What's it like living in a town with no banks?
- Credit: Aaron McMillan
The changing world of banking has seen contactless payments and going online become the norm - and you can even cash in a cheque on your mobile phone.
Data from the Consumers' Association - publisher of Which? - shows the number of high street branches across the UK has declined from 9,807 in 2015 to 5,154 today, and shows that rural areas are the hardest hit.
The new data has further fuelled fears that the loss of such amenities from towns and villages is damaging to local communities, and especially their elderly residents.
The biggest decline in our region was in north Norfolk, which has lost 59pc of its branches and has just nine remaining
In Wells, not a single branch of any bank remains after the closure of Barclays back in 2019. But what impact has it had on residents and businesses?
Dale Skipper owns Glitter and Mud by the Quay. She has been in business for 20 years, running her shop in the town for the last five.
The lack of a bank and ATMs means a majority of her sales come via card, with cash transactions down a significant amount.
“We actually deposit about 90pc less cash now than what we would have done before covid and a few years before,” she said.
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“When I do have cash, I give it to my husband who works in Fakenham and he takes it to the bank.
“What is frustrating about it is people will use cards for most sales, even something that cost £2, and we have to pay a considerable chunk of that to the card operator.”
Glynis Scott, a resident from the town opened her bank account at Barclays when she started college. She said the lack of a bank is more concerning as a thought rather than a reality.
“I got quite upset when I discovered it was going to close, but I realised, I had not gone in for almost 10 years,” Mrs Scott said.
“I do banking online and if I need cash I go to an ATM, plus I do not think I have cashed more than about two cheques in the last six months."
Sue Gibson, manager of Quay Side Amusement, said the role of the arcade has changed as a result of the lack of banks.
“We have almost become like an ATM in the way we give cashback, but we always do it with the sale of an item to cover the cost of the card machine charge,” she said.
“With all the cash in the machine, we tend to recycle all our coins, so we never take it to the bank, using it instead to fill up our machines.
“People almost seem surprised when they get here, that there is nowhere for them to take money out from.
“It is an inconvenience for us, there is nowhere for us to do our transaction unless we use the post office.”
Lawrence and Kim Davies are from Hertfordshire but come to Wells at least once a month for a stay in their caravan.
The pair said they always used to take advantage of Barclays and would love to see a bank return to Wells.
“Having a cash point is easy when the shops are open, but it is impossible to get cash if the shops are closed,” they said.
“We do online banking, but, the Wi-Fi at the caravan site is not the best which makes it difficult. We would certainly support the idea of a bank coming back to Wells.”
Stephanie Taylor, owner of Simply Norfolk on Staithe Street said the way she pays her business partners means she is not in desperate need of a bank.
“I take cash but I pay my salaries and business partners in cash so I do not have to deposit a lot of the time. If I do, then I will go to Fakenham, about once a month to do so,” she said.
“The biggest change is that I can now no longer do a minimum amount on card payment. So, that is a pain, but not the end of the world.”
Paul Bentley, from King’s Lynn, said the lack of a bank is not as bad as it might have been years ago, due to the town’s businesses offering card payment.
“It is a bit foreign to me, as I have always been a cash man,” he said.
“But, most of the shops and eateries take cards now anyway. We use internet banking as well so the need for a bank is not as bad as it once was.”