In a week that saw yet another Bank in the Vale of Clwyd announce it will be closing, local MP Dr James Davies has submitted a response to the Financial Conduct Authority’s ‘Access to Cash’ consultation, in which he emphasises the need for Banking Hubs in areas without banking facilities.
Yesterday, James received a letter from Barclays Bank to inform him that they will be closing their Rhyl branch at 68-70 High Street, on Friday August 9th.
The Bank says the reason for the closure is due to “the ongoing change in behaviour” in the way people bank, where they have seen “a sustained fall in customer transactions across our network”.
James, who helped secure a Banking Hub in Prestatyn last year, after the town lost all its banks, is disappointed that bank closures are now affecting Rhyl.
“In recent years we have seen bank closure after bank closure in the Vale of Clwyd. Throughout this time, it has been reassuring to residents in Rhyl that there seemed to be no threat to the banks in the town, as a regional centre. I know residents in Prestatyn and Denbigh have also been relieved that they have been able to travel a few miles into Rhyl if they have required in-person assistance with their banking.
“It is therefore extremely concerning that Rhyl is now set to lose the first of its major banks. It seems to me that it will leave Barclays’ closest branch as Llandudno.”
Banking Hubs provide a solution where banking services become scarce. Recent Government legislation has provided the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with the statutory role of overseeing the criteria around eligibility for Banking Hubs and other access to cash measures. Last month, James met the Chair of the Community Cash Advisory Panel, Joanna Wallace. Her independent panel oversees LINK’s work on putting these criteria into action. The panel will be publishing opinions on whether the existing criteria are being applied correctly and are working for communities. Joanna listened to, and took on board, James’ views and encouraged him to contribute to the FCA’s ‘Access to Cash Consultation’, which seeks ideas over how the criteria might be improved.
This week, responding to that consultation, James highlighted the work he has been doing with LINK and Cash Access UK in improving access to cash, and said he was “delighted to recently welcome a banking hub to Prestatyn town centre following the rapid closure of all bank branches within the town”.
However, he said he remains concerned about other communities, including Denbigh, Holywell and Llangollen, where access to cash and other banking services is currently limited but the existing threshold for establishing a banking hub cannot be reached.
His letter states:
“The reality of the situation is that all these communities are in need of this provision, but because of the current criteria, they have been declined without further consideration.
“With this in mind, I support the proposal to increase the qualifying radius from 1km to 3 miles for rural locations. It is only right that the surrounding villages that regard Denbigh, Holywell and Llangollen as their main hub should be taken into consideration when assessing the level of need. It is also important that business banking services, for example, are available.
“The current FCA proposal suggests that if another banking facility is available within the relevant distance, and is able to accommodate additional customers, it will be determined that there is suitable access to cash. However, this does not take into account the variable Welsh language requirements throughout Wales.”
James hopes his feedback will be seriously considered.
“As I have previously said, despite the move towards online payments and banking, cash and face to face banking services remain important for so many, and bank closures hit independent retailers and elderly residents particularly hard.
“I was delighted to secure a banking hub for Prestatyn. The facility is well used and has made such a difference. It would be great to see similar for Denbigh, Holywell, Llangollen and elsewhere, given the bank closures such towns have seen in recent years.”
Commenting on the closure of Barclays’ Rhyl branch, Rhyl East Cllr Justine Evans, who has been a customer of the bank for over 30 years and uses the Rhyl branch, said:
“I was saddened to hear about the closure of Barclays in Rhyl which has been a prominent feature in the town for a great many years.
“All the staff at the branch have always been extremely helpful and my thoughts are with them at this time.
“Rhyl has lost many shops and cafes over the years and sadly there are already too many empty buildings in the town centre. The closure of Barclays in August will be another blow to the High Street. I really hope that other banks in the town don’t follow suit!”
Barclays have said that they will “have an active presence in the community via new and alternative physial presence” and that they “plan to provide additional face-to-face access for banking services via one of our community locations – from the point of closure”.
Further details, including the timings and the location of the Barclays Local site, will be communicated to their regular customers in the coming weeks.