THE high street bank is fast becoming an endangered species in some of our smaller towns and villages.

Since the financial crash there has been a remorseless decline in the number of outlets in rural and poorer areas. It is pleasing to see that some smaller lenders, including traditional building societies and the Post Office, continue to recognise the importance of having branches but many of the big banks are forcing us to ring call centres or go online to manage our money. 

Banks say it's in response to changing behaviour and more people using digital services, but not everyone has access to the internet or feels that cyberspace is a safe place to arrange a mortgage or ask for a loan. 

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A new House of Commons report notes deeper concerns about social exclusion. Postcodes that lose their last bank receive almost £1.6m less lending over the course of a year, with loans to small businesses falling by half in areas without a bank.  

There is clearly a generational shift but the pace of change is too swift and the provision for people in small towns and villages feeble. Young people may well look at branches as they do high street telephone boxes as quaint relics of the past, but for some they are a vital lifeline. This isn’t nostalgia for a Captain Mainwaring world where bank managers knew the name of every customer. Recent research show a third of people who switched banks cited branch location as a key reason for the move. If enough people move their accounts to the bank with the nearest branch then it may have an impact. 

But in most cases it's the bank who call the shots. Even a lender such as RBS whose continued existence depends upon money from taxpayers is in the process of shutting a quarter of its branches and cutting almost 700 jobs. 

After bailing out the banks the least people can expect is for lenders to support the communities that helped  keep them alive.