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'Urgent action' needed to stop bank closures across Wales

A closed bank in Holywell, Flintshire. Credit: ITV Wales

A group of AMs says urgent action's needed to stop the rising number of bank closures.

The National Assembly's Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee says, in the four years to last Summer, Wales lost more than four out of ten branches. That's almost 240.

Research shows the number of free-to-use ATMs in Wales fell by 10% (2,517 to 2,281) between March 2018 and March 2019

The use of on-line backing is rising but the Committee says that is not an option for some sections of the population. It says more than half of over 75s in Wales are not regular internet users. In some areas there is also a bad internet service.

Credit: PA Images

The Committee is recommending that the Welsh Government urgently map out banking services and ATMs to assess the real impact these closures are having on people, especially vulnerable people, elderly people, small businesses and those who rely on cash.

Time and time again we are hearing about an alarming escalation of bank closures and the loss of cash machines across Wales. This is not a new problem but it recent years the losses are hitting communities hard.

As well as the obvious difficulties the loss of banks and cash machines is causing problems for vulnerable and elderly people who do not use online banking services and these losses are also hitting our high streets and small businesses.

Our committee is agreed that we cannot sit back and ignore the problem and while many elements of this issue are a matter for the UK Government, there are significant levers at the Welsh Government's disposal.

– Russel George AM, Chair, Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee

We will consider this report carefully. We have been vocal in our calls for commercial banks to maintain a strong presence on Welsh high streets, although banking regulation ultimately rests with the UK Government and it has the power to regulate the industry to ensure these vital services are available to local businesses, customers and communities.

We are exploring the creation of a community bank in Wales to ensure people have access to banking services.

Around 95% of homes and businesses in Wales can access superfast broadband, largely as a result of our Superfast Cymru programme. We are also extending this reach even further by rolling out gigabit-capable broadband technology to an additional 26,000 properties and our voucher schemes form an integral part of measures for those without access.

– Welsh Government spokesperson