Treasury ministers and officials engage with stakeholders on a variety of issues. However, the decision to close a branch is a commercial issue for banks and building societies and the Government does not intervene in these decisions or make direct assessments of the impact of closures.
However, the Government also firmly believes that the impact of branch closures should be understood, considered and mitigated where possible so that all customers and businesses continue to have access to banking services. That is why the Government continues to be supportive of the Access to Banking Standard which commits firms to ensure customers are well informed about branch closures, the bank’s reasons for closure and options for continued access to banking services. Alternative options for access include the Post Office, which allows 95% of business and 99% of personal banking customers to carry out their everyday banking at 11,500 Post Office branches across the UK.
In September 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority also published guidance setting out its expectation of firms when they are deciding to reduce their physical branches or the number of free-to-use ATMs. Firms are expected to carefully consider the impact of a planned closure on their personal and small business customers’ everyday banking and cash access needs, and other relevant branch services and consider possible alternative access arrangements. This will ensure the implementation of closure decisions is undertaken in a way that treats customers fairly.
The Government also recognises that cash is important to the daily lives of millions of individuals and businesses across the UK. I have announced that the Government will consult this summer on further legislative proposals for protecting access to cash for the long term.