A North London neighbourhood is on the verge of being completely ‘de-banked’ after the last remaining branch announced its closure in the spring. Barclays will follow Lloyds and NatWest by shutting its Willesden Green store, leading to calls for banking hubs to grow louder.
Some residents have already raised concerns that the disabled and those with mobility issues will be ‘most badly impacted’ by the branch closures in Brent. In a letter to the Wembley Matters blog, one elderly resident talked of being scared to use cash points as they are scared of being mugged and being unable to access online banking.
Posters on neighbourhood app Nextdoor said it was ‘bad news’ for the high street and for older generations, with some calling for the banking hubs to open so customers of all banks have a physical premises to go to in the town.
One said: “Retail banking on a branch basis isn’t profitable and its death has long been predicted. But the concept of banking hubs, pooled facilities where many personal banking functions can be carried out, has been around for years and is a fact in many locations.”
The ward councillors for Willesden Green, Cllr Saqhain Choudry, Cllr Janice Long, and Cllr Tom Miller, called the latest closure ‘extremely disappointing’ and are looking to meet with Barclays to fight the decision.
They told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “We made our concerns with the banks expressly clear — particularly on the lack of consultation with residents and councillors — and to have been hit with yet another announcement is an insult to our local community. We remain
especially concerned about those individuals and small businesses who rely so heavily on in-person banking services.”
They added: “The lack of urgency from the Government to assist in transitioning to a more accessible and fair banking system in the modern world is stark. Local communities are left to navigate these closures with little direction or support.”
Charity Age UK claims that branch closures and the rise of digital banking has put the many older people who rely on these services ‘at risk of being unable to manage their own money’ and could lead to those affected being ‘cut adrift from society’.
A statement by Barclays said: “Back when we opened this branch, visiting us in person was one of the only ways to do your banking. Now, as there are lots of ways to manage your money without even leaving your home, we’re seeing many customers choosing to bank using our app, and Online or Telephone Banking. This has had a big impact on the number of customers coming in to see us.”
It added: “When deciding whether to close this branch, we looked carefully at how it’s been used and how customers are banking in other ways. We’ll be working with the local community to understand the impact of closing this branch.”
In a joint letter to NatWest and Lloyds following the announcement of their closures, Cllr Choudry, Cllr Long, and Cllr Miller, called for a ‘banking hub’ to open so customers of all banks have a physical premises to go in the town. At the time, the councillors said: “[…] Willesden Green has now fallen victim to the surge of branch closures that is blighting local small businesses, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups.”
They added: “We therefore will be submitting a formal request to LINK to undertake a review of Willesden Green in light of these branch closures, asking that they assess the viability of opening a banking hub to guarantee that local residents and independent businesses still have access to these essential services.”