A debate could be held in Parliament on closures of rural banks following a pledge by Glyn Davies MP to concerned residents of Llanidloes.
At a meeting last Friday, brought about by the shock announcement of the impending closure of Barclays’ Llanidloes branch, the MP was urged by town councillors and local businesspeople to take their fight to the highest possible level.
Around 50 people packed into the town council chamber to voice their concerns over the loss of the town’s last bank.
Mayor Cllr Crisp opened the meeting with a message to residents not to take news of the closure lying down.
She said: “We all don’t like to accept that once the bank has made its decision it’s a foregone conclusion. We have got to fight.”
Cllr Crisp said that Russell George AM met with the town council earlier in the week and had arranged a meeting with Barclays for September 29 – but the bank has made it clear that residents are not invited.
The planned meeting also falls just six weeks before the closure date of November 10, when Barclays will become the third bank to desert the town in four years, following NatWest and HSBC. This is despite a promise made in 2015, when Barclays cut its opening hours, that a complete closure was not on the cards.
Mr Davies MP said: “I was particularly disappointed – but more than disappointed, because I knew that not very long ago, Barclays made a commitment to staying in Llanidloes.
“Russell George has been to speak to you on Monday, and we wanted to have a fairly early meeting with Barclays, but September 29 doesn’t strike me as being very early.
“I imagine we all share a pretty serious disappointment.”
Several business owners at the meeting shared their concerns about the many potential problems they and their customers could face.
Market stall holder John Davies said: “On a Saturday most of our business comes from visitors who have come into the town. They see something they want, go to Barclays to get cash out, and come back for it.
“It’s the same with the youngsters who come down at night, they need to get their cash out from somewhere.”
Cllr Crisp supported this stance, saying: “It is a thriving market town and it needs a bank.
“It’s the small businesses that are going to suffer in a big way, and we are not going to encourage people to move to Llanidloes with businesses.”
Cllr Margot Jones added: “This is a vibrant community and we have got fantastic small businesses.
“We have a vibrant high street and we are very proud of it. We can’t just lie down and accept this.”
Volunteers and community groups could also be hit badly by the loss of banking facilities. Stella Gratrix said: “There are a lot of senior citizens who run these community events.
“They should not have to have large amounts of cash in their homes and then go on the bus to Newtown. It will kill a lot of community events.”
Residents asked Mr Davies MP to do everything in his power to stop the closure going ahead, including putting forward an early day motion, and taking the matter to the Welsh Secretary and Welsh Select Committee.
Cllr Margot Jones said: “This is going to have wide-ranging implications for a small thriving town. It’s time to make a stand.
“Barclays will take notice of political intervention.”
Cllr Graham McArthur added: “The point here is that this is a problem that’s affecting communities all over the UK.
“It needs to be taken up at Westminster level, it really does need to be a national debate.”
Mr Davies promised to take the matter to the Welsh Select Committee, of which he is a member, and would try to get a debate in Parliament.
Residents are now being urged by the town council to make their voice heard by writing to Barclays.
No banks left in town
In the worst-case scenario, Llanidloes, will have no bank after Barclays shuts its doors on November 10.
This will mean no 24-hour ATM, and no face-to-face banking for residents, businesses and community groups to deposit cheques and cash, or speak to staff.
At last week’s public meeting, town clerk Sonia Pritchard brought up the possibility of more independent ATMs in shops or the unused telephone box in Longbridge Street.
She said: “We have been in talks with Cashzone which supplies the other cash points in town. Hopefully they will come and put some in for us.
“Rhayader, who have gone through this already, are prepared to help us with any of these options.”
But a question mark was cast over this by Trudy Davies, of Woosnam and Davies Newsagents, who said: “That’s a cost to the business. You have to have CCTV, and your insurance goes up.
“When you go into it in detail it’s a significant cost to the business. We have got to make a living.”
To prevent the loss of over-the-counter services, the option of a shared banking space was considered along with the potential facilities that could be offered at the Post Office.
Cllr Margot Jones said: “Obviously the hours have been cut in the Post Office and we are already queuing for quite considerable lengths of time.”
Mayor Cllr Janet Crisp agreed that the Post Office would not be able to cope with the extra demand without significant changes and said that Barclays customers are currently not able to access many services through the Post Office.
The other option, a shared building that banks could use, was met with more optimism.
Cllr Crisp said: “We can have a multi-purpose premises. You can utilise any building in a way to use it as a bank.
“This has been proposed to the banks before. When it is mentioned to them they say, ‘we will look into it’, but it never goes anywhere.”
Cllr Graham McArthur said that at the town council’s meeting with Russell George AM last Monday, the AM was supportive of the idea.
Cllr McArthur said: “Russell George wasn’t pessimistic about the idea of sharing premises. He was thinking about pushing it at Welsh Assembly level. We did cover the aspect of systems being incompatible, but I don’t see much of a problem there if it is pushed hard enough.”
See full story in the County Times