EXCLUSIVE Cashing out: market town bracing for bank's exit
By Simon Hacker | 21st August 2023
The closure of a Cotswold bank will leave the town with no easy access to cash – and businesses have told Punchline-Gloucester.com that the move is a "frustrating" step for local business.
Lloyds Bank plc announced closure of local branches, including Wotton-under-Edge, in March and the absence of the facility in the town's Long Street from August 23 (Wednesday) marks the end of 126 continuous years of business.
But with high street banks being told last week that they must ensure customers can find access to cash within three miles of their local communities, the move has left residents in the town bewildered and angry.
The Treasury said that the "vast majority" of people in the UK live within one mile of cash withdrawal facilities in urban areas and three miles in rural settings, its criteria including cash withdrawals through machines and shop that include free cashback. It added that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) would make sure banks and building societies were "keeping up to these standards - and have the power to fine them if they do not".
As Wotton-under-Edge braces for the bank's exit this week, resident Tina Le Coyte asked on social media whether the government's statement last week could force Lloyds to rethink removal of the facility.
She said: "We should write to our MP and to Lloyds bank BEFORE THEY CLOSE IN AUGUST! Bring this new legislation to their attention and asking them to retain access via a cashpoint."
However, Hazel Wright pointed out that the FCA statement was only guidance and that with planning permission already granted, it was "sadly too late".
After swathes of closures of local banks in recent years, and a trend towards digital payment that has been accelerated by the Pandemic, ministers have said they are looking to banks to help protect vulnerable and elderly customers by maintaining present levels of cash access.
Speaking for Good Food Fruit and Veg, next door to Lloyds, co-owner Emma Hull said a lack of cash may not affect many customers given the new norm of payment via cards and phones.
But Mrs Hull added: "Internet reception and power suplies have to be fault-free for the system to work; we have experienced issues where you simply can't process through a digital transaction, so cash availability remains really important."
And while the Cotswold Book Room, directly opposite the bank, said that as much as 30% of its takings are still in cash, the true impact of the bank's exit would not perhaps be anticipated by most shoppers.
Co-owner Cath York said: "It's really frustrating and such a shame to see the bank go. It comes at a time when trade is good, the high street is busy here and shops are putting in a hard effort to improve activity. If business were dead, we'd understand, but it isn't and shops still very much need to cash up. They will now have to go to the town's Co-Op and do that daily task through the embedded Post Office, which can get very busy and consequently ties up staff. Christmas time, in particular, will be a very tricky time for shops cashing up."
Punchline-Gloucester.com says: This is top-town corporate action at its worst, with a lack of thought for the army of small businesses who bear the brunt. Wotton's loss of Lloyds' cashpoint leaves only two free-access cash facilities, in the town's Co-Operative store and the fuel station on Bear Street. Both are only accessible during opening hours. For more news on the loss of our local banks, don't miss Laura Enfield's report on another closure today in Cirencester .
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