Shropshire and Mid Wales 'banking deserts' fear over HSBC branch closures

Large areas of rural Shropshire and Mid Wales risk becoming "banking deserts" following HSBC's decision to close several branches, it was warned today.

Shropshire and Mid Wales 'banking deserts' fear over HSBC branch closures

The bank has axed several branches across the region in recent months.

Chirk, Llanfyllin, Llanfair Caereinion and Ruabon are among those deemed no longer viable.

Other towns to lose branches are Whitchurch and Market Drayton, as well as the Harlescott Cattle Market branch in Shrewsbury.

Welsh Assembly member Aled Roberts met HSBC representatives to discuss the closure programme and raise concerns about access to banking services in the future.

He said: "What we are seeing here is the consequence of a deregulated market where those less able and less well off in our rural and suburban areas are abandoned.

"In the past other banks had offered not to close a branch if it was the last bank in town but that policy has been abandoned to create banking deserts for those who do not have access to the internet or do not feel confident about doing their financial affairs on-line.

"At the meeting with HSBC's regional business manager, I made it clear that there was real concern in local communities in my area about the new arrangements for business customers and those less able to travel into Wrexham.

"I also enquired as to whether the bank had investigated the capacity of Wrexham's HSBC. We were told that most staff currently working in Ruabon and Chirk would be moved to Wrexham but there appear to be no plans to provide extra space."

Susan Elan Jones, MP for Clwyd South, has also written to HSBC regional director Jonathon Byrne about the most recent closure announcements for Ruabon and Chirk.

She said: "We demand answers. We want HSBC to keep both branches open. We are all dismayed by how the UK Government has weakened a previously agreed 'banking protocol' so that there is now no requirement to keep open the last bank in every community. However, we are also appalled at HSBC's appalling treatment of loyal customers in our local area. We call on them to re-think their dreadful decision.

"I would like to ask directly what HSBC's commitment is to villages and small towns. With so many closures in my constituency, I am appalled by the lack of commitment that HSBC has shown to local customers who have been loyal for many years.

"How long have these closures been discussed? Why have these local communities not been approached sooner? HSBC absolutely must consider the implications that any closure would have on our local communities and must rethink these inexcusable proposals immediately."

HSBC director Jonathon Byrne has said the decision was made "with great reluctance" and said it will be a priority to ensure that customers' banking needs will be met, including offering one-to-one appointments to provide advice and practical solutions, as well as training on phone and internet banking where appropriate.

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