Older Brits are at risk of living in “banking deserts”, a charity warned today as branches continue to close across the UK. Virgin Money announced that 39 of its locations will be closed.
The major bank announced that it will close nearly a third of its branches due to changing demand as fewer and fewer people go to banks and use online services.
At the affected locations – including eight branches in London – the number of customer transactions has fallen by an average of 43 percent since the outbreak of the pandemic.
But campaign group Age UK today issued a warning to banks to ensure those who “urgently need physical banking services can continue to access them”.
And union Unite said the Newcastle-based company’s move to close so many branches will “harm some of the most vulnerable, disabled and digitally excluded customers”. The union added that more than 6,000 bank branches have been closed since 2015.
Virgin Money said it decided to close branches based on factors such as footfall, transaction volume and the number of potentially vulnerable customers nearby.
Virgin Money’s first high street bank on Northumberland Street in Newcastle seen in 2012
The bank, which will still have 91 branches in the UK after the closures are complete, said each branch was closing less than half a mile from the nearest post office.
List of 39 Virgin Money store closures
Virgin Money has announced it will close 39 of its UK branches. Here is the list:
- Golders Green
- hay market
REST OF THE UNITED KINGDOM (31)
- Fort William
- Gosforth Center
- Milton Keynes
- Newton Stewart
- St Albans
But Caroline Abrahams, head of Age UK charity, told MailOnline today: “The scale of mass killings in bank branches seems only to get worse in recent years.”
“The spate of closures is a devastating blow to the millions of elderly who depend on branches, particularly those who are not online or unfamiliar with mobile banking.”
“This blow is compounded when the closures are coupled with poor local public transportation, a lack of ATMs, substandard internet service and mobile blackspots, making it extremely difficult for customers to get their money.”
She hailed the new shared banking hubs, which are high street areas that can be used by customers of multiple banks, as “a significant step in the right direction.”
Seven of the locations are now open: in Acton, West London; Brixham, Devon; Cambuslang, Lanarkshire; Carnoustie, Angus; Cottingham, East Yorkshire; Rocheford, Essex; and Troon, South Ayrshire – with 61 more planned across the UK in the coming year.
But Ms Abrahams said: “With so many branches disappearing, banks need to significantly increase the pace of expansion and ensure that elderly people are not left in the banking desert and that those in dire need of physical banking services can continue to access them.”
“Banks have a clear responsibility to do everything possible to ensure the provision of essential banking services for years to come.” Bank branches are a lifeline for many older people, but their interests appear to be losing the appeal of higher profits.”
Union bosses said Virgin Money workers were “devastated” by the closure announcement as 255 workers could be laid off.
Unite announced that the “terrible news” had “sent shockwaves through to the Virgin Money UK workforce” who were “understandably devastated”.
Caroline Abrahams, head of charity Age UK, told MailOnline that “the scale of the number of bank branches seems only to get worse in recent years”.
Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “This announcement of the closure of 39 key bank branches has sent shockwaves through to the Virgin Money UK workforce.”
“Today, 260 skilled and experienced employees learned they are at risk of losing their livelihoods at a time of great economic uncertainty for all workers.”
“As the financial services sector makes staggering profits, it needs to start taking its responsibilities to customers and communities more seriously.”
Virgin Money said it will write to affected customers at least 12 weeks before the branches close and put up posters about the move.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the news “sent shockwaves” through the workforce.
But Ms Graham added: “Access to a bank and cash is a basic need for all of our local high streets. To simply turn your back on consumers who are making the banks astronomical profits is an utter shame.”
“Unite is working hard across all locations to support its members as they process the impact of this terrible news.”
Virgin Money branches to be closed include those in Belfast, Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Derby, Exeter and Liverpool.
Also on the list of closures are branches in Milton Keynes, Norwich, Oxford, Reading, Southampton, Swindon and Wolverhampton.
The closures in London are those in Bromley, Croydon, Enfield, Golders Green, Harrow, Haymarket, Kingston and Kensington.
In addition, locations in smaller towns such as Kendal in Cumbria, Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway, Hexham in Northumberland and Turriff in Aberdeenshire will be closed.
And Unite national officer Caren Evans said: “Virgin Money UK staff are understandably devastated.” The bank will close 39 locations, leaving just 91 Virgin Money branches.
“Unite has urged the bank to reconsider these disastrous plans to withdraw banking services from communities that rely heavily on skilled and experienced bank employees.”
“This decision to withdraw from these locations will hurt some of the most vulnerable, disabled and digitally excluded customers.”
Sarah Wilkinson, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Money, said: “The decision to close a store is never taken lightly.”
“But as our customers continue to change the way they choose to bank with us, conducting fewer in-store transactions and using the convenience of digital banking, we need to respond to this evolving demand.”
“For our colleagues, we will use all options to keep as many as possible in alternative roles and have already had great success moving store colleagues into other roles in client operations as their skills are highly transferrable.”