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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 02:26 GMT
Inner cities hit by bank closures
Poor communities in the UK have been the hardest hit by thousands of bank and building society branch closures, according to new research.

Between 1995 and 2003, 4,041 branches closed and only 1,074 new ones opened.

University of Nottingham researchers, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, found that poorer, urban areas bore the brunt of the loss.

They said branches are moving out of inner cities to the suburbs and other areas of so-called Middle England.

The divide between poorer and more affluent areas is set to widen still further in the coming years, the researchers predict.

'Long-term decline'

The main reasons for the closures were pressure to deliver costs savings and profits, failure to meet performance targets, changes in population patterns and growing phone and internet banking.

The study found that overall, between 1995-2003, the average rate of bank closures was 20%.

The highest rate of closure - almost 24% in that eight-year period alone - was in "multicultural metropolitan areas", which include poor inner city areas.

Higher-than-average rates of branch closure were also experienced in manufacturing, built-up areas and student communities.

The researchers - Professor Andrew Leyshon, Dr Paola Signoretta and Dr Shaun French - said: "The current research confirmed that the branch networks of both banks and building societies have been in a continuous process of decline since at least the late 1980s."

They said the closures can cause additional travel costs, a blow to local communities and more pressure for small businesses.

Professor Leyshon said: "This research provides the evidence that ... the branch networks are in a long-term process of decline."

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