Does Chiswick need a ‘banking hub’?

Image above: Rupa Huq opening London’s first ‘banking hub’ earlier this year’

As Chiswick faces a dearth of banking services, is a ‘banking hub’ like the one in Acton the answer?

Two big banks have announced over the past couple of weeks that they are closing their branches in Chiswick High Road. Brentford and Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury says she fears Chiswick could become a “bank-free town”.

“Physical banking services are vital,” said the MP, “and these closures also continue to add to the strain on high streets. I have raised this wider issue with the Government and will make sure that the concerns of local residents are heard.”

First Lloyds and then NatWest announced the closure of their branches within days of each other, adding to the vanishing presence of major banks locally. Barclays, Santander, and Halifax have all shuttered their doors in recent years.

Metro Bank, which has a branch at 137 Chiswick High Road, announced on Friday it would be reviewing whether to stay open seven days a week, as they revealed plans to cut 20% of their  workforce.

Metro Bank’s business model was based on bucking the trend, making a point of opening high street branches when others were moving away from it. They have made much of their opening hours being longer than other banks, but it appears they too are struggling. The measures, they said, are part of a strategy to save around £50m per year.

Nationwide is one of the few chains that offer banking services who have committed to keeping all of their branches open, including in Chiswick, until at least 2026 – unless ‘circumstances out of [the bank’s] control’ force them to do otherwise.

In each case the banks have cited falling numbers of people banking in person, favouring online and telephone banking instead. The solution in Acton has been to create a ‘banking hub’, which was opened earlier this year.

Maybe it’s time we asked for one in Chiswick.

 Above: Post on X by Rupa Huq at the opening of the first banking hub in London

What is a ‘banking hub’? And how do we get one?

The first banking hub in London opened in Acton this year on 15 June to much fanfare. Rupa Huq, the MP for Ealing Central and Acton was present for the opening and has praised the initiative as something that “combats loneliness and mechanisation… exemplifies cooperation not competition [and] is rejuvenating the high street”.

Banking Hubs are dedicated places where communities can access everyday personal and business banking services, such as withdrawing and depositing cash easily, or paying in cheques, over the counter. They are also somewhere to speak in person with a local community representative from your own bank, with several banks present in the same building.

Representatives are on site for a specific day each week to help with more complicated transactions, such as mortgages, loans and pensions. Your local ‘community banker’ can offer debt advice and help with fraud prevention on their dedicated day of the week.

Owned by Cash Access UK, funded by the banks, and run by the Post Office, they’re billed as a way of ‘bringing back banking to the people and areas that need it’.

Above: Post on X by Rupa Huq MP praising Labour’s pledge to expand banking hubs

Labour ‘would accelerate rollout of banking hubs’ if it wins next election 

Labour’s Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor, has pledged to bring banks back to British high streets if Labour win the next general election. Her plan is to roll out of banking hubs like the one in Acton.

Labour has said extra controls could allow the Financial Conduct Authority to step in and stop people being left without access to face-to-face services. At present a hub cannot open until all bank branches in a town have closed.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said:

“Labour’s plan will bring banking services back to communities who have seen them disappear over recent years, meaning more people across the country will be able to access the services they need closer to home.

“Labour will tackle ghost high streets and ensure that every community has access to high street banking services.”

Labour blueprint to restore banking to local high streets could see at least 350 banking hubs established across the UK. The policy proposal follows the publication by the party last week of its Plan For Small Business.

Image above: Leader of the Hounslow Conservative Group on Hounslow Council –  Peter Thompson

Local Conservatives are in support, but Government say Labour can’t afford it

Both the Conservative Government and local Tories support expanding banking hubs, though the Government claim Labour’s pledge to build hundreds more isn’t affordable.

Peter Thompson, Leader of the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council told the The Chiswick Calendar:

“A Banking Hub is a fantastic service that ensures our local community maintains access to essential in-person banking services, and we absolutely support the creation of a local hub here in Chiswick.

“As more and more High Street bank branches close down in Chiswick, the lack of day-to-day banking services is clearly becoming an issue that needs to be urgently addressed. We’re pleased to see hubs being supported by MPs and councillors of all parties across the country, and back Conservative MP Duncan Baker’s campaign to make it easier to establish banking hubs in communities like Chiswick.”

Bim Afolame, Economic Secretary to the Treasury said last week:

“Another day, another example of Labour taking the easy way out and just saying what they think people want to hear — without saying how they would pay for it.

“Their sums don’t add up: Keir Starmer is claiming Labour can afford to launch new banking hubs, scrap business rates which would cost tens of billions of pounds, borrow £28 billion more every year, cut people’s taxes and somehow keep debt falling.

“This is simply not possible – they are not being straight with the public.

“The Conservatives are taking the long-term decisions to strengthen the economy, including ensuring that people, wherever they live, can access banking and cash services.

“This includes working with banks to roll out banking hubs across the country whilst ensuring access to banking services is available in almost 12,000 Post Office branches.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar