JUST 11 banks remain open in Braintree and Witham, according to new figures.

Analysis from Which? has shown a sharp decline in the number of bank branches open in areas across much of the UK, compared to seven years ago.

According to figures up to the end of April, three banks have been shuttered in Braintree and four in Witham since the start of 2015, leaving seven remaining in Braintree and four remaining in Witham.

Separate figures from LINK, a cash machine network, show there has also been a decline in the number of free-to-use ATMs across the UK in recent years.

Their data shows that between the start of 2018 and early March this year, the number of ATMs in Braintree dropped from 55 to 44.

The number of ATMs in Witham dropped from 45 to 36.

The increasing use of online banking and contactless payments have led to concerns some will be left behind, or unable to access key services.

Which? chief executive, Anabel Hoult, said: “While the pandemic has accelerated the move to digital payments for many consumers, many are not yet ready to make that switch and require protection from an avalanche of ATM and bank branch closures that have left the UK’s cash system at risk of collapse.”

A bill to protect access to cash was announced as part of the Queen’s Speech in May.

Economic secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said: “We know that access to cash is still vital for many people, especially those in vulnerable groups.

“We promised we would protect it, and through this bill we are delivering on that promise.”

Full details on what will be included are yet to be published.

Which? welcomed the bill but said it “must ensure that clear requirements are placed on industry to meet communities’ need for cash”.

Recent research by the Royal Society of Arts estimates 10 million people in the UK would struggle in a cashless society.

RSA researcher Mark Hall said: “It’s vital the dash to digital doesn’t disenfranchise anyone, especially with the cost-of-living crisis putting such significant strain on family finances right now.”