Decisions on opening and closing branches are a commercial issue for banks and building societies. The Government does not intervene in these decisions or make direct assessments of banks’ branch networks.
However, the Government also firmly believes that the impact of branch closures should be understood, considered, and mitigated where possible so that all customers, wherever they live, continue to have appropriate access to banking services.
In September 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority 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 customers’ everyday banking and cash access needs and consider possible alternative access arrangements. Alternative options for access might include the Post Office, and the Post Office Banking Framework allows 95% of business and 99% of personal banking customers to carry out their everyday banking at 11,500 Post Office branches in the UK.
LINK (the scheme that runs the UK's largest ATM network) has commitments to protect the broad geographic spread of free-to-use ATMs and is held to account against these commitments by the Payment Systems Regulator. LINK has committed to protect free-to-use ATMs more than one kilometre away from the next nearest free ATM or Post Office, and LINK's members have made £5 million available to fund ATMs at the request of communities with poor access to cash.
More broadly, the Government recognises that access to cash remains important to millions across the UK and has committed to legislating to protect access to cash and ensuring that the UK’s cash infrastructure is sustainable in the longer term. On 1 July, the Government published a consultation on legislative proposals to protect access to cash. These proposals seek to ensure that people only need to travel reasonable distances to pay in or take out cash, and that the right regulatory oversight for cash access is in place for the future. The consultation is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/access-to-cash-consultation