Exclusive:UK banks closing: third of high street bank branches lost since 2015 as Lloyds and Barclays announce new closures

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Thousands of banks and building societies have closed across the UK in the last seven years, with some areas losing up to 75% of local banking services.

More than a third of the UK’s high street banks and building societies have closed in the last seven years, leaving local communities up and down the country without  physical access to banking services, new analysis by NationalWorld can reveal. 

As businesses  switch to digital banking, bricks and mortar banks are becoming a less common sight in communities, with data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing the number of banks and building societies plummeting 36.4% since 2017, representing a loss of 4,615. Some areas have become virtual banking deserts, with up to 75% of branches closing.

Scotland has been worst hit by the closures, losing around 480 branches (40.3%) since 2015, while England has lost 36.5%, representing a loss of 3,795. Wales has also lost 36%, representing 245 banks, while Northern Ireland has lost 21.7%, around 245 banks. 

The figures come as five of the UK’s biggest banks –  Lloyds, Halifax, Natwest, Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland – announce the closure of 81 branches, in a further hit to the high street. The closures will affect customers in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff. 

Despite the rise in digital banking, cash and access to cash is a necessity for 25 million people, or for around 47% of Britain’s population, according to a 2019 Access to Cash report. It found that if society went cashless, older people, those on lower incomes and people living with certain physical and mental health problems would be most affected. People living in rural areas would also be affected.

Thousands of banks and building societies have closed across the UK since 2015.Thousands of banks and building societies have closed across the UK since 2015.
Thousands of banks and building societies have closed across the UK since 2015. | NationalWorld

Urban policy research unit, Centre for Cities, told NationalWorld that bank closures would also change the landscape of the high street and could prove difficult to replace in areas where communities are already struggling.

The UK’s ‘banking deserts’

The closures have left behind hundreds of ‘banking deserts’ across communities as some lose as much 75% of their banks and building societies during the last seven years. NationalWorld’s analysis found more than a quarter (27%) of the UK’s 374 local authorities were found to have lost at least 50% of banks and building societies since 2015. Only two local authorities were found to have increased their number of banks and building societies – these were Peterborough and Fermanagh and Omagh, increasing by 20% and 16.7%. 

This interactive map will show you how the number of banks has plummeted across the UK’ local authorities in the last seven years. 

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The number of branches is rounded to the nearest five by the UK, so the figures and percentage changes are approximate. If an area is shown to have no branches now, it could actually have one or two. The ONS figures also capture more than just traditional high street banking branches – if a business premises’ primary function concerns banking activities (including  offices), postal giro and postal savings bank activities, and money orders they will be counted. 

Regionally, the South West was found to be the worst affected region in England, losing 42.3% of banks and building societies since 2015, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber 40.6% and the North West with 39.6%.

Commenting on the figures, Valentine Quinio, senior analyst at Centre for Cities, said: “This data shows that the changes in the nature of demand for local services are having a real, tangible impact on high streets up and down the country. The banking sector has changed, the online offer has improved, and many local branches have had to shut down as a result.

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“The challenge for cities and towns now, is to find new uses for empty units on the high street and transition to sectors that are more in-demand, like hospitality. This will be easier in the most affluent cities and towns where demand for local services remains high, than in struggling places.”

The Treasury was contacted for comment.

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