Banks are accused of ‘depriving’ the elderly and vulnerable as one in eight branches are set to shut this year
BANKS have been accused of ‘depriving’ the elderly and vulnerable of essential services after it emerged that one in eight branches will close this year.
Britain’s biggest high street lenders have axed 424 branches this year and a further 212 are set to close by the end of December.
And a further 42 banks are earmarked for closure in 2024, data from cash machine network Link reveals.
More than half of Britain’s branch network has closed since 2015, consumer rights group Which? reveals. After around 5,600 closures, there are now just 4,000 branches remaining.
Lenders have been cutting back on sites over recent years, claiming that more customers are switching to online banking and cash use is declining as more transactions are carried out on credit and debit cards.
Britain’s biggest high street lenders have axed 424 branches this year and a further 212 are set to close by the end of December (file image)
But critics said axing branches is ‘grossly unfair’ on elderly and vulnerable customers, as well as on small businesses and those who need face-to-face advice.
Charity Age UK has blasted the ‘continuing avalanche’ of closures, saying that while those in rural areas are hardest hit ‘those in towns and cities are not immune’.
Its director Caroline Abrahams said: ‘Being able to manage your money is key to living independently as you age, but the rush towards digital banking means millions of older people are being deprived of this, simply because they do not use computers.
‘They are perfectly capable of organising their own finances, just not online. It is grossly unfair that they are being infantilised in this way and their legitimate interests brushed aside in the pursuit of profit.
‘Our own research tells us that there is strong support for in-branch services among older people with a bank or building society account.
‘Older people are constantly telling us how much harder life is when they can’t talk to someone face to face.’
Charity Independent Age says it often hears from ‘anxious’ older people who are worried about their bank branch closing.
More than half of Britain’s branch network has closed since 2015, consumer rights group Which? reveals. After around 5,600 closures, there are now just 4,000 branches remaining (file image)
John Palmer, its director of engagement, said: ‘As the cost of living crisis continues, especially for those struggling financially, it can be reassuring to know that there is someone they can speak to if they aren’t confident using online services.
‘Banks must ensure that closures do not leave behind older people who cannot or do not want to use online banking.’
Customers are forced to rely on banking hubs and pop-up sites when they are left without a permanent branch nearby.
But the rollout of banking hubs has been too slow, says Which?
While 80 hubs have been announced – some as long ago as December 2021 – so far only seven have opened.
Some 67 locations have been earmarked for a new deposit service but none has opened, the consumer group said.
Ms Abrahams said banks needed to ‘get a move on’ with opening hubs and, in the meantime, should pause branch closures.
She said: ‘We support the idea of shared banking hubs in places where all the individual bank branches have closed. But they are coming into being at a snail’s pace, leaving some towns and villages without any physical banking options nearby at all – a situation that is set to worsen as the year goes on.’
Derek French, a former NatWest executive and campaigner for community banking services, said: ‘Full in-person banking hubs are needed now in over 200 towns with a population of more than 15,000 people which have lost all their banks.
‘Where is the sense of urgency at the top? Banking hubs are the future but the programme needs igniting.’
Source: Read Full Article