Kilkeel set to open Northern Ireland's first banking hub

The site will be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland Credit: PA Media

Northern Ireland is set to open its first banking hub to fill gaps in cash access in a Co Down town which has previously been hit by closures.

There are currently 12 hubs in place across Great Britain, however an additional 13 are due to be rolled out in the coming months.

The scheme, which is overseen by the ATM network Link and Cash Action Group, will come to Kilkeel in Newry. It'll be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Banking hubs work in a similar way to banking branches, but their services are shared, with banks providing staff on rotation so that trained specialists from different banks are available on different days.

Other sites will be based in Brechin in Angus, Forres in Moray, Carluke in Lanarkshire, Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway, Axminster in Devon, Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire, Lutterworth in Leicestershire, Royal Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, Cheadle in Staffordshire, Belper in Derbyshire, Maryport in Cumbria and Hornsea in Yorkshire.

Banks and building societies have asked Link to identify communities that need help and the locations have been selected as part of that work.

The first banking hubs were piloted last year in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire and Rochford in Essex.

The two hubs have already had approaching 60,000 customer visits and transactions worth £16m have taken place since they opened.

As the impact of the cost-of-living crisis becomes increasingly apparent, the hubs are likely to become an ever more important resource, particularly in communities with minimal or limited cash access or banking facilities, those behind the initiative said.

John Bachtler, chair of the Cambuslang Community Council, said: "The banking hub is the centre of our community and it's bringing life back to the high street and crucially helping people and businesses with their everyday banking needs.

"It gets busier and busier every week and we know it will make a significant difference in other communities across the UK."

Bank branch closures, alongside other trends, have sparked concerns about people's continued ability to easily access cash.

The Post Office also has an agreement that helps people to do their everyday banking over its counters.

Convenience stores have also been offering cashback at tills as part of the initiatives to address gaps in the cash system.

There are also initiatives under way to provide standalone deposit services and banking services in libraries or community centres.

The UK Government has also said that people across the UK will benefit from new legislation to protect access to cash.

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