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Four new UK banking hubs planned after 587 bank branch closures this year

banks Two men walk past a cash machine outside a NatWest bank in London December 3, 2013. Many customers of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), NatWest and Ulster Bank experienced problems using their credit and debit cards for three hours on Monday. Some customers reported that problems had continued into Tuesday, local media reported.  REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS)
NatWest is closing another 43 branches as banks cut their presence on the high streets. Photo:Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

Four new banking hubs will be created across England in an effort to give customers easier access to their money as banks continue to close branches.

Bury Park in Luton, Haslemere in Surrey, Prestatyn in Denbighshire, and Welling in south-east London are the communities set to benefit from shared banking hubs.

Banking hubs are similar to traditional bank branches but spaces are shared. They consist of a counter service operated by Post Office staff, where customers of any bank can withdraw and deposit cash, make bill payments, and carry out regular banking transactions.

Read more: NatWest: Full list of bank branches closing

There will also be private spaces where customers can speak to community bankers from their own bank for more complicated matters that require specialist knowledge or privacy. The banks will be working on a rotating basis, so there will be staff from different banks available on different days.

Two banking hubs are already open in Rochford in Essex and Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire.

Bank branch closures have fuelled fears about people continuing to be able to access their money. The government has previously said it will legislate to protect the future of cash.

Which? research shows 587 bank branches have closed this year. Another 75 are scheduled for closure this year and 60 are scheduled for closure in 2023.

Jenny Ross, Which? Money editor, said: “Banking hubs could play an important role in ensuring the cash needs of local communities are met. However, the rollout is taking far too long and the hubs must open as soon as possible so consumers can benefit.

“Our figures show how the number of bank branches and free-to-use ATMs has been slashed in recent years, so it’s vital that new legislation protects free access to cash for the millions of people who rely on it.”

NatWest (NWG.L) recently revealed it was closing a further 43 branches, as lenders reduce their presence on the high streets to cut costs and to adapt to more customers taking up online banking.

Several branches in Scotland, including in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, are among the fresh wave of closures.

Half a million people across Scotland who are dependent on cash risk being cut off from accessing their money as banks ramp up branch closures, according to a report from the Scottish Affairs committee.

More than half (53%) of all bank branches in Scotland have shut down since 2015.

John Howells, CEO of Link, said: “We’re really pleased to confirm that Welling, Haslemere, Prestatyn and Bury Park in Luton will receive a banking hub and we hope more communities will apply. We know more people are banking online, but there are still millions of people who rely on cash.

“Banking hubs are proving exceptionally popular with consumers and helping to breathe life back into high streets.”

In 2009, around 56% of transactions were in cash, but today cash payments represent only 17% of all transactions.

Read more: Half a million Scots risk struggling to access cash amid bank closures

Despite this, cash remains the second most frequently used form of payment, second only to debit cards

Currently, 5.4 million people, or about 10% of adults in the UK, are reliant on cash.

As part of an agreement between the banks and building societies, following the closure of any bank branch, ATM network Link identifies whether a community requires further cash services. Communities can also contact Link directly and ask to be assessed for support.

Link also confirmed that six additional locations will receive increased support for depositing cash. They are Bingley, West Yorkshire; Finchley, north London; Leigh-on-Sea, Essex; Melksham, Wiltshire; Plympton, Devon and Sandbach in Cheshire.

Natalie Ceeney, chair of the Cash Action Group, said: “Time and time again, businesses have told me that the inability to run out to the bank at lunchtime to refill their tills or at the end of the day to bank takings is one of the reasons why it’s easier to stop accepting cash.

“Local deposit solutions are vital to keeping cash viable in local communities.”

A further 27 hubs have been promised by the banks and are planned to open in the coming months with locations yet to be confirmed.

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