In the last seven years, 4,685 bank branches have closed with a further 226 set to disappear by the end of year, accounting for almost half of the country’s network
Millions of Brits who rely on cash to get by are at risk of being left behind as hole-in-the-wall machines and bank branches continue to disappear from high streets.
Consumer watchdog Which? has warned of a looming crisis after its research revealed a quarter of cash machines have vanished since 2018 and almost half of bank branches have brought down the shutters since 2015.
Worringly, in the last seven years, 4,685 bank branches have closed with a further 226 set to disappear by the end of year, accounting for almost half of the country’s network.
Which? found 17 Parliamentary constituencies with “particularly poor” access to cash such as Sheffield Hallam, South Yorkshire.
Worringly, it is one of seven with no local banks and it has just 25 ATMS of which seven charge a fee, with just 1.85 ATMS per 10,000 residents, way below the national average of 8.4 per 10,000 head of population.
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The other areas which have been stripped of bank branches are Bradford South, Erith and Thamesmead, Liverpool West Derby, St Helens North, Warrington North, and Wentworth and Dearne.
Harrow East in north west London has had the number of its free-to-use cashpoints slashed by 60% since 2018 and at 17 now has the lowest number of any Parliamentary constituency along with Orkney and Shetland.
According to the study, the elderly and those in rural areas who most relied on cash were also the most likely to be affected by bank and ATM closures.
Countryside areas had just 0.1 bank branches per 10sq km and 1.1 ATMs, compared with 2.6 branches per 10sq km in urban areas and 31.3 ATMs, the study found.
The watchdog is now calling on the Government to speed up its two year old promise to protect cash with legislation as readies face a “now or never” moment over their future.
Jenny Ross, Which? Money editor, said: “While many consumers have embraced digital banking, there are still millions, including the elderly, vulnerable and isolated, who aren’t yet ready or willing to make that switch – and they must be protected.
“Our research highlights the devastating impact widespread bank branch and ATM closures have had on communities. With just two weeks to go until the Queen’s Speech, it really is now or never to halt the cash crisis.
“Though banking industry proposals for action are welcome, what’s needed most is the legislation promised by the Government to protect cash. This should also include making the Financial Conduct Authority the key regulator to protect cash services.”