The pace of retail bank branch closures in the UK is accelerating, with 650 outlets set to disappear from the high street in 2015.
The figures, released by the Campaign for Community Banking, show an unstoppable momentum in UK banks' retreat from the high street, as more consumers do their banking by phone or online.
While the UK has lost a quarter of its retail bank branches over the past ten years, the pace of change is accelerating, with 500 shuttered in 2014 (more than double the 222 abandoned in 2013) and 650 branches earmarked for closure this year.
By the end of the year there will be only 8400 retail bank branches in the UK, says the CCB, including around 40 of new bank Metro but excluding 200 ‘branches’ of Handelsbanken UK, because its customers have to use other banks’ counters. This leaves the country with just 145 branches per million inhabitants, compared to France with 410 per million, Italy (500 per million), Germany (430 per million) and Spain, which boasts a whopping 690 branches per million inhabitants.
The campaigning group says the voluntary pledges by three of the Big 4 UK banks to keep open the ‘last bank in town’ had previously protected 70% of sole bank communities more than one mile from an alternative bank but were cancelled in 2014. Since then, 124 ‘last banks’ have been closed with 177 more on course for closure this year.
From 1 May 2015 an agreement between the banking industry and government introduced an Access to Banking Protocol which recognised the banks’ "inalienable right" to close branches but imposed obligations on them to engage with communities on post closure provision. Generally, this is achieved through the use of Post Office counters, which the CCB deems unsatisfactory, calling on the banks to explore the potential of neutral shared use branches as an operational alternative.