Bank closures leave poorest vulnerable

TSB bank in Ayr Road Newton Mearns.
TSB bank in Ayr Road Newton Mearns.

A spate of bank branch closures across Glasgow this year will leave thousands vulnerable to predatory loan sharks and payday lenders, according to Pollok Credit Union (PCU).

The union claims that in 2017 alone, 21 high street bank branches across the city will close, leaving those without access to mobile or online banking without access to finance.

The closures include Bank of Scotland branches in Sauchiehall Street and Gordon Street; Royal Bank of Scotland branches in Alexandra Parade, Anniesland Cross, Burnside, Crosshill, Govan, Bishopbriggs, Blantyre and Newton Mearns; Clydesdale branches in Aikenhead Road, Bath Street, Bearsden, Cambuslang, East Kilbride, Charing Cross and Giffnock; and TSB branches in Braehead, Charing Cross, Maryhill and Cambuslang.

PCU, which boasts the largest credit union branch network in Scotland, has warned that high streets devoid of face to face finance options will hit Glasgow’s poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

Jim Garrity, operations director at PCU, said: “While high street banks are shutting up shop because many customers are embracing digital services, many people still want or need face-to-face interaction.

“Staff in our branches are already seeing an increase in membership this year as these branch closures take hold.

“With so many closures already confirmed for later in the year, we expect to see even greater demand for face-to-face financial advice and services.”

He continued: “Many people simply don’t have access to online or mobile banking, or need financial products and services explained in a clear and personal way.

“Many mainstream banks are neglecting the accessibility requirements of their customers.

“While banks may cut and run, we maintain our unwavering commitment to keeping and expanding our branch network across the city open to provide a lifeline service for the community.

“The departure from banking in person is creating a vacuum, particularly in our poorest communities, where many people are being left behind to potentially fall into the hands of loan sharks.”

“Providing access to finance and fair lending terms can help anybody, but especially those who are vulnerable, employed on low incomes, or in receipt of benefits.

“It is crucial that these people do not fall victim to the doorstep and payday lenders that plague our communities.

“Our number one priority is serving communities across the G postcode through our branch network.

“We would encourage anyone worried about the closure of their local branch to consider joining a credit union to save or borrow.”

Established in 1993, and having loaned over £40 million since, Pollok Credit Union is independent and continues to run for the benefit of its members.