Call for U-turn over Mid Wales bank branch closures

Bank bosses have been asked to consider a U-turn on plans to close a series of branches across Mid Wales.

Call for U-turn over Mid Wales bank branch closures

A debate took place in the Welsh Assembly on the effect a series of bank closures is having on rural communities.

Members supported a cross party motion which deplored the number of bank branch closures in Wales, and called upon the banks to consider the impact of the closures on individuals, especially older people and small businesses, before final decisions on closures are made.

Russell George, AM for Montgomeryshire, said: "The closure of banks in rural Mid Wales is having a devastating effect on our rural villages and town centres.

"I have recently received hundreds of responses to my recent campaign to save HSBC branches in Llanfyllin and Llanfair Caereinion, showing just how important the retention of local bank branches are for our high streets if they are to continue to flourish; not just for ordinary customers but particularly for local businesses which require a daily over-the-counter service.

"Unfortunately, this campaign was to no avail and I am calling on banks to consider the wider social and economic consequences of closing bank branches, especially when they are the only remaining bank in the area."

HSBC closed two of its branches in Llanfyllin and Llanfair Caereinion last week, and has recently closed other branches in Llanidloes and Machynlleth. It is also due to close its branches in Chirk and Ruabon. Royal Bank of Scotland Group, which includes NatWest, has closed branches in Montgomery, Llanidloes and Llanfair Caereinion. And Barclays had recently reduced its opening hours in Llanidloes.

Aled Roberts AM, who put forward the motion, said: "I think that we must look fundamentally at the system. We need to question here in the UK why, very differently to the situation on the continent, all these decisions are taken centrally in London. I think that's the problem.

"So, I think the message is that perhaps the whole time taken in signing petitions and corresponding with managers is over. It's high time that we demanded that all the parties on a UK level take urgent action if we want to see the banks remain within our communities."

Edwina Hart, minister for economy, science and transport, said: "I fully understand and agree with the concerns that are raised in this chamber, because we all see it at first hand.

"I think we've had a very good debate today, but the whole issue for me is regulation. I can tell you the banks are not listening, and we have to ask ourselves the question, 'Who bailed out the banks?

"Who owns part of the banks?' That's the public. At the end of the day, we need to make very strong representations."

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