Research shows extra distance some Wales residents must travel to access banking services

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RESIDENTS in a number of areas of Wales had to travel more than 21km further to access banking services in 2018 as compared to a decade earlier, according to University of South Wales (USW) research.

An article published by Senedd Research - carried out under its Academic Fellowship Scheme by USW Associate Professor Mitch Langford of the GIS Research Unit - looks at how digital mapping technologies can lead to a better understanding of the geographical provision of retail banking.

The study followed an inquiry into access to banking by the Senedd’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills (EIS) Committee, which looked at the declining provision of banks, building societies, and ATMs.

The Committee called for the Welsh Government to protect and improve access to cash and properly map the gaps in banking services overall, including access to banks, Post Offices, free-to-use ATMs and connectivity for digital banking.

The research that followed found that the travel distance required to reach the nearest bank or building society branch increased from an average of 2.8km in 2008 to 3.8km a decade later. There was considerable geographical variation in fortunes, with some people being a little nearer to services in 2018, whilst those living in many other areas having to travel a larger distance. 

“In 2008 there were 791 bank and building society branches in Wales serving an adult population of 2,466,956, which is an average of 3.2 branches per 10,000 residents,” the report said.

“By 2018 branch closures had reduced the number of sites to 532, and this nationwide ratio fell to 2.4 branches per 10,000 residents.”

The report also said that the Coronavirus pandemic may have an impact on future access to banking services.

“The full impacts of the pandemic on future branch provision, on societal shifts in the way financial dealings are conducted, or on the uptake of digital banking and cashless transactions, have all yet to manifest themselves,” the report said, adding: “The information gathered and presented in this research will act as a valuable benchmark against which to evaluate such issues of concern in the future.”

The full report can be read at Mapping access to banking services.