A long line has formed in front of the Cambuslang Bank Hub, winding its way through the main street. Despite its length, there are more smiles than frowns among those standing in line.
Proof, at least to my unscientific mind, that branch-sharing, a new form of banking being tried in the city, could revitalize communities across the country – salvation for those who don’t have a bank. I’m in Cambuslang on a nice, hot early summer day to visit the ‘Pilot’ community branch. Six miles southeast of Glasgow in South Lanarkshire, this 30,000-resident city offers a tantalizing glimpse into the future.
And if the government stays true to a recent pledge, communities at risk with a $ 4.8 billion “leveling fund”
Lifeline: Cambuslang’s shared hub caters to high street bank customers
This new world of banking is welcomed by those who wait patiently in line at Cambuslang as the locals fully understand the implications for a community of bank and ATM closings – hundreds a month now -.
Retired NHS cleaner Elaine Redford is there to withdraw cash as she prefers to use bills and coins to help with budgeting rather than relying on debit or credit cards.
The 72-year-old says: “This hub is the best thing that has happened to Cambuslang in years. It provides a financial lifeline to a community struggling to survive. ‘
Cambuslang was once an industrial power station. It has a proud history in coal mining and steelmaking and until recently has done its part in keeping UK homes clean – with vacuum cleaners made in a Hoover factory. But unfortunately the company that once employed 5,600 people closed 16 years ago. The last mines in the area were closed decades earlier. It is a community that is struggling to survive.
And, as so often, all banks left the city in their greatest need. The first to get out five years ago was the Royal Bank of Scotland. Clydesdale followed a year later. Finally, the last bank in the city – a TSB branch – closed its doors for the last time in 2018. Not only were the branches closed, but the free ATMs were also removed.
Now the community is putting its hopes for all of their banking needs on this abandoned butcher shop – which reopened as a joint banking center in April.
It is one of two such hubs being tested in the UK as part of a Community Access to Cash program that runs until September – funded by a £ 60,000 grant from the major high street banks. The other is in Rochford, Essex. The hub has a post office counter where people can do all of their basic banking, such as depositing or withdrawing cash, or cashing a check.
After waiting patiently in the queue and following a one-in-one-out Covid rule, where only four people are inside at the same time, I am greeted cheerfully at the hub’s counter by Jan and Paul Culverwell.
“Ignore the sign,” says Paul, pointing to a poster with five bank names on it. ‘We accept all high street bank customers every day. The sign is only intended to show the days on which these banks send employees to the hub – employees with whom customers can chat in a separate meeting room. ”
The sign indicates that a representative from the Royal Bank of Scotland, part of the NatWest Group, will be present on Monday to answer any questions from customers. It is Santander’s turn on Tuesday. A representative from Virgin Money arrives on Wednesday (Clydesdale as before). On Thursday it will be the turn of the Bank of Scotland, which is part of the Lloyds Banking Group. And Friday is the day of the TSB.
As a First Direct customer, he says, I can still use the hub to withdraw or deposit cash. I can also get a current bank balance and if I had a business account I could collect income. The same applies to Barclays and HSBC customers.
Like Elaine, retired elementary school teacher Fiona Walker is a fan of the new banking center.
“I was just using the branch to drop off a check,” she says, “but it’s also a great place to withdraw or deposit money. There is no substitute for the personal touch – being operated by a person, not by a computer. ”The friendly atmosphere of the hub and the open counter – albeit with the obligatory Covid screen – are inviting.
The paintwork, with its almost black hue, looks more like a funeral home than a bank. But that’s a minor point of criticism. The hub is seen as a vitalizing force and not only local residents feel that. The city’s shops have also welcomed the opening. Helen Buchanan, beautician at the Classy Chicks Salon a few doors down, says, “We have banking with the Royal Bank of Scotland so we are now using the hub to fund our earnings.
‘The joint bank has also increased customer frequency in the area and we are thus gaining more customers.’ A major driving force behind the new hub is the Cambuslang Community Council, an independent action group for volunteers.
Its chairman, John Bachtler, says: “The hub is proving to be a great success. The next step is to get the government and banks behind the idea. There is no doubt that having a banking presence on the high street will give vulnerable communities a real boost. It helps local businesses and provides a service for those who need cash and cannot walk long distances to the nearest bank. The government compensation fund would be wisely used if it supported shared banking hubs. ‘
Practical: Toby Walne checks his balance in the shared hub and on the left in a busy branch in the seventies
The community cash access system is headed by Natalie Ceeney, former director of the Financial Ombudsman Service and author of an important report on the need to store cash in the shopping streets. She said: “Eight million people in the UK rely on cash for their daily needs. Shared banking hubs with access to cash are vital for communities. ‘
Ceeney also chairs a separate Access to Cash Action Group that the major high street banks have joined to find solutions to the problem of access to cash. Critics say banks are using the action group as a pretext for further branch closings, but Ceeney hopes that low-cost ideas like shared banking hubs could provide a practical solution.
She says, “Common banking hubs will save banks money in the long run, especially if laws are put in place that mandate nationwide access to cash.”
Last month, Treasury Secretary of Commerce, John Glen, said the cash law consultation would begin this summer – although proposals may not be announced until the fall. In a campaign starting tomorrow, the Post will call on the government to bring this bill forward to ensure that access to cash becomes a legal claim.
The government has pledged that it is committed to leveling communities across the UK to support economic growth. The £ 4.8 billion “leveling fund” was announced in March.
In addition, a further UK Community Renewal Fund for GBP 220 million and a Community Ownership Fund for GBP 150 million will be launched. For more information about these grants and how communities can apply for them, visit gov.uk and fill in the names of the funds.
As part of community access to cash, ATMs were installed in various locations including a military base in Lulworth, Dorset, and a post office in Hay-on-Wye, Powys. New ways of providing cashback are also being tried out.
There is no doubt that access to cash on the main drag is increasingly jeopardized by a combination of bank branch closings – currently an average of 55 per month – and the removal of free ATMs, 8,700 of which have been canceled in the past 3 years.
But Cambuslang’s bustling shared banking center suggests this new form of high street banking might be the way to go. An important cog in the high street renaissance.
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