The Spanish Senate is investigating the gradual closure of bank branches and ATMs in Spain. This is so that people can keep access to financial services. However, it is strange that the affected residents and banks are not yet involved in this investigation.
The purpose of the Senate investigation is to be able to issue an opinion that should ensure that residents in (partly) depopulated areas in Spain continue to have – or regain – access to financial services.
First session of investigation takes place without victims
On November 10, a first meeting will take place. This is where professors from universities in Spain, experts in the field of depopulation and representatives of politics and the municipalities will give their views on this subject. Each will be given 20 minutes to speak and then 10 minutes to answer questions from political parties.
The hearing on November 10 is only the beginning of the investigation. However, it is strange that the hardest hit (the residents and the bank representatives), are not given a chance. According to the Spanish news site 20minutos.es, it is intended that multiple sessions will take place. But it is not clear whether the affected residents will also be allocated time to speak.
Spanish Senate launches investigation after complaints about bank branch closures
The Senate announced this investigation in February this year. This was after many complaints and reports appeared in the media about the declining presence of banks and ATMs in the less populated areas of Spain. Closing branches and removing ATMs further isolates residents. Moreover, it makes it even less attractive for people to move to these types of villages.
More than half of municipalities no longer have a bank branch
According to the Banco de España, all bank branches have disappeared in 900 Spanish municipalities between 2008 and 2021. Currently, more than half (54.5%) of municipalities in Spain no longer have a bank branch. This mainly concerns the very small villages where a total of more than 1.5 million people still live.
In 2008, the nearest bank branch in the countryside was 3.3 kilometres away; in 2021 this distance has increased to an average of 4.9 kilometres. As in the rest of the EU, bank branch closures are associated with mergers, but in Spain this trend seems to be moving much faster than in other countries.