A banking hub is set to open in Devon along with 12 other branches around the UK. It comes after many areas have seen the last of their banking branches close.
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Mary Stenson www.devonlive.com
Axminster will see the opening of a brand new ‘Bank Hub’ which will serve customers of all banks. The hubs being opened in a number of locations are the Post Office’s answer to the widespread closure of banks across the country and will allow customers to access their accounts, deposit cash and checks and withdraw money.
John Howells, chief executive of Link – which is the biggest interbank network in the UK – said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “”Cash is disappearing at a frightening rate, and so are ATMs and branches and it is not acceptable to leave communities without access to cash
“There is real investment and effort going in by the banks now…But now that pace needs to be picked up”.
Representatives from each of the major banks will visit the Bank Hubs once a week to deal with more complex customer enquiries.
The Anxminster branch will be joined by locations in Brechin in Angus, Forres in Moray, Carluke in Lanarkshire, Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway, Axminster in Devon, Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire, Lutterworth in Leicestershire, Royal Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, Cheadle in Staffordshire, Belper in Derbyshire, Maryport in Cumbria, Hornsea in Yorkshire and in Kilkeel in Northern Ireland.
After visiting a prototype shared banking hub in Rochford, Essex, the BBC was told the initiative had been “a lifeline” after the town’s last branch closed.
Natalie Ceeney, who chairs the Cash Action Group which is overseeing the project, said: “Cash still matters hugely to millions of people across the UK and with the cost-of-living crisis biting, more and more people are turning to cash as a way of budgeting effectively. Banking Hubs are an important part of the solution.”
However, it has been noted that there could be a delay in the branch’s opening. Link – the organisation which currently oversees the UK’s ATM network – assesses the need for a Bank Hub each time a core banking service closes. This assessment looks at the community’s cash needs, the ease of travel to the nearest alternative service and the demographics of local residents.
Despite this work, premises for the hubs need to be found, at which changes often need to be made to ensure accessibility and security. There has been criticism as services have not yet started in previously-announced locations other than Rochford and Cambuslang, in Scotland.
Ron Delnevo, a business consultant with extensive experience in the ATM industry, said: “the promised hubs don’t even scratch the surface in terms of satisfying the banking needs of the UK”.
Mark Aldred, from banking technology company Auriga, said: “As we go into a cost of living crisis that’s hitting households and businesses alike, these shared hubs are good on paper but could go further and faster.”
A spokesperson for the Financial Conduct Authority said: “Firms need to pick up the pace and deliver more banking hubs. We expect this to be done as a priority.
“Banks and building societies must treat their customers fairly and provide alternatives to branches where needed. Banking hubs are one of a range of tools they can use to ensure communities have easy access to bank services and cash.”
Other location will see the installation of withdrawal and deposit machines in libraries and community centres. This is to include Ilfracombe in North Devon, alongside Swanley and Faversham, both in Kent, Holywood in County Down, Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, Atherstone in Warwickshire, Billericay and Dunmow, both in Essex, Bourne in Lincolnshire, Holyhead on Anglesey, Swanage in Dorset, and Wallingford in Oxfordshire.