A town has been left short-changed because it now has more restaurants in the Michelin Guide than bank branches. In 2019, there were seven banks in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, including NatWest, Barclays, Lloyds, Halifax, and Santander.
Now there is just HSBC and Nationwide. Soon there will just be one banking service as HSBC is to leave in August. That leaves one lender serving over 12,000 residents.
The only other banking services in the town will be in-person advice with Barclays at Henley Baptist Church, the Post Office and cash machines for balance enquiries and cash withdrawals. Yet the historic 13th-century town has many independent shops and three award-winning eateries.
Council chiefs have launched a campaign calling for a banking hub to be set up for customers to have personal appointments.
Politicians and campaigners are concerned about the impact on the elderly and vulnerable, who may be less likely to use online services or do not have a car.
Councillor Sarah Miller told the Daily Express: “I’ve spoken to many in the town, old and young, many with businesses, many who only deal with just cash, which is still a very important payment method. Making people travel to their banks increases traffic and causes pollution.
“Elderly folks are feeling lost.
“They have banked with the same bank for over 50/60 years, and now it has gone. They are very worried if they move to Nationwide that too may close. There is so much uncertainty.”
But Nationwide in Henley says it “remains committed” to its branch.
The shortage of bricks-and-mortar banks and the lack of cash machines – there are now just three – is a big problem for locals.
Sue Calder, 62, has banked with Santander for most of her life and was left “distressed” when the Henley branch closed back in 2019.
She said: “I have to get the bus into Reading, which is about eight miles, as I don’t drive. We need our banks.” Nigel Grundy, 83, said: “I visit the HSBC weekly and it will be a terrible nuisance when it closes in August.
“I’m older and I don’t want to have to travel to the next town.
“I do a lot of charity work and always have loose change to pay in, so I don’t know what I’ll do – it’s very sad.” According to Which? 5,469 branches have disappeared from high streets since January 2015.
The Daily Express is crusading to save Britain’s High Street banks after experts recently warned all branches will be shut within four years.