More than half of banks have closed in Wantage since 2015, increasing the use of online banking and contactless payments, leaving the elderly and small businesses behind.

Research from consumer champion Which? has shown a sharp decline in the number of bank branches open in areas across much of the UK compared to seven years ago.

According to figures up to the end of April, 11 banks have been shuttered in Wantage since the start of 2015, leaving nine remaining in the area.

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Separate figures from LINK, a cash machine network, show there has also been a decline in the number of free-to-use ATMs across the UK in recent years.

Their data shows that between the start of 2018 and early March this year, the number of ATMs in Wantage dropped from 78 to 48.

Herald Series: Wantage Town Centre is now open for business.
Picture by Ed Nix

Barclays, Nationwide and Lloyds banks are still in Wantage, but in recent years HSBC and Natwest have closed.

Steve Taylor founder and manging director of Toy Planet said: “As soon as banks start shutting in the town centre, people stop going to the town centre.

“Banks are a draw for the town. Faringdon have closed all their banks and that is like a ghost town.”

Michelle Woodley works at The Panni Shop in Wantage and lives in the town.

She said: “When Natwest went it was hard, I have to go to Abingdon now if I have any problems.

“We have the Post Office where we can go and put money in, but that is the only place.”

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Margaret O’Donohoe, owner of Madhatter Bookshop said: “It is the attitude, they think we can just pop to the branch in Didcot, but I can’t during business hours and not while I have got a shop. Shops need a bank; we still take cash.

“I have quite a lot of elderly customers, they don’t have mobile phones and a lot of accounts require you to have a mobile phone.”

Herald Series: Wantage Town Centre is now open for business.
Picture by Ed Nix

Recent research by the Royal Society of Arts estimates 10 million people in the UK would struggle in a cashless society.

The research suggests the elderly and those in areas with poor mobile or broadband connectivity have suffered most in the move to digital banking.

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A bill to protect access to cash was announced as part of the Queen’s Speech in May.

The Treasury says the new legislation will ensure “continued access to withdrawal and deposit facilities across the UK”.

Economic secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said: “We know that access to cash is still vital for many people, especially those in vulnerable groups.

“We promised we would protect it, and through this bill we are delivering on that promise.”

Read more from this author

This story was written by Rebecca Whittaker, she joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Rebecca covers education and news in Abingdon and Wantage.

Get in touch with her by emailing: or calling 07824524333

Follow her on Twitter @RebecWhitt

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