Britain’s small high street businesses will see revenues and footfall hit from a fresh wave of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) branch closures, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
This week, RBS added an extra 162 in-store branches across England and Wales to its planned closure list. The bank said 792 jobs would be lost, with staff offered voluntary redundancy.
The latest RBS closures follow a steady loss of in-store bank branches across UK high streets.
In March 2017, RBS announced plans to shut the doors of 158 bank branches throughout the UK, citing the closures as a response to shifts in the way people wanted to interact with their bank.
The following December, the part-taxpayer owned bank confirmed it would axe 62 RBS and 197 NatWest branches – a quarter of its entire network. Again, the bank’s chief executive, Ross McEwan pointed to the rise of mobile banking in pushing RBS to an online-first strategy.
The latest announcement arrived shortly after RBS’ plans for a new challenger bank, under the Williams & Glyn name, were shelved.
Commenting on the closures, FSB chairman, Mike Cherry, said the failed sale of Williams & Glynn was being used “as an excuse to further decimate the UK’s bank branch network”.
“This fresh round of closures will hurt high streets all over the country at a time when thousands of small firms are already struggling,” Cherry added.
“When a bank branch goes it means less footfall, less cash in the local economy and less revenue for local small firms as a result.”
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With small business owners potentially losing access to banks for cash deposits, Cherry explained that holding excessive amounts at one time could put them at risk.
“If small firms can’t easily deposit takings it makes them targets for theft,” he said.
“Many small business owners have built up relationships with branch personnel that go back years – that’s not something that can be replaced by an app.
“The £800m that RBS has put up to avoid the sale of Williams & Glyn needs to be placed in the hands of those that will really make a difference. It was frustrating to see the £45m of dedicated funding for free branch access removed from the revised RBS package.”
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