Local bank branches - a thing of the past?

Banks are closing more than 10 branches a week

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Are local bank branches a thing of the past?

High Street banks are shutting more than 10 branches a week, with around 550 closures planned this year alone.

The banks claim the closures, which save them millions of pounds in operating costs, are in response to customers choosing to do their banking online or via mobile phone rather than in person.

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But critics argue those unable to use online banking services risk becoming financially excluded, and that small business owners who receive a lot of cash are often hurt too.

Mike Cherry, of the Federation of Small Businesses, told the Daily Mail: "Once a town loses a bank branch it hurts footfall, particularly in tourist hotspots, and means business owners have to spend time travelling out of town to use banking services."

More than 50 Barclays branches closing before the end of the year

Barclays is the latest bank to announce a new round of branch closures.

It plans to shut another 54 branches by December 2017, bringing the total number of branches to disappear from its network this year to 68.

"In order to stay relevant and competitive, we will continue to evolve the shape and size of our branch network, as well as improving and investing in the experience in-branch," a Barclays spokesperson told Reuters.

But Barclays is far from the only big bank turning its back on local branches.

In March, NatWest owner Royal Bank of Scotland said it would close 158 branches, while in January, HSBC said it would be reducing its branch network by 117 sites.

Lloyds is also getting rid of 100 branches this year, meaning that, by the end of this year, UK streets will have lost more than 1,500 branches in just three years.

Branch closures: your rights

Banks are supposed to carry out a full community impact assessment when considering a branch closure or a significant reduction in opening hours.

They must also give their customers 12 weeks' notice before a branch is shut, and ensure they have an alternative way to bank – although this could just be a cash machine.

If you are affected by the closure of your local branch, you may be able to use your local Post Office for over-the-counter services.

Alternatively, you can vote with your feet and switch to a bank or building society with a branch closer to your home.

Remember though: in the current environment, there's no guarantee that branch won't get the axe too eventually!