Speaking in the Senedd this week, Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales, highlighted the banking crisis facing Carmarthenshire communities following the news that both Llandeilo and the Gwendraeth Valley will soon be left without a bank branch.
In March this year, Barclays announced that its Llandeilo branch would be closing its doors for the last time on 23 June 2023. The announcement was followed by a statement from Lloyds that their branch in the Tumble in the Gwendraeth Valley would close in August this year.
The closure of the Barclays bank branch will leave Llandeilo without a single bank branch and follows the previous closures of the town’s Natwest bank in 2018 and HSBC branch in 2014.
Barclays has stated that the closure of its branches is due to a change in usership and a lack of in-person visits to the bank. Meanwhile, Lloyds put the blame on dwindling face-to-face customer numbers as more and more people bank digitally, thanks to the continuing popularity of mobile, app, and online banking.
The closures have however been heavily criticised by the local communities, with particular concern cited over the likely detriment the closures will have on elderly and vulnerable customers, as well as local businesses and community groups.
Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday (25 April 2023), Cefin Campbell MS highlighted these local concerns, pressing for an update from the Welsh Government on the previously committed Community Bank for Wales – and the potential the financial service could have in replacing the high street banking model that has failed many communities across Carmarthenshire and rural Wales.
In 2021 the Welsh Government previously outlined a commitment to work alongside the Monmouthshire Building Society to create a Community Bank for Wales – or Banc Cambria. This would seek to address the market failure in relation to the gap in provision, the effectiveness and the quality of banking services in Wales. As part of the initiative, a commitment was also outlined to establish around 30 new banking outlets over the next decade – with a focus on communities that have lost provision.
In response to Mr Campbell’s question, Lesley Griffiths MS, the Welsh Government’s Trefnydd and Minister for Rural Affairs, confirmed the Economy Minister would be providing a further statement regarding the Community Bank for Wales prior to the Summer recess.
Commenting following his question, Plaid Cymru’s Cefin Campbell said:
“It’s abundantly clear by now - as reflected in these most recent announcements in Carmarthenshire – that the traditional multinational banking model has failed our local towns and communities, leaving so many residents and businesses high and dry.
There’s no denying that people’s banking habits are changing – however for the elderly, small businesses and community groups and organisations, the importance of face-to-face banking facilities cannot be overstated.
The Welsh Government’s previously proposed Community Bank for Wales – or Banc Cambria – has the potential to fill this void left on our high streets by these heartless corporate banks. I am eager to continue to press to ensure that communities abandoned of banking facilities - such as Llandeilo and the Gwendraeth Valley - will be able to benefit firsthand from such service in the near future.”
Figures announced by consumer group Which? last year show that the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency has suffered the highest number of bank closures in the UK, losing 13 of its 15 branches since 2015 – including Newcastle Emlyn, Ammanford and Llandovery.