/ Money

Banks respond to our calls on branch closures

While responses from banks to our calls on bank branch closures represent a huge step forward, more needs to be done to secure the future of cash.

Earlier this month, our Chief Executive Anabel Hoult wrote to banks and building societies who are members of UK Finance’s Cash Action Group (CAG) asking them to commit to a pause on bank branch closures until alternative ways of accessing cash could be provided to communities impacted. 

In Anabel’s letter, she outlined concerns that any solutions announced and implemented by the Group to protect people’s ability to withdraw and deposit cash would be undermined by decisions taken by individual banks to progress with branch closure programmes. This followed from new analysis that found the rate of branch closures had increased significantly over the past year. 

Shockingly, we found a whopping 298 bank branches closed between June and August – an average of 99 per month, which is far above the 52 closures that have taken place per month in the previous six years, representing a 90% rise. Overall, 736 bank branches shut their doors this year, with another 220 already set to close in 2022. Since January 2015, banks and building societies have closed or scheduled the closure of 4,734 branches.

Win! How banks responded

We’ve now heard back from all the banks we wrote to, including Natalie Ceeney, Chair of the CAG, who responded to us on behalf of the Group. 

In her response, she confirmed the proposals agreed by members, announced last Wednesday, would be delivered to communities immediately and ahead of upcoming branch closures, and that in communities where bank branch closures have taken place over the last year, impact assessments have already been carried out by the Group, and solutions to enable access to cash delivered. 

These proposals will see LINK (the UK’s main ATM operator) tasked with conducting an independent review of every proposed bank branch and ATM closure, with the power to fill any gaps in cash provision to meet the community’s cash needs, by deploying a range of shared services funded by members such as ATMs, shared banking hubs, and enhanced Post Office services. Communities will also be able to request a review of their community’s cash needs by summer 2022.

Find out if your area will be receiving support here

Which? also wrote to banks that are not members of the CAG, asking them to provide detail on their upcoming branch closure programmes. The majority have since confirmed they will not be closing any further bank branches in 2022.

Find out what your bank said here.

Is this enough?

This reassurance from members of the CAG, coupled with the proposals announced by the Group last week, represents a huge step forward in the fight to protect cash.

However, while we’re hopeful that the services delivered by the Group will provide tangible support to communities at risk of losing access to cash, it is clearly important that the body is held to account for its commitments.

We feel strongly that the CAG solutions must provide sufficient access to cash when a bank branch or ATM closes, and the Impact Assessments undertaken ahead of closures must assess the full range of needs in a given area, giving everyone the opportunity to feedback, including vulnerable residents and those most likely to depend on cash. 

We intend to keep a close eye on how the CAG’s proposals work in practice, to make sure they deliver for consumers on the ground. But we also want your help, by telling us how the CAG is delivering for you in your areas, if you are one of the communities affected, or if you’re struggling to access cash, but haven’t received any support.

Legislation is urgently needed

While efforts from industry to support those of their customers who rely on cash are positive, and necessary – these voluntary initiatives do not negate the need for government action. Not least given that the Group does not represent the whole of the industry and firms outside of the group may continue to make decisions that could detrimentally impact local access to cash without any proposed alternative provisions to be put in place. 

Legislation promised by the Chancellor in March 2020 is still urgently needed, to give the proposals announced by the CAG the necessary level of regulatory oversight and to secure the long-term future of cash for those who depend on it – and we will be continuing to fight for this legislation in the New Year. 

Let us know in the comments if you’re worried your local community is at risk of losing access to cash?

Comments

This is encouraging news but as Camilla has said the plans do not remove the need for government action to ensure that the customers of banks are provided with the services that they need. We tend to think of electricity, gas and water as essential services, but so too is banking. If I was ever scammed I would expect to be able to speak to someone at my bank and at present there is a branch not far away, but many are not so lucky and have to rely on phoning a call centre.

It is interesting that LINK is assuming a more important role in banking services. I am cautiously optimistic because they were involved coordinating the provision of ATM services in the UK, many years ago. Prior to that we had to visit one of our own bank’s ATMs to obtain cash.

Banks are parasites and fraudsters. Their goal is to make themselves rich, and when the economy collapses – as in recent years – they know that the taxpayer will have to bail them out. Then they get rich again.

Leopards too don’t change their spots. At least they kill only to sustain their lives, not their luxuries.

Well done by Which?’s efforts to sustain cash. But corporations (banks) wish to go to a cashless society, and are merely patronising the praiseworthy efforts Which? is making. Banks cannot bear to have no insight into any transactions we make.

