Bank branch black spots ‘being created in England’s most deprived areas’

Banks are abandoning customers in poorer parts of England with high street branch closures happening at a faster rate than in wealthier areas, research claims.

Digital current account provider Pockit said there have been more than 5,000 branch closures since 2010.

It found that, on average, the most deprived 10% of local authorities have seen a decline of nearly a third (31%) of existing branches since 2010 – whereas the least deprived 10% have seen a fall of just over a fifth (22%) of their existing branches.

Pockit used bank branch closure figures and Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on deprivation in England to make the findings.

It found that high street banks have closed 990 branches in the most deprived areas of England since 2010 – more than four times the 230 closed in the least deprived local authority areas.

The most deprived 10% of local authorities account for nearly 20% (19.6%) of bank branch closures since 2010, the research found.

Areas such as Blackpool, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Hartlepool, and Leicester, for example, have seen some sharp falls in branches, the research suggests.

Further south, at the other end of the spectrum, places such as St Albans, Guildford and Richmond-upon-Thames were found to have suffered less severe declines.

Chief executive and founder of Pockit Virraj Jatania said: “Big banks are marginalising the poorest in society by shutting up shop and leaving them behind.

“These findings suggest that high street lenders prefer serving the most well-off rather than the most in need.”

The findings follow growing concerns in recent months about ATM closures as well as banks shutting their doors.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “Our research shows that consumers in the two lowest household income groups rely on cash the most, but these people are struggling to access this vital payment method through the double blow of bank branch and cashpoint closures.

“Banks should make sure they cater to the needs of all their customers and provide suitable alternatives before they shut their doors – and their customers out.”

A spokesman for trade association UK Finance said: “Bank branches play an important role in the life of local communities and decisions to close them are never taken lightly.

“Research shows that consumers are increasingly choosing newer ways to help them with their banking, using technology to check balances and make payments – or even speak to your bank 24/7.

“But technology is not for everyone and maintaining access to cash is vital to ensure no customer is left behind.

“That is why all the high street banks have arranged for everyday banking services to be available through 11,500 post offices across the country and mobile bank branches to reach more rural communities, while investing in the existing ATM network to ensure continuity of service when ATMs are no longer commercially viable to operate.”

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