Bank closures to hit rural businesses

A fresh round of bank branch closures threatens to make life difficult for rural firms, say business leaders.

Some 100 branches owned by the Lloyds Banking Group are expected to close their counters for the last time between July and October.

The cost cutting programme includes 54 Lloyds branches, 22 Halifax branches and 24 Bank of Scotland branches – a number of which are in rural areas.

The Federation of Small Businesses said it was concerned about the impact of the branch closures.

    See also: Bank closures 'damage rural communities'

FSB chairman Mike Cherry said: “It is very worrying to see yet more local bank branches being shut down, leaving small business customers without the services they rely on.

Cash still remains an important element of many small firms and it needs to be banked at the end of the day, explained Mr Cherry.

“For some small businesses online banking is not always a viable substitute, not least because of poor broadband coverage in many rural areas.

“While there are moves by some banks to allow basic services to be accessed in Post Office branches, the Post Office is not yet able to step in as an alternative with full business services.

“The onus is now on Lloyds to take steps to ensure access to banking is being protected under the terms of the access to banking protocol.”

Unite the union, which represents staff across Lloyds Banking Group said over 1,500 retail bank branch closures have been announced since 2014 by the big four retail banks.

Unite national officer Rob MacGregor said: “The continuous stream of branch closures announced by the UK’s retail bank branches appears to show no signs of ending.

“The loss of a further 100 local banks will be painful for high streets across the country to absorb.

Mr MacGregor said the banking group’s rationale for branch closures is the claimed customer preference towards the use of technology across banking.

But he added: “This simply doesn’t ring true when it’s clear that many customers still value the face to face engagement with experienced and knowledgeable bank staff.

“The industry must halt these endless branch closure programs and open its eyes to what these closures are doing to rural communities, disabled customers and the small business customers who depend on access to a local branch.”

Last month the Royal Bank of Scotland announced it would close over 150 bank branches. A similar move in January saw HSBC announce 62 branch closures.


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