When they achieve a cashless society, just try buying your neighbour’s lawn mower, for example. You will pay a fee, and also VAT – whatever it may be called by then.

Lloyds cannot even be bothered to have a branch in Ulster.

Still o use for people like myself who are disabled and rely on a mobility scooter. We have an several ATMs locally but they do not allow you to pay bills, transfer money from one account to another, or deposit money and to get a mini bank statement. Our branch of the B of Scotland has been closed for a while so I can see how this is affecting people and my husband has to get a bus then walk to our nearest. He also has mobility issues.

S

If anybody is “scammed” it is usually because the Person is either greedy and believes in a “free lunch” or the Person is gullible. There is no alternative to not taking instructions over an incoming telephone call. Some basic policies:
1. Do not accept incoming calls by picking up the handset. Force the caller to leave a message. Landlines are a waste of money in any case. Ditch it/them.
2. All cellphones/(immobile) mobiles have the capability to record incoming and outgoing calls. Use it. Do not answer any incoming calls. The caller is not going to contribute to the “line rental” that you have to pay for the “privilege”. You, as an individual, have a right to record all incoming and outgoing calls. You are not permitted to make those recordings publicly available, i.e. on social media, for example.
3. If you are foolish as to answer an incoming call supposedly from the Bank, Police, mickey mouse and are “encouraged” to move your monies to a “safe” account, note the account number and sort code, ask the caller to confirm the name of the Bank. Then move your money to your own alternative Bank Account. Preferably one you have not used and is, effectively, closed. The money will, either, go to it and “bounce” back to the Bank Account you sent it from or not go anywhere because the Bank Account you sent it to will not confirm the existence of your bank account at that bank. Then tell the caller that you have sent the money. The caller should deny having seen it arrive. You can “swear” that you have followed the caller’s instructions to the letter and then terminate the call.
4. Note down the number from the incoming call has been made. If it showed up on your telephone’s display as “International”/”Withheld” or anything other than a UK/Cellphone number do NOT answer it. You should not have answered the incoming call for the reasons I have given in the foregoing.
When it comes to money you are your worst enemy. There are no friends where your money is concerned.

That is what economics is about.

Of course, you can pay for your neighbour’s lawnmower/whatever. You do not have to pay a fee to transfer the money to your neighbour’s bank account. You are misleading the public at large. I make many transfers each month. There are no charges for myself or the recipients of my monies and the transfers go through in a flash=speed of light, usually. You cannot access your neighbour’s monies. If that were possible, I would be “rolling” in the recipients of my monies. I was involved in Accounting and do not, usually, carry around cash. Plastic is best (for me).

Clearly you know how to use a computer/whatever. Therefore, why do you have a problem?

If we can look forward to a no available bank manager to discuss a financial discrepancy, then banks need to improve their telephone contact systems. Long waiting times at the end of a button pressing exercise is exasperating, frustrating and stress invoking,

The cash dispenser in our village is the still original one attached to the bank, but the bank is now part of the estate agent next door. With so many banks now closing, it would be interesting to know what becomes of some of them.

There is an ongoing problem with most businesses now banking online, when they come to service an appliance or carry out a repair or a cleaning procedure, you are also expected to settle payment online directly into their bank account. If you don’t bank online, cheques are often frowned upon, in the event of them failing to carry a card machine.

It’s reassuring to know that Which? and the CAG are working together in a quest to keep the cash flowing for as long as it takes,, but I don’t rule out more opposition from some banks without the need to legislate.

Accordung to the CAPC report the major banks fully support the initiatives.

You are lucky to still have the ATM, Beryl. Usually ATMs are removed when bank branches are closed.

I’m interested in using Paym to pay small bills when a tradesman does not carry a card reader. Paym uses the recipient’s phone number and avoids the hassle of setting up a new payee. I’m surprised that the only information I can find on the Which? website dates from 2014: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2014/04/paym-makes-mobile-payments-even-easier-364476/ I hope that Which? wlll update this article and let us know about security.

Paym is possible for me because I use mobile banking as so many people do these days, but we need to think about the needs and wishes of everyone and many still use cash.

If you, or the vendor, insist on paying in cash and do not receive a receipt you may be assisting the vendor to not report the total of the vendor’s sales to HMRC. Also, if the product fails after the repair/service/supply then you have no guarantee the guarantee/warranty “promised” will be honoured. Your loss, their gain. The vendor should have a card terminal and/or the verifiable bank account details. Verify before you hand over cash. Do not telephone the number the vendor provides. Do not “scam” yourself through gullibility. Your money is your responsibility not the banks.

