Concerns grow as multiple towns are left without a single bank
PUBLISHED: 10:00 19 May 2018
Archant © 2017
Bank closures are having a “traumatic effect” on high streets by stripping vulnerable people of vital services - with some towns even being left without a single branch at all.
In recent times internet banking has revolutionised the way many people go about their day, with lots of customers accessing their accounts from home or on the move through mobiles and computers.
It has made banking easier than ever - but has come at a cost to the high street.
The effect has varied widely, with King’s Lynn having 10 banks but Harleston having just one.
In some towns the technological advancements are having a devastating impact.
In recent years the market towns of Reepham, Loddon and Bungay have been left without a single bank, while Eye is set to lose its final branch in September.
Whether it be Lloyds, Barclays or HSBC leaving the towns the message remains the same - with fewer people visiting branches, it is no longer viable to keep them open.
Reepham was the first to be hit, losing its only bank - HSBC - in 2015.
Diane Roberts, who lives in the town and works at the post office in Church Hill, remembers the “traumatic” aftermath.
She said: “I have seen the impact it had on shops in Reepham - a lot of businesses relied on the bank’s services.”
Ms Roberts said the closure led to reduced footfall in the town and in turn a fall in overall trade.
“There are less people coming to the town,” she said. “People found other places to bank and found what they need elsewhere.
“Ultimately we have lost those people for good.
“It is getting worse and it is harder for businesses to make ends meet.”
Due to the bank’s closure, residents have become increasingly reliant on the services offered at the town’s post office.
Ms Roberts said: “To a degree we have mopped up a lot of the personal banking.
“There was a period of time when people were not aware of what the post office offered. But we provide cash withdrawals, cash deposit and cheque deposits.”
Bungay residents now find themselves in a similar position as they adapt to life in a town without a bank.
Last week Lloyds Banking Group closed its branch in Market Place - the fifth and final bank closure in four years.
In 2014 the town boasted a NatWest, HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays and Norwich and Peterborough Building Society.
Today it is without even a 24-hour cashpoint.
Didy Ward, chairman of the Bungay Events and Business Association (BEBA), said: “These days it’s hard enough to keep a business going because of the economy and losing footfall is a real concern.
“This will take trade away from the town. If people are travelling to Beccles to do their banking then they are going to stay there do their shopping.”
Mrs Ward added: “Bungay is a tourist destination and visitors won’t know there is no bank or cashpoint. For traders and residents banking is the issue but for visitors it will be the cash point.”
While the bank closures have undoubtedly placed a strain upon businesses and residents the trend is likely to continue - with the onus now on businesses to adapt to the changes.
Nova Fairbank, of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “In today’s modern world where technology is driving innovation, more and more businesses are having to look at alternative methods of interacting with their customers.
“This impacts upon the high street – retailers need to look at how they can make their services accessible and relevant to the modern shopper.
“Traditional methods of payment such as cash are making way for smart technology, with contactless cards and use of mobile phones to pay for goods.
“Retailers are having to react to customer demand - a card machine is now a must, as is the wifi needed to operate the devices. Accommodating savvy shoppers and the need for good digital infrastructure are becoming the norm – times are definitely changing.”
Following the announcement of the Bungay Lloyds closure, the bank said it would be introducing a new mobile bank service - which has started visiting the town.
A spokesman for Lloyds said: “This new mobile branch will provide a vital service to the local communities it visits, by giving customers access to everyday banking services such as making deposits, withdrawing cash and paying bills.”
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