Closure of retail bank real problem for UK farms
The 479 branch closures in 2014 (UK-wide) mark a significant increase over previous years and are likely to State of Rural Services 2016 be exceeded by 2015.
Some 124 of the closures during 2014 were of last bank branches in their neighbourhood, particularly affecting rural town and coastal communities.
Somewhat dated rural analysis from 2010 shows there were 1,317 bank and building society branches in rural locations in England. These comprised 13% of all branches, the rest being in urban locations.
Only 30% of households in villages were within two and half miles of a bank or building society branch. The post office network offers an important means of accessing cash, either using its own financial products or because it provides access to the current accounts of 20 other banks and the business accounts of 8 other banks.
Half of those who regularly access their accounts at a post office do so because there is no nearby bank branch. The Post Office Card Account also remains an important means of access to cash for those on low incomes.
Nationally there are more post offices than there are bank branches (of all the banks combined). Moreover, the post office network has rural reach, since more than half of its outlets are located in rural areas, including a presence in many villages.
The number of post office closures has slowed down, with a net loss of 27 rural outlets during the 2014/15 financial year. Almost 99% of the rural population lives within three miles of a post office outlet, comfortably exceeding the 95% target set by Government and the postal regulator.
Nonetheless, 72% of all cash withdrawn in 2015 was accessed at an ATM or cash machine. When last analysed (in 2010) 11% of cash machines were in rural settlements. There was typically good access to ATMs in rural towns, but in villages a quarter of households lived more than two and half miles away.
The LINK network runs a financial inclusion programme to plug geographic gaps, where there is no free-to-use cash machine. So far this has targeted deprived areas, which are largely urban. ■