/ Money

The last bank in the village

Miniature people on money

Much has been made of bank branch closures, with concern for people who rely on face-to-face banking. In a positive first step, the banks have signed an agreement to minimise the impact of branch closures.

We’ve been working with the Government and the banking industry on a new protocol on branch closures, announced today.

The protocol requires banks to work with local communities to establish the impact of a branch closures before they close. Banks will also need to clearly set out what alternative services will be provided, as well as how changes will be communicated to customers, including special provisions for the most vulnerable.

Alternative banking facilities

We think it’s critical that banks introduce alternative banking options for customers, as our latest research shows that four in 10 people still use their local bank branch at least once a month. Three in 10 even said they’d switch banks if their branch closed.

We also asked people what they wanted to see if their bank closed and the most popular options were: ATMs being changed to provide other services like paying in cheques; the bank operating in another location, like a supermarket; services being offered in Post Offices; and banks sharing branches.

When we last asked you what banking alternatives you’d like to see, Malcolm R asked:

‘Perhaps Which? could ask the major banks and building societies about the possibility of shared facilities?’

Wendy summed it up nicely:

‘We need to be careful of not losing what can be a vital service sometimes!’

Making it work

The new protocol outlines that alternative services could include free-to-use ATMs, Post Office branches and mobile banking arrangements. Crucially, there will be an independent review in a year’s time, to make sure banks are putting your interests first.

We expect the banks to stick to their word and ensure that everyone can access vital banking services, no matter where they live.

Are you worried about bank branches closing in your area? What banking services would you be happy to use as an alternative?


“The last bank in the village” – In Your Dreams!!

Very few villages seem to have a bank branch nowadays and most towns are now down to their last. Norfolk has over 650 villages, each with at least one church, but I bet there are no bank branches in any of them [only eighteen of the 28 towns have bank branches]. Lists on the internet are way out of date and are not keeping up with the rate of closures.

Although there is not much scope for bank closures left now I am sure the process will continue until only a handful remain. Luckily there are still over 350 post offices in Norfolk so a transfer of banking services to the Post Office could help to bolster their positon in the community and stave off their execution. Most rural post offices however are not suitable for much more than paying in and drawing out money – you wouldn’t rearrange your investments there. Because of the proliferation of small supermarkets there are cash machines in most settlements [not always free of charge] but they usually don’t have a paying-in facility. Quite a number of cash machines have been ripped out of the wall leaving no service for long periods or have been targetted by cash machine fraudsters so that people are wary of using them. For a lot of people a banking service where they do their bulk shopping would probably be the best provision but that would still leave a lot of people unable to access personal banking services.


Some decades ago when I saw the way Banks were going in de-skilling and cost savings I suggested that call centres be done at a local level so say the Medway Towns would have an out of hours call centre function manned by staff who worked in the Medway Towns branches. Norfolk could be covered quite adequately from Norwich for instance.

I do think that for most people feeling connected to “your” Bank is important . Banks have gone headlong into the marketing hype and stressing the importance of customers whilst treating them as a commodity that can be serviced by remote bodies and agencies.

There are cost implications in everything but I believe if customers were given the choice of paying for a local based service at a cost of £10 per year – and the rational argument of more jobs locally means more money in circulation in your area – they would subscribe.

A sort of consumer benefit system where spending locally primes the local economy. For instance the 200+ of Which’s 600 staff based in Hertford must make quite an input to the local economy in a town of 28000. If they earn the average wage that will be £5,000,000 [less taxes etc] being circulated in the county. Hertford has seven banks : )


I am all in favour of boosting the local economy by providing job opportunities. I expect many times the number of Which? employees leave Hertford every morning and spend their money in London. It’s lucky to still have seven bank branches. Which? could possibly locate more of its staff in Hertford but I can understand the desire to have a metropolitan location to attract the widest range of skills and qualifications and be nearer to the people it has to influence. But this constant concentration of employment in conurbations is the root cause of the denuding of our smaller towns and villages. Rural areas are particularly affected because there are so few office jobs, even in big towns and cities. Most towns and villages in the east of England are seeing significant housing growth but this is bringing very few permanent jobs and no banks or other services. There’s more to the quality of life than a nice house in the country. We can’t make banks stay where there is little demand, or maintain expensive premises for one or two days business a week. Once post offices and banks have withdrawn from a community it seems to be impossible to get them back if the population grows again; in fact I haven’t read of a single case of a bank opening a new branch in a growing village or new estate for many years [although they might have postponed closing even more, I suppose]. Our nearest town has a population of around 22,000 and has four banks and three building societies – not too bad really in comparison with some places. The four banks are the same as served the town sixty years ago when the population was just over 5,000 but it was mainly business banking in those days. Another five thousand homes are now planned which might just prevent any closures in the foreseeable future.


I switched “bank” from the RBS after the cluster bomb funding scandal to Nationwide specifically because they had branches easily accessible to me (Edinburgh), unlike the Cooperative, which would otherwise have been my first choice (though I have no regrets). When I looked on the net the Cooperative Bank had only one branch in Scotland, in Glasgow! Nae use to 4 million of us. I visit my Nationwide branch several times a year even if I have internet banking. Sometimes you need the human.


I used to use a bank on the university campus where I worked. It was operated by the Midland Bank (now HSBC) and the branch offered restricted services for those who banked with other banks, as I did. One of the features was machines that allowed deposits of cheques and cash, which helped to avoid queues. That bank closed when the university needed their building back for expansion, but since then I have not seen any deposit facilities elsewhere in the area. Maybe these are inside the branches.

Many supermarkets have ATMs, but as John says, we could do with paying-in facilities especially if branches are to be closed.

Rose says:
26 March 2015

Though I consider myself fortunate to have a choice of banks within a 3 mile radius due to living in the city. My problem is parking near any of them. I have acutely limited mobility and while they have nice and easy accessible machines within most of the banks, I can’t get near them.


This is a very good reason for having cash dispensers at supermarkets or other places with easy parking, particularly for those like yourself who have a mobility problem.

I’m not sure how you stop able-bodied people parking in places reserved for disabled drivers.

Vivid says:
26 March 2015

I live in a village and have no access to a bank. I chose a bank (previously Smile and now Nationwide) which had Post Office facilities, as we are lucky enough to still have a sub post office.