Banks abandoning customers by removing high street branches

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Plaid Cymru Assembly Members Simon Thomas and Adam Price have tabled a motion at the National Assembly regretting the latest closure of Natwest bank branches in Wales.

The statement of opinion calls on the company to reconsider closure of 20 branches in Wales and for the Welsh Government to consider creating a Welsh People’s Bank.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mid and West AM Simon Thomas said:

“It is disappointing to see that 8 of the 20 proposed closures are in my region. Rural areas are being stripped of their banking service.

“Banks are abandoning customers in pursuit of more and more profit. There should be a duty on these banks that provide an essential service to put the customers’ needs before their own pockets.

“The Labour Government in Cardiff Bay should be looking at how other financial institutions like Finance Wales and credit unions can plug the gap left by the large banks.

“Other ways to protect banking services like developing services provided by the Post Office will be hampered by the closure programme of successive Westminster governments of different political colours.”

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr AM Adam Price, has tabled a question in the National Assembly on the bank closures with a view of giving members the opportunity to debate the issue on Wednesday.

Mr Price added:

“My constituency colleague Jonathan Edwards and I will work with the local community to do our best to try and retain the Natwest branches in Ammanford and Llandeilo.

"As banking services get more and more remote, business investment and borrowing can start to decline. We urgently need a new model, such as those in Germany and the United States, which are purposely established to support communities, local businesses and local consumers.

“We strongly believe the recent report in the future of a public bank should be considered by the Welsh Government. The creation of a people’s bank of Wales would be a positive move, owned by the public rooted in our communities.”

The report by the Public Policy Institute for Wales describes evidence that: "bank branch closures are having a negative impact on individuals and businesses in Wales, but more specific research is need to ascertain what impact bank branch closures is having on individuals and communities."

The report states: "However, even the most extensive public banking model, opening community banks would not be able to replace the branches that have been closed in Wales in recent years."

On ways to protect banking services it comments: "A public development bank is potentially useful option, but not a guaranteed solution."

The report identifies problems with lending to small and medium sized businesses, automation has made banks more geographically and operationally distant from small businesses.

Bank closures contribute to this problem according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

Large banks were three times more likely to shut a branch in Wales than in London and the south east of England, and five of the top ten areas affected by the 600 branch closures in Britain in 2015-2016 were in Wales – Powys, Denbighshire, Gwynedd, Conwy, and Carmarthenshire.

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