Barclays halts `last in town´ and remote branch…8 min read

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Barclays has pledged not to close branches in remote areas or where it is the last bank in town for the next two years.

The bank is also launching a new cashback scheme enabling people to withdraw money at small businesses – but said that from 2020 its customers will no longer have a facility which allows them to withdraw cash over the counter at Post Offices.

Barclays new cashback scheme should make it easier for customers to withdraw money at businesses in remote towns and areas without a branch or ATM. 

Barclays has pledged not to close branches in remote areas or where it is the last bank in town for the next two years

Barclays has pledged not to close branches in remote areas or where it is the last bank in town for the next two years 

Barclays said the freeze on remote and ‘last bank in town’ closures will see more than 100 branches ring-fenced so that they remain until at least October 2021.

It is also exploring ways to boost demand in branches generally, starting initially with pilots in 12 areas.

Barclays said it remains ‘committed to the Post Office framework’ and customers and businesses will still be able to pay in cash, cheques and check their balance – but the facility for over-the-counter cash withdrawals will end from January 2020.

Cash withdrawal by cheque will still be available, subject to arrangement.

It is writing to affected customers about the changes.

Adam Rowse, managing director of branch-based banking at Barclay, said: ‘By maintaining last-in-town or remote branches over the next two years, and working with the community, we hope to increase demand and keep these branches viable.

‘We also recognise that there are opportunities to support customers with access to cash where there is no branch or ATM nearby.

‘We are launching a cashback offering working with merchants to give customers access to cash over the counter.’

Barclays’ new cashback scheme will enable customers to withdraw cash at businesses in remote towns and areas where there is no branch or ATM alternative within 1km.

It will launch in more than 200 locations from January 2020.

Meanwhile, Barclays is trialling how it can work with customers and communities, including MPs, councillors and business groups, to see if customer demand can be increased, which would help to make branches more viable in the longer term.

The 12 trial locations include Pickering and Yarm in Yorkshire, Wombourne in Staffordshire and Risca in South Wales.

Part of the trial includes flexible branch opening hours and making technology available to extend services such as video banking.

Mr Rowse told the PA news agency: ‘We really want to focus on engaging customers in the local community.

‘New technology allows even the smallest branch to become a full-service branch.

‘We use video technology so our specialists across the country can help people with buying a home or starting a business or borrowing through a business or needing help or advice. That’s what we’re looking to do.’

He said successes in the 12 trial areas could be quickly rolled out to other branches.

Mr Rowse continued: ‘We believe in the future that branches will be a lot more about education – about helping people with those things that are the most important in their life – whether it’s: ‘I’m opening my first account’ or: ‘I’m going off to university’… or: ‘I’m starting a business’…

‘We’re really working with the local community to find out what it is that they want.’

Barclays said ‘pop-up’ banking facilities to help communities will also appear at 300 locations by the end of 2021.

Bank branch and ATM closures generally have sparked fears about people’s ability to continue to access cash.

The Post Office, which has around 11,500 branches, offers banking services on behalf of many banks, but some commentators in the access-to-cash debate have argued that this should not be seen as a direct replacement for banks’ own branches.

Some other banks and building societies have also recently announced initiatives to boost access to cash or keep branches open.

In March, Nationwide Building Society pledged that every town and city with a branch will still have one in May 2021.

In February, Lloyds Banking Group, in partnership with Visa, announced a pilot scheme to boost the number of retailers offering cashback.

Here are the 12 pilot areas where Barclays is looking at how customer demand in branches could be increased: Yarm, Pickering and Guiseley in Yorkshire, Barnard Castle in County Durham, Wombourne and Kidsgrove in Staffordshire, Risca and Tredegar in South Wales, Shenfield and Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, Esher in Surrey and Biggin Hill in London.

Bank branches Barclays have pledged to protect  

Last in town branches:

Alderley Edge

Bargoed

Barnard Castle

Barnoldswick

Biggin Hill

Bilbrook

Builth Wells

Burnham-on-Crouch

Cadishead

Carnforth

Chalfont St Peter

Cockermouth

Cuffley

Drayton, Norwich

Dunmow

Esher

Flitwick

Guiseley

Haxby

Hemsworth

Heywood

Histon

Holmes Chapel

Hoyland, Nether

Kidsgrove

Knowle

Llandeilo

Pickering

Radlett

Risca

Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Shenfield

South Woodham Ferrers

Southwick

St Ives

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Tredegar

Treorchy

Wadebridge

Watton

West Mersea

Whickham

Woburn Sands

Wombourne

Wroxham

Yarm

Ystrad Mynach

Manningtree 

Llangollen

Bentham

Keswick

Harleston

Southwold

Bedale

Leyburn

Framlingham

Oundle

Kirkby Stephen

Seahouses

Leiston

Haltwhistle

Stanhope

Middleton-in-Teesdale

Remote branches:

