To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of the Access to Banking Protocol on preventing bank and building society branch closures.
1 March 2021
The Treasury does not make assessments of the bank and building society branch network. In 2018, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) undertook an analysis of branch closures as part of its Strategic Review of Retail Banking Business Models. This analysis can be found in Annex 1 of the final report.
The decision to close a branch is a commercial issue for banks and building societies and the Government does not intervene in these decisions. However, the Government does believe it is important the impact on communities is understood, considered and mitigated where possible. That is why the Government continues to be very supportive of the Access to Banking Standard (formerly the Access to Banking Protocol) which commits firms to ensure customers are well informed about branch closures, the bank’s reasons for closure and options for continued access to banking services. These include the Post Office, which allows 95% of business and 99% of personal banking customers to carry out their everyday banking at 11,500 Post Office branches across the UK.
In September 2020, the FCA published guidance setting out its expectation of firms when they are deciding to reduce their physical branches or the number of free-to-use ATMs. Firms are expected to carefully consider the impact of a planned closure on their customers’ everyday banking and cash access needs, and other relevant branch services and consider possible alternative access arrangements.