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“All Gone Now”: The Material, Discursive and Political Erasure of Bank and Building Society Branches in Britain

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This paper examines an apparent anomaly that lies at the heart of processes of financial exclusion within Britain. Given that the branch networks of banks and building societies have shrunk in size by about one-third since 1989, a period during which the Government has launched a wide-ranging set of policies to tackle financial exclusion, why is it that the issue of branch closure has been neutralised as a political issue? After providing evidence to show the extent of branch closure in Britain and illustrating the ways in which geographical research in particular has drawn attention to the nature of this problem, we look at the way the issue of physical access to financial services has been discursively and politically marginalised. We undertake a detailed history of public policy in the area, and the ways in which research funded by industry bodies and Government departments has been used and framed to build a pro-market, neoliberal policy programme that constructs branch closures as natural and inevitable.
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Keywords: bank and building society branches; financial exclusion; neoliberalism; public policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Geography, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK; ; [email protected], Email: [email protected] 2: Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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