By Esmée Hardwick-Slack
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that nearly 6,000 local banks and building societies have closed since 2010. The closures are a result of many banking services moving online. Overall, people visiting their local branches has fallen by a quarter since 2012 due to the rise in access to online banking from home and on mobile phones.
A breakdown of the ONS figures show that 133 of 650 parliamentary constituencies across the UK have seen the closure of least half of their branches since 2010.
The branch closure have particularly affected smaller towns like Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire which saw its last branch close in July 2018. Residents are now having to make hour long trips to access their nearest local branch.
The closure of local branches and building societies has also contributed to the loss of free to use cash machines. Figures from the cash machine network Link have shown that between January and August 2018, 1,400 cash machines have closed across the UK. Research analysis conducted by the BBC found that each parliamentary constituency had 8 free to use cash points per 10,000 residents in August.
The Sheffield Hallam constituency has just 2 free to use cash points per 10,000 local residents, the lowest rate in the country. Other major cities such as Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester have more than 15 machines per 10,000 residents, with more than 60 per 10,000 in central London.
Contactless and card payments seem to be the largest contributing factor to the closure of free to use cash points. According the UK Finance, the number of debit card payments in 2017 was greater than the number of cash payments for the first time.
Gareth Shaw from the consumer group Which? Has said: “There are many people still reliant on traditional banking services who are at risk being financially excluded by this alarming rate of branch closures
“While banks should ensure there are alternative banking facilities in the area, we’re told by consumers that these options simply do not offer the full range of services or convenience that a dedicated branch does.”
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