Only if the individual shows due diligence. Your money, your responsibility!

Once the payee is set up it is there until you delete it or the Bank deletes your account.
Looking after your own money should not be easy. If it is easy you earn the right to be “scammed”. “Easy” may be spelt “Scam”!

There are no banking facilities in Addlestone Surrey KT15 2HU for the big four. No ATM’s either.

You, too, have demonstrated that you know how to use a computer. Why is it you have a problem?

All the banks in my village have closed along with the post office. I know the shops and small businesses have major problems getting access to cash and often put appeals on Facebook asking if anyone has change they can swap for notes. It is a 9 mile round trip to get to my bank on the bus and then a long wait in a queue. The waiting time can be anything from 20 minutes up to, my personal experience, 1 hour 10 minutes with queues down the road. Appalling service.

Steve Matchett says:
23 December 2021

This is just a whitewash. Bottom line is they simply don’t care; & neither does the government. Without legislation, this is a remorseless trend.
Our branch of the Halifax in East Grinstead is closing next March & I’d be willing to bet that they (the Halifax) will remove the cash machine.
I admire what you are doing but am pessimistic in the long term.

Well done Which for your campaign. I only wish I had confidence in the banks response but I don’t. They only pay lip service and fully intend to close as many banks as possible to railroad us into becoming a cashless society. I know how frightening a prospect that is for many people, the elderly and mentally ill to name a couple of examples. My brother is mentally ill and is incapable of learning technology as are many of his friends. The increasing escalation of on-line fraud/cyber crime and website crashes and the banks and government’s inability to adequately respond to this urgent problem is also a worry in us becoming cashless. Keep on the fight!

Neil Brine says:
23 December 2021

We lost all Norwich and Peterborough branches and my Nat. West. branch, nothing for 14miles. Nationwide Also 14m….each way.

It’s fine the banks have reassured the people that they would be making sure cash machines are accessible etc. However in my area we are charged almost £2 to access our money because we are at the mercy of a private company. I’d like to see high street banks providing free access to our money. After all if they are shutting down buildings they can afford to install a machine. It’s a rip off that began with Service stations then it became the norm in town centres.

Julia says:
23 December 2021

I stay in a small village ,we have never had a bank in the village , luckily we still have a post office were customers can withdraw money and deposit money ,if the post office ever closes (god forbid ) our bank is eight miles away so that would be a sixteen mile round trip.

Stuart Nutt says:
23 December 2021

My local bank (HSBC, Southport branch) is still open, BUT they have closed the cash till !

Malcolm Alexander says:
23 December 2021

All the banks have left the town leaving just one Building Society. Told to use the post office which has just had their ATM removed! Only one ATM left now at Sainsbury. Lloyds do send a van along but always queues. Feel most irritated about TSB who a couple of year ago advertised “your local bank”. New CEO comes in and shuts the lot for miles around. Nationwide is 20 mile round trip. This is in a large town with loads of new housing and facilities required. Banks just do not care.

John Andrews says:
23 December 2021

There is one reason and one reason only that bank branches are closing and society is being ‘forced’ to go cashless and that is so that banks can make more money!

With cash you cannot go over drawn or overspend, both of which make the banks a lot of money with eye watering high interest rates!

You cannot teach young people to control their spend, when they cannot see what they are spending.

Buying with cash should be king, with lower vat rates on a cash purchases, so encouraging more people to use cash.

Brian Cobb says:
23 December 2021

Death of the Rural Bank Branch.
First the LLoyds branch closed in the rural village of Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire. The ‘sweetener’ was that a mobile service would visit every week. Then every fortnight. Then it couldn’t be relied upon to arrive at all with no information available to the customers waiting in a cold carpark for a van to arrive. Cash is still a necessary currency and businesses as well as the general public are suffering from this erosion of a vital service. There is at least now a hotline to find out if the service is operational.

Tom McKay says:
23 December 2021

I live in The Medway Towns, Walderslade, Chatham, Kent. Yet my actual branch is in Maidstone, Kent, so 6 miles away and requires 2 bus journeys to visit my bank. Ican use the Chatham Branch, but they have closed counter service. This is nly very covenirnt.

