I think we’re getting another card shop: or maybe a hairdressers, charity shop or estate agents. Since we moved down here six years ago, the number of banks in the high street has halved. What was Barclays is now an estate agent and the old HSBC branch is empty: no doubt it will soon be selling scented candles and cards. The post office closed down and moved to the supermarket – and there are fewer counters. As far as banks are concerned, we are down to Lloyds which opens for a few hours a day and a NatWest. There’s a Nationwide too, admittedly. But the only cash machines are at NatWest, plus a free one outside the old post office, and one in the supermarket (so no use when it’s shut).
True, I bank online. But I still – occasionally – need to go into a bank branch. And when I do, whether in the local branch or another, then I always have to queue, which calls into question the contention that bank branches aren’t needed. I do live in an area where the demographic is elderly, thus in more need of a bank branch. But then, what about the small businesses which need somewhere to deposit their cash takings? And also, without a bank, a community somehow loses status. Twenty minutes’ drive away from here there’s a small ‘settlement’. It’s not a village or a town, really, more of a suburb. It lost its last bank a year or so ago. The building is empty as are some of the shops. The whole place looks rather down at heel. Those who used to use the bank have a couple of miles to go to the town – not far, but a long walk or slow bus if you don’t drive.
I don’t know what the answer is to this problem. HSBC has just said it’s shutting 62 branches this year. You can’t make a business spend money where it doesn’t want to. But maybe you can vote with your feet and move accounts if your bank branch closes – although we don’t seem keen to do this despite the potential savings, according to BACs figures. If my bank branch goes, then maybe I will move – and I’ve had the same bank account since I was a student.