Banks should be obliged to provide details of branch closures to an official register, so that the impact on the business community can be better managed according to a report “Locked out: The impact of bank branch closures on small businesses”.
Available at www.fsb.org.ukand published by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the report finds that small firms are experiencing restricted access to banking services.
This is having an impact both on their own productivity and that of the local economies in which they operate.
The FSB also argues that it is not easy to identify either the ways in which businesses are being negatively impacted by bank closures or across which parts of the UK. The problem in both cases is, it suggests, a lack of publicly available data.
In the last 25 years, the total size of the branch network in the UK has halved to just over 8000 branches. It is expected to drop to 4000 in the next decade.
Describing the rapid pace of bank branch closures across the UK as a very real and tough challenge for small businesses, the FSB’s Mike Cherry emphasised that Federation members value the face-to-face interaction they receive in branches.
With many small firms dealing heavily in cash and cheques, access to over-the-counter banking facilities is a significant issue.
The FSB wants the Government and the banking sector to improve small business awareness and confidence in the Access to Banking Protocol, which aims to ensure that customers faced with a bank closure are offered alternative ways of banking in their local area.
Banks are increasingly referring customers to the Post Office as an alternative provider so the FSB also wants a standardised, high-quality service to apply across the Post Office network.