Access to cash: More community banking hubs set to open
This latest announcement by The Cash Action Group and LINK will take the number of banking hubs to 25.
A banking hub is a shared branch service, which operates in a similar way to a standard bank branch in that customers of any bank or building society can withdraw and deposit cash, pay bills and carry out other regular transactions.
They also provide “private spaces” where customers can speak to someone from their own bank for advice and support. However, only staff from the major banks (based on market share for that particular area) will be available. Customers of other banks can also use the service for enquiries though.
The hubs will be operated by staff from the Post Office, and locations will also be branded with Post Office signage.
Each of the 13 new locations have been chosen due to their community’s need for help in accessing cash, according to the organisations. This could be because the last bank branch has closed or because it’s too far for customers to visit their nearest branch in a nearby town, for instance.
While no timescale on their opening has been published (it usually takes between nine and 12 months to get them up and running), the hubs will be located in the following areas:
- Brechin (Angus)
- Forres (Moray)
- Carluke (Lanarkshire)
- Kirkcudbright (Dumfries & Galloway)
- Axminster (Devon)
- Barton-upon-Humber (Lincolnshire)
- Lutterworth (Leicestershire)
- Royal Wootton Bassett (Wilts)
- Cheadle (Staffs)
- Belper (Derbyshire)
- Maryport (Cumbria)
- Hornsea (Yorks)
- Kilkeel (Newry, Northern Ireland).
Previously, 10 banking hubs had been announced with them due to open their doors “within months”.
The first two banking hubs were piloted last year in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, and Rochford in Essex. Their use has doubled since they opened, with nearly 60,000 customer visits and £16m worth of transactions taking place.
As the impact of the cost-of-living crisis becomes increasingly apparent, the hubs are likely to become an ever more important resource, particularly in communities with minimal or limited cash access or banking facilities, according to LINK.
As part of the Financial Services and Markets Bill, it essentially makes access to cash a legal requirement. LINK added that by “moving ahead with this next phase, the banking industry is taking decisive action to support communities before the new law arrives”.
‘Ensuring local community’s cash needs are met’
John Howells, CEO, LINK: “The UK isn’t ready to go cashless yet and it’s vital to protect our national cash infrastructure for the millions of consumers who still rely on cash. The intended legislation is a very positive step that will ensure access to cash for UK consumers for years to come.
“Any community with a problem with access to cash can now contact LINK and ask for help. We will also proactively check every community where ATMs and branches are closing to see if help should be provided. Where a community lacks the access that it needs, LINK will commission services such as free ATMs and shared banking hubs from the new company being set up by the banks.”
Jenny Ross, Which? Money editor, said: “The country’s cash infrastructure has been cut to the bone in recent years due to ATMs and bank branches closing, leaving millions of consumers who rely on cash and face-to-face banking services at risk of being cut adrift.
“It’s encouraging to see the banking industry announce more banking hubs which, alongside other bank alternatives such as enhanced Post Offices, could play a role in ensuring local community’s cash needs are met. These hubs, as well as ones announced in December, must open as soon as possible so consumers can benefit.
“However, only long-promised legislation will properly protect cash. The Financial Conduct Authority must be given the appropriate powers to oversee the framework of the country’s cash system, including determining a local community’s access to cash needs based on geographic distances, as well as holding banks to account. Given the rate of bank branch and ATM closures in recent years, that cannot happen quickly enough.”
With that final point in mind, in April, Your Money reported that almost 100 bank branch closures had taken place each month since 2021.