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9 Nov 2021

Barclays to close more bank branches in 2022

The bank has already shut 63 branches this year

Barclays has announced it will close two more bank branches in early 2022.

The news comes as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed that the number of bricks-and-mortar branches of larger banks and building societies offering personal current accounts fell by 267 between April and June 2021, leaving just 5,599 left open in the UK.

However, there are many more planned closures to come, including Barclays which announced today it would close its outlets in Daventry and Towcester in February 2022, in addition to the 63 already shut this year.

Here, Which? digs into the latest figures to see the current state of cash access and acceptance in the UK.

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Barclays to shut two more branches

The Daventry branch of Barclays will shut on February 2 and the Towcester location will follow on February 8 2022.

The bank told the BBC it had decided to close these particular branches as customers were 'increasingly using alternatives to branches to do their banking'.

It revealed 123 customers bank exclusively in Daventry, with 84 just using Towcester.

Barclays last announced closures in December, with 63 branches shut in the first three months of 2021.

According to Which? analysis, Barclays is the individual bank that has reduced its network the most, with 650 branches closed - or scheduled to - by the end of 2021.

Is it getting harder to access cash?

The reduction in bank branches is a blow for people trying to access their cash for free.

While the FCA's latest figures suggest the vast majority of people in the UK are relatively nearby a cash access point, these figures for the whole of the country can hide big variations.

For instance, in rural England 77.3% of people are within 2km of a free source of cash, compared with 99.7% of people living in urban areas. Sources of cash include options like bank branches, ATMs, Post Office branches, and shops that offer cashback.

Looking solely at what the FCA terms 'bricks-and-mortar' branches from big banks and building societies that offer personal current accounts, 60.1% of the UK population currently live within 2km of a bank branch, down from 61.8%. Those within 5km of a bank branch fell from 88% to 87.5% in the previous three months.

Those in rural Wales are most likely to have to travel large distances to get to a bank branch: 7.5% of residences here are more than 16km away.

These findings fit with our survey of 2,000 people earlier this year, which found that three in five had experienced one or more issues accessing cash or a bank branch during the pandemic.

That being said, some improvements have been made. There were 60,277 places to access fee-free cash between April and June, up from 59,903 between January and March. This is partly thanks to some ATMs and branches that were shut during lockdown at the start of the year being reopened.

Small businesses support cash as a payment option

Once you have cash, you may be restricted in where you can spend it.

Which? research earlier this year found one in five people had been blocked from paying cash since lockdown rules eased.

The FCA's research into small businesses found cash use had declined by 15% since before the Covid-19 pandemic. But the use of cash hasn't disappeared completely; in fact, it's still the preferred way to pay for small-value transactions.

As a result, most small business owners felt they would lose customers if they were to remove the option to pay in cash.

Furthermore, nearly two thirds of small business owners said they were 'very happy' to accept cash currently, with almost eight in 10 saying it was 'very likely' they'd continue to accept cash over the next five years.

The reason for this is mainly to accommodate customers. Three in 10 business owners said they accept cash because they want to take what the customer wants to pay with, and 98% said they'd never turn a customer away if they needed to pay in cash.

Join the Which? Cash Friendly Pledge

Back in May, we launched the Which? Cash Friendly Pledge. It's a public commitment retailers can take, to signal to their customers that they welcome cash payments.

More than 200 businesses have already signed up, including Aldi, John Lewis and Lloyds Pharmacy. But it's not just large retailers: the Federation of Small Businesses and the Confederation of Business Industry are also supporting the pledge.

We're welcoming more sign-ups from small and independent businesses in particular, as we hope it will provide reassurance to local customers and support the recovery of high streets across the UK.

The government must act to protect cash

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, committed to protecting cash in the 2020 Budget, yet we're still waiting for the legislation.

In July 2021, the Treasury launched a consultation on how cash legislation could work, including proposals to make the FCA the lead regulator for ensuring that people can continue to withdraw cash locally if they want to.

Which? believes the FCA should be tasked with tracking levels of cash refusal to better understand the scale of the issue and, if necessary, develop solutions so that cash-dependent customers don't struggle to purchase essential products and services.