Bank branch closures affecting poorest the most, credit union warns

Closures could leave poorest at the mercy of payday loans and loan sharks

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A spate of bank branch closures will leave thousands potentially vulnerable to predatory loan sharks and payday lenders, according to a credit union.

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Pollok Credit Union (PCU) says 21 high-street bank branches in Glasgow will shut up shop, denying access to finance for those with no mobile or online banking provision.

The union, which has seen an increase in its members, has warned high streets without face-to-face finance options will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

PCU operations director Jim Garrity said: "While high-street banks are shutting up shop because many customers are embracing digital services, many people still want or need face-to-face interaction.

"Staff in our branches are already seeing an increase in membership this year as these branch closures take hold.

"With so many closures already confirmed for later in the year, we expect to see even greater demand for face-to-face financial advice and services.

"Many people simply don't have access to online or mobile banking, or need financial products and services explained in a clear and personal way.

"Many mainstream banks are neglecting the accessibility requirements of their customers."

The organisation, which was established in 1993 and has loaned £40 million since then, is committed to expanding its branch network to provide a lifeline service for the community.

It also says it can help anyone and has fair terms for those who might be tempted to go to unreputable firms for help.

Mr Garrity added: "The departure from banking in person is creating a vacuum, particularly in our poorest communities, where many people are being left behind to potentially fall into the hands of loan sharks.

"Providing access to finance and fair lending terms can help anybody, but especially those who are vulnerable, employed on low incomes or in receipt of benefits.

"It's crucial that these people don't fall victim to the doorstep and payday lenders that plague our communities."

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