Rural communities could be hit by a ‘double whammy’ if they lose banks and Post Office branches.
That’s the fear of Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd, who today questioned the Welsh Government about news that rural post offices could be closed under new proposals.
Llyr Gruffydd said: “North Wales is already reeling from a series of announcements about bank branch closures – we’ve lost 42 branches here in the North since January 2015, many of them the last bank in a town. In some cases customers who were told they could transfer to a nearby town branch are now seeing that close and customer service is becoming ever-more remote. This is an additional burden for small businesses with a large amount of cash transactions, who need convenient and accessible banking facilities to be able to trade.
“When I raised this growing problem with the First Minister last week he said that customers would be able to use their local post office branches as an alternative.
“However, we now see the UK Government planning to scrap its £80 million subsidy for Post Office and considering making it easier for the Post Office to close rural branches. In the past, the UK Government required that 95% of the population had to be within three miles of a Post Office but this is now being reviewed and it’s clear that the intention is to relax this rule. This would mean the Post Office having a free rein to close up to half its existing branches. On top of the bank closures, what a double whammy that could be for rural communities in Wales.
“In the wake of that, what price the First Minister’s reassurances last week that bank customers could use Post Office facilities? It’s no good putting your eggs all in one basket if the UK Government then goes and drops the basket.
“It’s very disappointing that the cabinet secretary was unable to tell me what representations his government is making to ensure the Post Office network has a future. We need to see the Post Office network in Wales devolved so that we can ensure it is protected and maintained for the benefit of communities.”