By John Ensor •
Published: 07 Feb 2024 • 8:54
Withdrawing money from an ATM.
The number of high street banks and ATMs has declined dramatically in Spain, leading to a problem for elderly citizens who are unfamiliar with today’s digital tools.
In a ground-breaking move, almost every political faction in Congress has voiced their support for a new bill. This legislation mandates the installation of at least one ATM in every municipality or for every 5,000 inhabitants.
The announcement highlights the combined efforts of various political groups to ensure financial inclusion for every citizen.
The cost of deploying these cash machines is proposed to be covered by banks, particularly in light of their substantial profits in 2023, where major Spanish banks reported earnings exceeding €26 billion.
Jordi Orobitg from Esquerra emphasised the critical need for access to fundamental banking services, especially for the most vulnerable sectors of society.
This need has become more acute as Spain has witnessed a sharp decline in the number of bank branches, from approximately 46,000 in 2008 to around 17,000 by September 2023.
‘Operating with a bank account should be a fundamental right,’ Orobitg stated, advocating for a public-private partnership to ensure ATM services in financially underserved areas.
Jordi Munell from Junts has highlighted how the shift away from traditional banking methods disproportionately affects older individuals. Many are finding it challenging to adapt to more complex banking technologies like Bizum or online banking.
‘The reality is that they do not get used to it. This is a real problem for them and generates social exclusion that is financial exclusion,’ Munell pointed out, referencing reports that three out of four seniors are unable to use mobile banking apps.
Joan Carles Gallego of En Comu Podem noted the reduction in bank staff and offices, stating, ‘if before an office served about 1,500 people, it currently serves more than 2,500.’
Felix Alonso of Sumar criticised the banking sector for enriching itself at the expense of customers by reducing staff and closing branches, leading to broader economic impacts on local communities.
‘When the branches close, businesses do so shortly after, aggravating the problems of an emptied Spain,’ Alonso remarked. He also noted the significant lack of banking facilities in many Spanish municipalities, emphasising the digital divide affecting the elderly population.
Carina Mejias from Vox pointed out the uneven distribution of banking services across the country, with vast disparities between regions. For example, in the Community of Castilla y Leon, 1,767 towns do not have banking services, nor a bank branch, nor an ATM, while in the Community of Madrid there is an ATM for every kilometre.
In addressing this gap, the proposed bill seeks to ensure that every citizen, regardless of age or location, has access to essential banking services, marking a significant step towards financial inclusion.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
My experience has been that these ATMs charge, if the ATM is not the bank where the person has an account,.
I totally agree with Ian, the banks will very likely add charges for use to cover the cost of installation.
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