24 banks shut across Horsham and Arundel & South Downs since 2015

The shocking decline in bank branches across Horsham District and the surrounding area has been highlighted by new analysis.

Consumer champion Which? compared the number of banks open now, according to figures up to the end of April, with the number seven years ago.

It found that six branches have been shuttered in Horsham since the start of 2015, leaving eight remaining.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Separate figures from LINK, a cash machine network, show there has also been a decline in the number of free-to-use ATMs across the UK in recent years.

The remains of a sign over a former branch of Barclays Bank, now closed

Their data shows that between the start of 2018 and early March this year, the number of ATMs in Horsham dropped from 70 to 57.

In the Arundel and South Downs constituency, which covers the southern part of the district including Steyning, Storrington and Pulborough, almost every bank has closed since 2015.

The figures show 19 have shut, leaving just one. ATMs are also down from 46 to 31.

Mid Sussex has lost six banks during the same period, leaving 17 in the area. Its ATMs dropped from 87 to 70.

And Crawley lost a third of its bank branches, with five shuttered in the past seven years, leaving ten in the area. Its ATMs dropped from 181 to 117.

The increasing use of online banking and contactless payments have led to concerns some will be left behind, or unable to access key services.

Which? chief executive, Anabel Hoult, said: “While the pandemic has accelerated the move to digital payments for many consumers, many are not yet ready to make that switch and require protection from an avalanche of ATM and bank branch closures that have left the UK’s cash system at risk of collapse.”

A bill to protect access to cash was announced as part of the Queen’s Speech in May.

The Treasury says the new legislation will ensure “continued access to withdrawal and deposit facilities across the UK”.

Economic secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said: “We know that access to cash is still vital for many people, especially those in vulnerable groups.

“We promised we would protect it, and through this bill we are delivering on that promise.”

Full details on what will be included are yet to be published.

Which? welcomed the bill but said it “must ensure that clear requirements are placed on industry to meet communities’ need for cash”.

Its data found that nearly half (48%) of bank branches across the UK have closed since the start of 2015, and seven constituencies have seen every one of their bank branches closed in recent years.

And LINK says that over 13,500 free-to-use ATMs have been cut from the UK’s network – a quarter of the 54,500 in operation at the start of 2018.

Recent research by the Royal Society of Arts estimates 10 million people in the UK would struggle in a cashless society.

The research suggests the elderly and those in areas with poor mobile or broadband connectivity have suffered most in the move to digital banking.

RSA researcher Mark Hall said: “For millions of people, their relationship with cash is critical to the way they manage their weekly budget.

“It’s vital that the dash to digital doesn’t disenfranchise anyone, especially with the cost-of-living crisis putting such significant strain on family finances right now.”

Data compiled by Will Grimond

READ MORE: