Swanage to pilot scheme to improve access to cash after bank closures

An action group made up of financial institutions and consumer groups has visited Swanage to work out a plan to ensure the town still has a guaranteed supply of cash, despite bank closures and the reduction in the number of cashpoints.

After the Swanage branch of Lloyds Bank closed its doors for the final time in September 2022, the Access to Cash Action Group (CAG) assessed the needs of the town and identified it to be one of just a dozen towns in the UK suitable for a pilot scheme to improve banking services.

Lloyds bank in High Street closed down

Lloyds Bank brach in DSwanage closed its doors in September 2022, sparking fears about the town’s access to cash services

Swanage among 12 towns chosen for pilot scheme

Earlier branch closures by Barclays, HSBC and Nat West have left only the Post Office and the Nationwide Building Society as places to conduct face to face financial transactions.

Following the visit in early October 2022, CAG said it will be looking at a whole raft of different options to improve access to cash in the town as well as improving banking services for small businesses, and offering training to residents on the best ways to bank online.

Cash machine closed at Llloyds Bank

Another source of cash is lost as Lloyds Bank closes and boards up its cashpoint machine in the High Street

Cash at the Till is one option being considered

Some of the ideas under consideration, or which have already been trialled for other towns, include:

  • Cashback without a purchase, also known as Cash at the Till, where high street shops receive a small fee for offering cashback up to £50
  • Cashback with a purchase, where retailers offer a selection of products costing 1p which allow for cashback transactions
  • An app-based click and collect cash service where people wanting cash are matched with businesses which have cash to offer
  • An app or card which collects small change from purchases for customers, meaning that shops are not so reliant on needing coins
  • Automated deposit machines so that small businesses can bank cash without having to queue
  • A kiosk in a local supermarket where shoppers and businesses have access to their bank accounts in a secure location
  • A greater number of free to use ATMs, paying attention to security, access and lighting to make them more accessible
  • Support for residents to get online and bank digitally, at the same time as being more aware of online scams

It is also possible that, after discussion with small businesses, consumer groups and community groups in Swanage, entirely new ideas may be trialled to best serve the town’s needs.

Institute Road

Businesses in tourist towns like Swanage continue to deal in plenty of cash transactions

“The aim is to improve business banking services”

Link, the UK’s largest cash machine network and the main facilitator of free-to-use cash withdrawals is park of CAG.

Head of financial inclusion for Link, Nick Quinn said:

“In September 2022, the Access to Cash Action Group, set up by banks and building societies, announced new services would be implemented in several locations across the UK.

“This included 13 banking hubs, and 12 locations where the CAG would run a pilot to improve business banking services, based on analysis by Link and criteria set by the banks and building societies.

“Swanage was one of the 12 locations where the aim is to improve business banking services, and the CAG is now working to deliver the pilot.

“It is still to be decided what is most needed in Swanage, and the CAG will work with the local community and businesses to understand their needs before deciding upon a solution.”

Swanage Post Office will open on Sundays in the run-up to Christmas

Swanage Post Office is now a priority case for an ATM cashpoint

Key aim to improve Post Office banking

It is likely that Link’s key aim in Swanage will be to improve the ability of local businesses to deposit cash in conjunction with the Post Office.

Swanage was rejected for a banking hub as the town still has one financial centre which offers current accounts – the Nationwide Building Society, which has promised there are no immediate plans to close any existing branch.

However, the Nationwide does not offer business current accounts, so the main Post Office in town, under postmaster Liam Searle, is hoping to become a banking hub for local businesses from its new premises in Institute Road with two secure counters.

Swanage Post Office has just been made a priority case for having an ATM cash machine installed and will also start opening seven days a week in the run-up to Christmas to help locals access their cash for shopping and for business.

Postmaster Liam Searle said that there had already been a sizable number of Lloyds Bank customers now using the Post Office for their business banking.

Postmaster Liam Searle at the new Swanage Post Office

Postmaster Liam Searle will open the counters seven days a week until Christmas

Post Office to open every Sunday up until Christmas

Liam Searle said:

“While we are not a bank, we can offer most of the services that banks do; business and personal cash deposits, cash withdrawals, cheque deposits, a credit card – the only thing we can’t do are face to face meetings.

“We are now on a priority list for an ATM to be installed, after six months of repeatedly requesting one, although in the meantime customers can still request cash withdrawals in branch as long as the Post Office counters are open.

“But to make things easier for our customers and to ease queues during the week, we are now going to open the Post Office as well as the retail shop every Sunday from 10am to 4pm until Christmas.

“If it works well, then we will make Sunday opening a regular feature every year through the summer holidays and in November and December.

“Since the move to Institute Road we have been able to change our business model for the better, and we are determined to be at the centre of services in Swanage.”

Caroline Finch
Caroline Finch

Councillor Caroline Finch is concerned about the access to cash in Swanage

The importance of cash to Swanage

Chair of Swanage Chamber of Trade and town councillor Caroline Finch welcomed the visit from CAG officials. She said:

“The reason that the Chamber of Trade is behind any scheme to improve cash access for Swanage is the importance of cash, whether that’s for tourism businesses who need to take it in summer or older residents who are more comfortable with cash than with contactless payments.

“From a business point of view, Swanage traders need somewhere to be able to bank cash locally rather than go to the time and expense of travelling 20 miles to the nearest bank still open.

“When Lloyds was the last bank standing in Swanage, I felt that they had a duty of care to personal and business customers, at the very least to offer an alternative rather than just to quietly leave town.

“That’s why I am trying to alleviate some of the problems they created and help customers who can’t cope with online or phone banking either through age or because of poor internet access.”

Christmas lights in Station Road 2020

One in 10 wants to use cash as a way to help them budget this Christmas

One family in 10 will use cash to budget

A recently published survey by Link about cash usage in the UK has shown that almost one family in every 10 intends to use cash as a way of budgeting their way through the cost of living crisis, and even more said they would use their contactless cards less.

For this group, the most popular reasons for intending to use cash more often were that doing so gives them a better idea of how much they’re spending, helps them to spend less, helps them to keep track of spending and helps with budgeting.

Old Nat West bank in Institute Road

A cashpoint still exists in the old Nat West building. For many people, cash is the most effective way to budget

Digital divide for high street customers

Director of strategy for Link, Graham Mott said:

“There really is a digital divide for those who are and aren’t comfortable using digital payments. For some, card and digital payments mean they can track all their spending online or on the mobile banking.

“Yet, for many, especially those on fixed or lower incomes, there is no better substitute for budgeting to cash. Not everyone has access to cards or digital payments and they know exactly how much money they have when paying in cash at the local shop.”

Nationwide Building Society

Nationwide Building Society ‘remains committed’ to the future of its Swanage branch

“We remain committed to our branch in Swanage”

A spokesperson for the Nationwide Building Society has pledged that the Swanage branch, as with its entire network, is not under any current threat of closure.

Nationwide media relations officer, Caroline Kingston said:

“Branches play an important role for some of our members and the communities in which they live.

“We’ve committed to maintaining a strong network, extending our Branch Promise, to leave no town or city where we currently have a presence without a Nationwide branch until 2024.

“We remain committed to our branch in Swanage and all of the members we serve in the Swanage community.”

Institute Road

Swanage shoppers are urged to register their interest in banking workshops

Become more confident about spotting scams

Caroline Finch is already in talks to arrange public workshops with a major bank, where people can learn how to access online banking through computers, laptops or phones, and also become more alert to scams.

Caroline said:

“I am hoping to organise workshops in Swanage with an HSBC bank manager in December or January where people can learn how to access banking services and become more confident about spotting scams.

“Anyone with an interest in attending a banking workshop like this, is welcome to contact me through my council email at cllrfinch@swanagecouncillors.uk

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