Bank Services: Rural Areas

Treasury written question – answered on 6th September 2021.

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Photo of Beth Winter Beth Winter Labour, Cynon Valley

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps his Department is taking to prevent rural bank closures.

Photo of John Glen John Glen Minister of State (Treasury) (City), The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

The decision to close a branch is a commercial issue for banks and building societies and the Government does not intervene in these decisions.

However, the Government 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. Regarding rural access, the Post Office is required by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ensure that 95% of the total rural population across the UK is within 3 miles of their nearest Post Office outlet.

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.

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