Banks are being urged to place a right away pause on department closure plans, following an “alarming acceleration”.
Evaluation by Which? discovered there have been 736 financial institution department closures this yr to date, with one other 220 deliberate to go in 2022.
Closures peaked between June and August this yr, with 298 branches closing their doorways – equating to a mean of 99 branches being shut throughout the UK per thirty days in that interval.
This marks a major spike in contrast with a mean of 52 branches closing per thirty days throughout the earlier six years.
General, since January 2015, banks and constructing societies have closed or scheduled the closure of 4,734 branches, Which? researchers discovered.
Anabel Hoult, Which? chief govt, mentioned: “The alarming acceleration of financial institution department closures has left many individuals who rely on them for important banking providers prone to being lower adrift, which appears to fly within the face of labor being achieved throughout the trade to guard entry to money.
“Whereas many individuals can now financial institution digitally, tens of millions of persons are not but prepared or ready to take action. Higher scrutiny of department closures should be in place to make sure that individuals who depend on money can entry it.
“We’re calling on banks to pause any programme of department closures till proposals to guard entry to money are rolled out. The Authorities should additionally urgently press forward with long-promised laws that ensures customers can proceed to entry money for so long as it’s wanted.”
Ms Hoult has written to banks on UK Finance’s Entry To Money Motion Group, warning that the speed of financial institution department closures severely undermines trade efforts to handle dwindling money entry.
It mentioned each time a choice to shut a financial institution department is taken, an unbiased evaluation ought to be manufactured from the affected neighborhood’s money wants; a abstract of this evaluation ought to be made public to make sure transparency and accountability; and seamless entry to probably the most acceptable sort of provision ought to be put in place to make sure there isn’t any hole in availability for individuals who want it, significantly the aged and weak.
If banks are unable to fulfill these commitments, Which? believes they need to pause their department closure programmes till they’re able to take action, or till laws to guard entry to money has been applied.
The UK Authorities dedicated to laws to guard entry to money in March 2020.
Which? collected financial institution department closure information by monitoring bulletins and contacted banks to verify the figures. It mentioned when a financial institution has refused to do that, it included figures from financial institution bulletins and different sources.
David Postings, chief govt of UK Finance mentioned: “Guaranteeing there may be continued entry for individuals who want it, each now and sooner or later, is one thing the banking and finance trade has already publicly dedicated to delivering.
“As a part of this, the Entry To Money Motion Group (CAG) was established earlier this yr and it’s chaired by Natalie Ceeney and brings collectively the companies with the most important department networks, the Put up Workplace, Hyperlink shopper teams and UK Finance.
“The group will shortly be setting out detailed plans for the way the trade will ship on the dedication to protect entry to money, together with the findings from pilot schemes which have been trialling other ways to assist individuals to entry money.
“The work of the CAG has been undertaken at a time when using financial institution branches has continued to fall, with rising numbers of shoppers selecting to make use of new applied sciences to handle their cash.
“However expertise will not be for everybody and the trade completely recognises that branches stay an necessary a part of native communities and due to this fact any resolution to shut one isn’t taken flippantly.”
Unite basic secretary Sharon Graham mentioned banking “is definitely an important public service,” including: “As such, it has a social accountability which fits nicely past the present prime concern of constructing large income.”
Right here is how department closures throughout the UK have added up in 2021 to date, in line with Which?:
January – 43
February – 52
March – 98
April – 37
Could – 54
June – 98
July – 129
August – 71
September – 73
October – 52
November – 29