Farmers will be among the first to suffer as a series of bank closures leave many rural towns and villages without any means of accessing vital financial expertise or information on their accounts.
Bruton Knowles Gloucestershire office is calling on banks to share resources to ensure rural communities are able to keep tabs on their finances.
Rural Affairs specialist Ben Compton said bank closures were felt far more keenly in the countryside.
“In towns and cities there is usually an alternative branch or bank which can be used, but out in the country farming people rely on face to face contact with a friendly manager.
“Using home computers, laptops or tablets is taken for granted in every town or city but the older generation farming communities are often sketchy on using the internet – and even that depends on having decent broadband coverage – which many of them don’t have.”
Lloyds Bank is the latest to announce a raft of closures across the country, with 54 branches to close including Tetbury, Bourton-on-the-Water and Cheltenham.
The axe will also fall on 22 Halifax branches and 24 Bank of Scotland branches.
Five Wiltshire communities - Corsham, Highworth, Mere, Pewsey, and Tidworth are losing their only high street bank.
Ben Compton said: “This latest round of closures will hurt our rural areas hardest – farming unions are warning that many rural folk don’t have the IT skills necessary to transfer horribly complex agricultural financing arrangements to internet banking.
“We are urging any farmer with immediate issues to come to us for advice, but in reality what they need is some kind of backup system perhaps provided by all the banks working together.”
Ben said the mobile banking services which had been proposed in partial replacement of branches would be little help to a busy farmer.
“The idea of farmers leaving their cattle and crops for the afternoon to catch up with a mobile banking service which visits the local village for a couple of hours day is not likely to impress the rural community.
“Farmers rely on excellent, face to face relationships with their bank manager and are likely to be frustrated as they struggle to get through to new, not necessarily familiar bank personnel via phone or email.”
Bank spokesman have blamed the closures on changing customer behaviour patterns and the reduced number of transactions being made in branches.
But Ben Compton said usage levels in the country remained high: “It’s difficult to over-estimate the importance of effective communications as farmers struggle to make headway coping with subsidies, reduced prices and a host of other day to day financial pressures.
“We believe the High Street banks should cooperate on a properly manned and resource alternative – if not they will alienate many in our agricultural sector at a time when they certainly don’t need any further hassles.”