Bideford

Brecon

Brigg

Caernarfon

Camborne

Chipping Norton

Cranleigh

Daventry

Deal

Devizes

Driffield

Easingwold

 Falmouth

Gainsborough

Heathfield

Helmsley

Helston

Horncastle

Kirkby Lonsdale

Lampeter

Launceston

Leek

Malton

Market Drayton

Mildenhall

Monmouth

Pocklington

Porthmadog

Prudhoe

Pwllheli

Richmond, North Yorkshire

Settle

Shaftesbury

Sheerness

Sleaford

Stow-on-the-Wold

Tenby

Thirsk

Towcester

Ulverston

Welshpool

Whitby

Workington 

 

Barclays bosses deliver hammer blow to struggling Post Offices by stopping savers from withdrawing cash at branches

By Amelia Murray, Money Mail Chief Reporter for MailOnline

Barclays drove another nail into the Post Office network’s coffin – as it prepared to ban its savers from withdrawing cash at local branches.

In yet another blow to rural and elderly customers, the high street giant yesterday confirmed that it will this week tell customers they won’t be able to take money out at their local Post Office from January.

Furious campaigners accused the bank – which last year made £3.5billion in profit before tax – of prioritising its bottom line over serving its customers.

They warned that those in rural and isolated communities, who often already have limited access to bank branches and cash machines, would be worst hit.

Barclays drove another nail into the Post Office network’s coffin – as it prepared to ban its savers from withdrawing cash at local branches (file image)

Barclays drove another nail into the Post Office network’s coffin – as it prepared to ban its savers from withdrawing cash at local branches (file image)

Experts have warned that Britain is on the brink of sleepwalking into a cashless society within the next 15 years. 

The UK has lost a third of its bank branches in the last five years, according to Which?. The consumer group estimated that Barclays has closed 481 sites during that period – 33 per cent of its network – although the bank has refused to disclose an official figure.

One in ten free cash machines also closed or started charging customers between January 2018 and May 2019.

In July this year MPs on the Treasury Select Committee called for banks to pay for Britain’s 11,500 Post Offices to act as proxy branches. 

They criticised the Government for failing to hold banks to account for leaving millions of rural customers without some basic banking services.When banks close branches they typically point customers towards local Post Offices as many offer simple cash and cheque services.

Barclays said customers will still be able to deposit cheques and cash and check balances – but will not be able to withdraw money with debit cards. Customers can currently take out up to £300 a day over the counter using their card.

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A small number of customers with a special cheque book may still be able to access cash, but those with ordinary cheque books will not, Barclays added.

Natalie Ceeney, of the Access to Cash Review, said: ‘The cash system that supports communities must be cherished, not undermined. It is for that reason that I urge Barclays to reconsider.’

Martyn James, of complaints service Resolver, added: ‘In doing this, Barclays is putting profits before its customers. Access to cash is essential to people, especially the elderly or vulnerable.’ Last year Barclays Group made £3.5billion in profit before tax. The bank’s chief executive Jes Staley earned £3.4million, down £500,000 on the previous year because his bonus was docked after he tried to unmask a whistleblower.

In July this year MPs on the Treasury Select Committee called for banks to pay for Britain's 11,500 Post Offices to act as proxy branches

In July this year MPs on the Treasury Select Committee called for banks to pay for Britain’s 11,500 Post Offices to act as proxy branches

Barclays was one of the banks hardest hit by the PPI scandal and has paid out £9.2billion since 2011.

It is expected to pay out another £360million, but could be forced to increase this if the number of genuine victims is higher than expected.

Barclays denied its decision was to do with cost-cutting and said it was investing in schemes to help its customers access their cash. Last night the bank pledged not to close any more branches in remote areas, or where it is the last bank in town, for the next two years.

It will also introduce a cashback scheme in 200 locations in January, which will allow customers in remote areas to withdraw cash from local businesses. The Post Office is expected to make an announcement on the changes this week.

The Mail is campaigning to save rural post offices and the services they offer to remote communities.

Adam Rowse, managing director of branch-based banking for Barclays, said: ‘By maintaining last-in-town or remote branches over the next two years, and working with the community, we hope to increase demand and keep these branches viable.’

A spokesman for banking trade body UK Finance said: ‘The industry is committed to ensuring access to cash remains free and widely accessible for those that continue to need it.’

Earlier this month, ATM network provider LINK launched a scheme, funded by banks and building societies, to enable remote communities to request a free cash machine.