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Bank closures "bad news for small firms"

22 August 2017

Bank closures "bad news for small firms"The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned of the consequences of Barclay's plans to close a further 54 of its bank branches by the end of the year.

Barclays has already closed 14 branches this year - and they are not alone. Most other UK high street retail banks have also closed branches or are due to close branches by the end of 2017.

Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: "At a time of unprecedented uncertainty, the last thing small businesses need is loss of in-person bank branch support. When times are tough, there's no replacement for help from a known and trusted bank branch contact."

Cherry described Post Office services, which businesses are encouraged to use if their local bank closes down, as "simply not up to scratch". Cash and cheque clearing facilities were limited, he said, while currency exchange services are often not available. He called for "substantial improvement and standardisation of the Post Office's offering, if it's to be considered a viable replacement for bank branches".

FSB members "routinely deal with customers that want to pay in cash", said Cherry. "Once a town loses a bank branch it hurts footfall, particularly in tourist hotspots, and means business owners have to spend time travelling out of town to use banking services. Card payment terminals can go some way to mitigating these impacts, but still carry multiple transaction costs, which firms are forced to absorb," he explained.

The FSB's Locked Out: the Impact of Bank Branch Closures report, published in October 2016, outlines a series of recommendations for managing the impact of bank branch closures across the UK. It found that branch closures were damaging "financial inclusion and small business productivity".

According to the small-business membership organisation, more than half (53%) of bank branches in the UK have closed since 1989, which means there are fewer than 8,000 branches operating in the UK. As reported by The Telegraph earlier this year, 525 UK bank branches were scheduled to close in 2017, among them RBS and Natwest closing almost 150, HSBC almost 120, Lloyds/Halifax almost 100 and 79 Clydesdale/Yorkshire Bank branches.

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