Swindon & Wiltshire Business News


Small rural businesses will be hit hard by bank closures – FSB

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Natwest in a festive Marlborough High StreetNatwest in a festive Marlborough High StreetSmall firms in tourist towns and rural areas will be hit hard by the latest tranche of bank closures, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

Concerns were raised as Natwest announced it was closing four branches in Swindon and Wiltshire.

West Swindon, Marlborough, Melksham and Wootton Bassett will be among 197 branches UK-wide to close their doors next year, at a cost of 680 jobs.

The bank's parent company, RBS, said in a statement: "We realise this is difficult news for our colleagues and we are doing everything we can to support those affected. We will ensure compulsory redundancies are kept to an absolute minimum."

Natwest is the third of the high street banks to announce branch closures this year.

Wiltshire communities including Corsham, Highworth, Mere, Pewsey, and Tidworth have already lost their branches of Lloyds.

And branches of HSBC have closed at Marlborough and Warminster.

The FSB's national chairman, Mike Cherry, said: "Bank branches are still vital to local economies up and down the country. Many local business communities will be disappointed to hear they are losing their bank branch.

“Almost all of our members are using online banking. However, small firms still hugely value the in-person support they receive at branches, particularly when it comes to completing complex transactions and making big financial decisions.

"For many, these are relationships that have built up over years.

“In areas of the country still blighted by poor broadband, accessing online banking is a challenge.

"What’s critical is that small business owners that rely on bank branches are provided with suitable alternatives well before closures happen.

"What we can’t have is banks shutting branches on a whim, especially at a time when plans are afoot that may diminish our cash machine network in future.

“Access to cash is a big issue here. Cash is still critical to trade in thousands of our towns and villages, especially in tourist hotspots and rural areas.

"More and more small firms are accepting card payments but that comes with costs they’re forced to absorb. Equally, many have customers that only deal in cash.”