The Santander bank closure in Wisbech could signal long term impact on local firms and shoppers
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Business leaders fear the closure of the Wisbech branch of Santander is a sign that if banks continue to close ‘at the rate of knots’ it could damage Cambridgeshire high streets ‘beyond repair.’
They say that while many companies and individuals do online banking there is still much that cannot be done via a computer.
Malcolm Lyons, area leader for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Cambridgeshire, said: “When a community loses a bank branch, that can have a number of impacts on local small firms.
“Lost access to vital cash deposit and withdrawal facilities, reduced access to finance and a drop in shopper footfall.
“Of course habits are changing - more than 90 per cent of our members bank online - but lenders should do more to help consumers and small business owners transition to new banking methods.
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“There are still actions that we as small business owners have to sign-off in a branch, in-person. That includes when we’re trying to switch to more competitive account providers.
“Equally, we need somewhere to turn when online services fail.
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“Post Offices can serve as an alternative, but services vary across locations.
“There’s an element of the rich getting richer when it comes to financial inclusion. Areas that are well-served for bank branches often end up with the best-equipped Post Offices.
“We need to move to a situation where we have branches that are viable for banks and customers alike.
“These are likely to increasingly encompass the provision of office spaces, meeting rooms, wifi lounges and workshops for local small business owners.
“If branches keep closing at a rate of knots there could well be many high streets and town centres in Cambridgeshire that end up damaged beyond repair.”
The Market Place branch in Wisbech will close on May 2. It is one of 140 Santander branches closing nationally.
Susan Allen, head of retail and business banking, said: “The way our customers are choosing to bank with us has changed dramatically in recent years.
“More and more customers are using online and mobile channels. As a result, we have had to take some very difficult decisions over our less visited branches.
“We will support customers of closing branches to find alternative ways to bank with us that best suit their individual needs.”
Santander will keep a nationwide network of 614 branches and say account holders can use Post Office branches.