North London neighbourhood where there's only one bank branch left as locals 'left with no options'

A general view of Stanmore London, Britain 23 August 2023. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon
The Nationwide is the last remaining bank branch in Stanmore -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

High street banks shut down more than 400 branches across the country last year making it increasingly difficult for people to access local financial services, with more set to close throughout 2024. One area in North London is slowly becoming a ‘banking desert’, with just one branch left standing following a stream of closures.

Harrow East has lost more than 91 per cent of its bank branches since 2015, according to the latest data from consumer watchdog Which?. This has resulted in the closure of eleven branches in total, leaving just a single Nationwide still remaining.

The Labour Party has warned that residents and businesses in Harrow East could ‘soon be left with no options’ to bank locally and are blaming the government’s ‘failure to roll-out banking hubs’. The Conservatives have so far delivered roughly 40 working banking hubs throughout the country, with Labour claiming their plan ‘could see at least 350’ hubs be installed.

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A general view of Stanmore London, Britain 23 August 2023. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon
The National Westminster branch in Stanmore closed its doors last October -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

The town of Stanmore has been particularly badly affected. Since 2019, Barclays, Santander, Lloyds, Nat West, and Halifax branches have all closed. There is now just one Nationwide branch remaining on the high street. Rosalin, 70, and Harold, 71, have lived in the area for around 50 years and feel it has changed ‘a lot, for the worse’. Rosalin said: “We have had [so many] banks close now. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Those residents who rely on in-branch banking, particularly pensioners, have been left with growing concerns about how they will get access to their money and leave them relying on younger friends and family members to help them with using online banking.

Rosalin said: “When my mum was very elderly I would go into the branch to get out money for her carers or for whatever she needed. Unfortunately she is not with us anymore but you can’t even do that now. I can’t even go in and get my own without going to Edgware, if I’m lucky somebody will help me.”

Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Harrow East, Primesh Patel, blamed the government for ‘failing to deliver the local services people depend on’ and feels the lack of branches now available to residents have left the area on the verge of becoming ‘a banking desert’.

He said: “I know how much residents in Harrow East depend on having a local bank, whether that’s to support their small business or manage their personal finances. Labour’s plan to roll out banking hubs will guarantee communities have face-to-face banking services, helping to restore pride in our high streets.”

Primesh Pate,. Labour's parliamentary candidate for Harrow East
Labour's parliamentary candidate for Harrow East, Primesh Patel, said the area was in danger of becoming a 'banking desert' -Credit:Harrow Labour

Whilst not as drastic as seen in Harrow East, other nearby areas are also feeling the impact of the dramatic scale of branch closures. In Harrow West, 56.5 per cent of branches have closed since 2015, falling from 23 to just ten. Over the same period in Brent North, 45.5 per cent of branches closed - falling from 22 to 12 - whilst Brent Central’s branches dropped by 76.9 per cent - from 13 to three.

Britain’s biggest high street lenders have committed to more than 100 new locations amid a growing political row over access to cash, with roughly 100 hubs expected to be opened by the end of the year. The banks have now pledged to identify 225 locations for hubs by the end of the year, up from 11.

The Conservative government has introduced legislation to preserve access to cash, although Labour has said it would go further by guaranteeing the opening of 350 hubs that would provide face-to-face banking services. Harrow East MP Bob Blackman told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that he had raised concerns with the banks that have chosen to close branches in the constituency on each occasion.

Mr Blackman said: "One of the reasons for these branches being closed is that they have been in secondary shopping areas rather than the town centre which is in Harrow West. I have consistently raised concerns that the closures cause problems for shops, small businesses and all customers who need access to banking facilities."

He added: "The result of closures has been that customers are being forced to travel long distances to banking facilities which is inconvenient and, if they are carrying cash, renders them vulnerable to street robbery. I support introducing banking hubs as a concept where all banks can pool their services. The government should promote and encourage such developments.

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