Labour Pledges Banking Hubs to Restore Face-to-Face Services

(Bloomberg) -- Labour plans to create 350 new banking “hubs” across the UK in the next five years in an effort to reverse the decline in face-to-face services if it wins next month’s general election.

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The program would mark an 8-fold increase in current voluntary arrangements in place between banks and the government, the poll-leading opposition said late on Monday in a statement. The policy promises bricks-and-mortar premises shared by major banks and building societies, giving customers access to cash withdrawals, deposits and advice in areas where individual branches have been shuttered.

The policy forms part of Labour leader Keir Starmer’s outreach to rural voters, as well as the party’s pitch to revitalize the nation’s high streets. Some 6,000 bank branches have been closed since 2015, according to a survey last month by the consumer rights publication Which? The problem particularly afflicts the elderly and those living in rural areas with poor broadband, making access to online banking harder, it said.

The hubs, which are funded by banks and run with the help of the Post Office, were introduced under the Conservatives but have been criticized by, among others, the Financial Conduct Authority for their slow roll out. Only around 50 of the premises are currently operational. The expansion would be worth £415 million ($527 million) for Britain’s high streets, Labour said, citing research by the London Economics consultancy.

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