Every person, aside from myself, has demonstrated the ability to use a computer/whatever. The Banks have set up various means of making online payments and have issued their customers with Debit and/or Credit Cards. Therefore, I do not understand this reluctance to use the methods provided. I am irritated that, on the very rare occasions that I win a pittance on the Lotteries, that I have to collect it in cash. As a Person who was employed in Accounting since the ’70s I rejoice at not having to use cash. I abhor having to pay cash for take-away meals and avoid the vendors who claim to not have card terminals, because taking only cash is enabling them to tax-dodge. I have a dislike for taxation except for VAT. If you do not spend, you should not pay tax. There should not be taxation on essentials including basic entertainment devices and basic transport.

David White says:
23 December 2021

It’s essential for Atm to remain or eventually we will all have to pay by cards which leads to fraud may I suggest that we all boycott card only sales so they have to take cash ?

Michael Antrobus says:
23 December 2021

Here in Poulton-le-Fylde, four miles from Blackpool, a thriving market town we have only one bank left now (Lloyds) and 3 ATMs (Lloyds, one outside the Post Office (operated by Bank of Ireland!) and one INSIDE Booth’s grocers (which of course is inaccessible when the store is closed. Up not long ago we had 7 banks with 10 ATMs (the 3 previously mentioned plus 1 at Halifax/Bank of Scotland, 2 at HSBC, 2 at Santander, 1 at Royal Bank of Scotland, 1 at NatWest). We also had a Barclay’s which didn’t have an ATM. Shame on the Directors of the closed bank branches (shades of Fred (the “Shred”) Goodwin formerly of RBS).

Maureen Rosie says:
23 December 2021

We have just lost our HSBC and heard through the grapevine more to come. Once again hitting the elderly and vulnerable and what’s the government doing sweet f a.

Colin Greenhalgh says:
23 December 2021

Heinz Sponge pudding and custard. Unfortunately Heinz stopped production. I remember this was shortly after a re branding exercise. I fear, like myself, people could not see and match what they were looking for due to the new label hence sales dropped etc etc

The above comment is related to the poll in the Introduction to this Conversation which asks people what is their favourite Christmas dessert. I don’t understand why Which? continues this sort of confusion which has been reported previously. Mr Greenhalgh is entitled to express his opinion on sponge pudding and custard and Which? should provide a proper mechanism for that purpose, not lose it in a long series of comments about bank closures.

Paul Keld says:
23 December 2021

Good afternoon. I live in Romsey, Hampshire; a fairly wealthy part of the UK. When I moved here almost 40 years ago, there were 6 banks and 6 Building Societies, a main Post Office and 4 sub Post Offices. There are now 3 banks and 1 Building Society. The main Post Office is still there, providing a sterling service but there now only 2 sub Post Offices. In all this time, the population has increased by about 4000 and the average age has increased, too. Whilst most ‘youngsters’ do their banking online, people my age (64 and counting) prefer to go into a Bank. The one I use for business and personal use recently had a bit of a Tart Up, but since COVID seems to have reduced the overall area in which to do paying in etc. The other bank in which we have an account has gone more or less ‘automatic’. The Building Society we use limits the times in which you can visit. The Post Office is still very busy, if not more so. The Banking fraternity say they are closing branches because of less customers visiting – well, for a good percentage of 2020 no one was allowed out of their houses for a start! With the reduction of customers, shops closed, sometimes for good so any small shopkeepers didn’t use Banks, either. Then we have Town Councils, Local Authorities and County Councils increasing parking charges to try and grab back money they loose on business rates and the like. So, when there is a ‘break in the clouds’ and people do visit their local town centres, they are put off going again. On top of that you have the likes of Sadiq Khan, he of London notoriety, paying millions of pounds in forming unwanted ‘clean no drive areas’ or unused cycle lanes. There seems to a common thread – those individuals who would happily visit towns and go shopping are deliberately put off doing so by Councils and Business Community Groups chasing the wrong age range. We don’t want to go into identikit precincts with every other outlet being a designer coffee shop or up market Tapas bar/restaurant, nor do we want to be run over by youngsters whizzing around on E vehicles, which is illegal. How many Police or PCSO’s do you see wandering around? Romsey has it’s own Police Station, on the outskirts. If you have a problem, you have to go online and tap your complaint into a useless ‘tank’. Very rarely do you see Police vehicles, either. Roads to, from and in Romsey are becoming more dangerous. All the money we pay in Tax and Council Charges seems to go nowhere. If Towns and cities want to entice customers back to use all the facilities once common, they must take note of ‘conversations’ such as this. Otherwise, there will be more derelict precincts infested with Charity shops and betting outlets. And a very merry Xmas to you!