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The axe is set to fall on yet another Wigan bank branch.
The latest victim of the remorseless march of technology will be the Barclays outlet within the Asda hypermarket at Newtown.
It is one of another 54 branches it is planning to close down in the coming weeks and Newtown will cash its final cheque on October 27. The move will bring its total number of Barclays closures in 2017 to 67 across the UK.
In a statement, the bank said along with a number of high street lenders, the closures are linked to the growing demand for digital services – such as the increasing shift towards immediate online and app banking facilities. A spokesman confirmed the closures will not result in any job losses, adding:
“The number of physical Barclays branches will reduce overall but our branch network and the colleagues who work in them remain a vital part of our offering. We will continue to evolve the shape and size of our branch network, as well as improving and investing in the experience in-branch.
We also provide our customers with a range of digital channels.” There was a time when there was a bank to be found in every modest-sized Wigan community upwards – sometimes several per town and village. But it was as early as the mid-1990s that branch closures began, one of the first being the NatWest in Shevington.
Few townships have been spared since as transactions are increasingly carried out digitally. According to consumer platform Which?, over 1,000 high street bank branches were axed between January 2015 and January 2017 alone, with HSBC the worst offender.
Costs for 20 financial institutions for the five years to 2016 are higher than in the previous period, with RBS and Lloyds in top five
Fines, legal bills and the cost of compensating mistreated customers reached £264bn for 20 of the world’s biggest banks over the five years to 2016, according to new research that raises doubts about efforts by the major financial services players to restore trust in the sector.
This figure is higher than in the previous five-year period – when the costs amounted to £252bn – and is up 32% on the period 2008-12, the first time the data was collated by the CCP Research Foundation, one of the few bodies that analyses the “conduct costs” of banks.
The report said the data showed that 10 years on from the onset of the financial crisis, the consequences of misconduct continue to hang over the banking sector.
The latest analysis shows that in 2016 the total amount put aside by the banks surveyed rose to more than £28.6bn – higher than in the previous year when there had been a fall from a peak of £63bn in 2014.
Chris Stears, research director of the foundation, writes in the latest report: “Trust in, and the trustworthiness of, the banks must surely correlate to, and be conditional on, banks’ conduct costs. And persistent level of conduct cost provisioning is worrying.
“It remains to be seen whether or not the provisions will crystallise in 2017 [or later] and what effect this will have on the aggregated level of conduct costs.”
Two UK high street banks – Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group – are in the top five of banks with the biggest conduct costs.
RBS set aside extra provisions for fines and legal costs largely related to a forthcoming penalty from the US Department of Justice for mis-selling toxic bonds in the run-up to the financial crisis.
That residential mortgage bond securitisation mis-selling scandal is responsible for £66bn of the costs incurred during the five-year period and the single largest factor, according to the foundation.
The payment protection insurance scandal, which is the main reason Lloyds Banking Group is in the list, caused the banks to set aside £27bn during the period. Lloyds has set aside more than £17bn to tackle the mis-selling of PPI.
Roger McCormick, managing director of the foundation, said: “It’s reasonable to assume that the long-running sorry tale of payments and provisions for PPI must come to an end eventually although UK banks made additional provisions for PPI mis-selling of more than £1.5bn midway through 2017.”
The foundation uses five-year rolling periods to try to provide a long-term analysis of the costs that banks face to rectify past mistakes, a major theme of the last 10 years, when they were also hit by penalties for rigging foreign exchange markets and interest rates (Libor).
“As has been the case since the first table, we find ourselves wondering when, if ever, the level of conduct costs will start to decrease,” said McCormick.
He noted that the 2016 figures showed a rapid decline in fines from the Financial Conduct Authority, which issued fines worth £819m in the first six months of 2015 alone, as a result of the market-rigging scandals.
Top of the table are major US banks Bank of America, which dominates the table because of its previous bill for the toxic bond mis-selling scandal, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley.
The figures include money set aside for future penalties by the 20 banks and fines and other costs they have incurred to tackle regulatory and legal claims.
Stears said there would not be zero conduct costs but added: “The question is at what average level will these costs settle? And, moreover, is that level acceptable to the banks, their shareholders and the public?”
Millions of rail users in the UK are bracing themselves for news of an increase in regulated rail fares from January 2018.
Train operators are allowed to raise fares by as much as the Retail Prices Index (RPI) figure for July, expected to be in the region of 3.5%.
The exact figure will be published later this morning.
Passenger groups said commuters would be worst-hit, and suggested that the RPI measure should be scrapped.
The rises will affect “anytime” and some off-peak fares as well as season tickets in England and Wales.
In Scotland, it is mainly commuters who will be affected, with off-peak fares rising by a smaller amount.
The Scottish government currently limits rises in off-peak fares to RPI minus 1%.
There are no plans for increases in Northern Ireland.
Unregulated fares, which include super off-peak travel and advance tickets, will be set in December.
Transport Focus, which represents the interests of passengers, said rail users were already fed up with getting poor value for money.
“Wages are not keeping pace with inflation and performance remains patchy,” said a spokesperson for the group.
“Passengers, especially commuters, face potential strike action, the consequences of the continual rise in passenger numbers, and disruption caused by railway upgrades.”
Transport Focus said it would also like to see the RPI measure replaced by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which is currently running at 2.6%.
CPI is typically lower than RPI.
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