Derek French is a former bank executive and founder of the campaign for community banking services
The devastating loss of banking services in Ware reflects a plague sweeping across the nation – which all communities must now fight against.
Our high streets are increasingly being blighted by empty and deteriorating former bank branches – as you find in this once thriving Hertfordshire town.
We can expect many temporarily closed branches to shut permanently over the coming months and I anticipate that other branches will follow suit and close for good.
The digital banking revolution was inevitable. But it now seems to have turned into a race about how soon banks can close the last branch in town.
In the past six years alone, 5,500 branches have been shut – and the bank network has shrunk by 40 per cent as a result.
An ill-timed Community Access to Cash Pilots initiative launched just as the coronavirus crisis was taking grip offers a last-ditch opportunity to stop the rot.
In bigger towns, this could include the option of running shared bank branches.
Community Access to Cash Pilots came about following an independent Access to Cash Review last year by former Financial Ombudsman Services boss Natalie Ceeney.
It selected eight locations to test ways of keeping access to cash on the high street, but four appear to need no more than just a free cash machine. These pilots are due to be started this autumn – but because of the timing they may have to be delayed further because of the pandemic.
But for the initiative to work, greater commitment from the banking industry is required.
There is no reason why the shared bank branch approach cannot prove a great success – providing a banking solution for communities such as the good folk of Ware who have been abandoned by the banks.
Derek French is a former bank executive and founder of the campaign for community banking services.