Speaking in the Senedd this week, Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd highlighted the banking crisis facing the Ystradgynlais area following the news the town’s last bank would soon close.
In March this year, Lloyds announced that its Ystradgynlais branch would be closing its doors for the last time on 19 September 2023. The closure of the bank branch will leave Ystradgynlais – a town with a population of over 8,000 residents – without a single bank branch and follows the previous closures of the town’s Barclays bank in 2018 and HSBC branch in 2014.
In its most recent branch closure review, Lloyds said the decision was made because customers are using it "less often". It also added that the majority of customers are also using alternative ways to bank.
The closure has however been heavily criticised by the local community, and politicians from across the political spectrum, with particular concern cited over the likely detriment the closure 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 Powys 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 Lloyds’ recent announcement regarding the Ystradgynlais branch – 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 Ystradgynlais - will be able to benefit firsthand from such service in the near future.”
Justin Horrell, Ystradgynlais town councillor, and Plaid Cymru’s prospective Westminster candidate for Brecon & Radnorshire added:
“I’m grateful to Cefin Campbell for highlighting the banking crisis Ystradgynlais is facing. The town is the second largest town in the whole of Powys, and for the community to be completely deprived of any bank branches is extremely concerning.
Current proposed measures such as free to use ATMs and basic banking via local Post Offices do not address the full scope of people and business's needs and have challenges of accessibility, privacy and scale.
It’s clear we need to find systemic and long-term answers to this situation – including banking hubs or even securing the presence of Banc Cambria on our high street.”