‘I’m a mayor worried about bank branch closures across the UK’
Older Britons are being forced to travel for miles to access a bank branch, amid widespread closures. Since 2015, some 5,579 branches have closed, according to Which?. Bank closures have been widespread, with many popular high street providers announcing they will shutter branches.
New research from LINK, the UK’s cash access and ATM network, has also shown a so-called ‘cashless society’ is creating issues with 45 percent of those asked stating they have been somewhere that has not accepted cash or has discouraged the use of cash, over the past eight weeks.
Many have argued the closure of banks and attached ATMs is preventing access to cash, and also causing issues for those who want to bank in-person.
Cllr. Tim Grattan-Kane, mayor of Helston, a town in Cornwall, told Express.co.uk: “Many people living in remote areas will have to travel over 20 miles if they want to get access to an in-person bank.”
The mayor also warned against replacing in-person banking with online and mobile banking for everyone.
He explained such a format could be difficult for individuals living in remote areas, many of whom struggle with poor signal and slow Wi-Fi connections.
The mayor continued: “The biggest issue is for older people, many of whom simply just aren’t able to access their banking online or using their phone.
“Some of them have vision problems and can’t use a small screen, others have arthritis and find typing difficult, some can’t travel to get to a bank that’s now further away.”
Many banks are attempting to address branch closures by setting up temporary facilities for those who need them.
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However, the mayor argued these solutions do not go far enough to help those who prefer in-person banking.
He added: “Many of these facilities can’t handle cash, so it ends up being very restrictive. In addition, they’re often only there for a short time. So if you have longer affairs to sort out, such as a power of attorney, you can’t always deal with these over the phone or via the internet.
“It’s all well and good if you’re a teenager or young person and you can jump on your phone – this does have its advantages.
“But for a lot of people, that’s just simply not how it works, and they can’t change their lives at this stage.”
Some banks have cited a lack of footfall as a reason for closing banks, but Cllr. Grattan-Kane described this is a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
He remarked: “These banks reduce the hours they’re open, or change the number of days they’re open so people can’t depend on them.
“We’ve gone back in time, where they are reducing hours and there’s no certainty as to when these branches are open.
“At this time of financial crisis, there’s been lots of people who are challenged in their finances – particularly those on low and fixed incomes.
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“Having the simple little things like a cashpoint that permits you to take out a £5 note or a bank you can visit is very useful. I know this can sound like people can’t be that challenged, but it’s not the case.”
Mr Grattan-Kane said he would like to see further public consultation before bank closures take place, to allow Britons to have their say.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Older people are constantly telling us how left behind they feel, and how much harder life is when they are unable to use cash.
“Many older people view cash as the most reliable and straightforward way to pay for goods and services, as well as an effective means of managing their weekly budget when money is extremely tight – as it is for the majority at the moment.
“Being excluded from paying for things with cash exacerbates the problems that many older people are already facing, especially for those who don’t have a smartphone, easy access to online or mobile banking, or a debit or credit card.
“The Government and regulators need to work closely with the banks to ensure that our cash and banking network remains strong well into the future.”
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