North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has spoken of his concern regarding the number of bank closures across North Wales during a Senedd debate yesterday.
In an opposition debate on Banking Services, Mr Isherwood said having an accessible local branch is important for older people, those without transport, or internet access, shopkeepers and small businesses, and referred to branches closed by leading banks HSBC, NatWest and Barclays across the region in recent years.
“Unlike the idiots who were allowed to wreck our banking system, I am a qualified banker, who previously worked in the building society sector, and who has campaigned against branch closures.
“Speaking here in November 2013, after HSBC announced the closure of branches in Llangollen, Conwy and Beaumaris, I highlighted concerns raised by constituents about the impact this would have on them, businesses in their towns, their communities, and the thousands of tourists who visit the area.
“The branch that starred in a NatWest TV advert pledging to keep every branch open as long as it was the last in the community, was shut.
“A year ago, Barclays announced plans to shut its branch in Buckley, Flintshire, with accounts moved to Mold - a 6-mile round trip. This was the third bank to announce a closure in the town in six months.
“Following HSBC’s announcement of branch closures in Chirk and Ruabon, customers noted that there were often queues in these two branches’, and asked ‘doesn’t HSBC take into account the knock-on effect of closure on the surrounding areas and businesses, as well as the two towns themselves?”
“After HSBC announced closure of their Ewloe and Caergwrle branches last year, I wrote to them and met them again, emphasising that although HSBC again blamed a rise in telephone and internet banking, concerns had once again been raised by constituents regarding the impact this would have on them and their communities.
“I also emphasised the Access to Banking Protocol, which came into effect in May 2015 to help minimise the impact of bank branch closures on customers and local communities, requiring a pre-closure assessment of the impact of any proposed closure on the wider community, including businesses, outlining consultation and community engagement requirements, and ensuring continued provision of alternative ways to bank.
“In their response, they said that they had adhered to the Protocol. I received a similar response from NatWest after they announced the closure of their Holywell branch, which also noted they would introduce a mobile branch every Wednesday.
“Earlier this month I raised HSBCs further planned closures in Holywell, Holyhead and Llanwrst, and Yorkshire Building Society’s further planned closures in Abergele, Prestatyn and Llangefni, here with the First Minister.
“The fact that this is also affecting mutual Building Societies, emphasises that this is about wider considerations than private profit.”
Mr Isherwood put forward Amendments calling on the Welsh Government to examine the not-for-profit community banking model developed in Wales by Responsible Finance, welcoming the independent ‘Access to Banking Protocol One Year on Review’ by Professor Russell Griggs OBE, published in November 2016, and welcoming the new Post Office Partnership agreement with UK Banks, which brings together the Post Office’s existing arrangements with individual banks into a single set of services available to customers of virtually all UK banks.