Safeguards must be put in place to protect bank customers and business users before any branch closures take place.
That’s the view of Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd after he and local councillor Delyth MacRae met HSBC bank officials over the proposed closure of its Abergele branch.
Mr Gruffydd said: “HSBC has closed 15 branches in the North over the past three years and of course all the other banks have been doing the same. We’re reaching a point where substantial towns have no banks left and people are having to travel considerable distances to access services.
“This is concerning for those who choose not to bank online and need face-to-face contact but it’s also a huge issue for small businesses who need to bank takings on a regular basis. We must have safeguards in place before any further closures take place.”
Martin Lyons, the HSBC’s North Wales manager (business) told Mr Gruffydd that footfall at the branch had fallen from 68,000 in 2009 to 35,000 in 2016.
Mr Gruffydd said: “Despite customer usage falling, 120 people a day is still a significant figure and it shows that this is still a well-used branch. For the many businesses who use the branch, it will mean a journey to Colwyn Bay or Rhyl, which is time not spent in the business. That’s also an extra journey for the many elderly customers who use the branch.”
Mr Gruffydd stated that making use of the post office in the town would work for some but that was dependent on the cooperation of the new sub-postmaster and there were limits to the service they could provide, for example in terms of providing change.
He added: “I have some concerns about banks telling us that the Post Office network can provide an alternative service, especially as the UK Government is moving to relax the commitment of the Post Office to maintain outlets within three miles of 95% of the population. We’ve already seen Post Office closures and I fear that this move from London will further reduce the network in Wales.”
The Abergele HSBC branch is due to close in March 2017.