an inefficient scheme towards handling the situation. Inefficient because of the long queues. Also, a lack of privacy to deal with financial affairs and concerns about a lack of financial expertise. Customers are definitely not in favour of this method with 60% preferring to deal directly with their bank in a just-concluded survey.
The post offices are also restricted in the services they can offer. Customers cannot open or shut accounts through the post office banking service. Transferring money between accounts is not feasible. You cannot request a debit card substitute or make a complaint about their bank. There is a need for a constant bank-consumer relationship, one which cannot be satisfied by post offices.
Stanaway further acting as “the voice for the people” said: “We want to see banks properly justifying the reasons for closure. Banks who take into account their customers’ needs before shutting their doors and their customers out.”
The post office mentioned in a statement that “it took its responsibility seriously and was uniquely placed to bring vital services to local communities right across the country.” This stands contrary to the belief of Mike Cherry; national chairman of the Federation of small businesses when he said: “the post office should be doing more about the betterment of its small business banking offer and create an awareness of it among firms.” He added that bank branches were still important to owners of small business. Most especially, in areas where internet services were considered poor or whose customers preferred to pay with the greenback.
“Bank Branch closures damage high street footfall. Restricting cash flow in local economies and leaving business owners with no choice than to waste time travelling to and from their next nearest branch which could be miles away. Yes, small business owners need to consider alternative ways to bank, but the sheer pace of bank branch closures is frightening and firms need time to adjust.”
The bank opened branches, to make services available to its customers. Now, the closures are just the same as going against their purpose. In the press release by the Newpaper24, it was stated that “Are Hong Kong’s banks doing sufficient to assist their disabled or aged clients?”
The closure of these bank branches is adding to the rate of unemployment in the country, as people are laid off every time branches are closed. The British banks are however urged by the large populace to make justice to the current situation. While the closures go on, people are forced into a tight corner. They have to make a decision between two difficult ones: whether to trust and use post offices banking services or opt for the long distance travel to keep the bank-consumer relationship at its peak.