EDITORIAL: Banks lead the decline on our high streets

By Mick O'Reilly   |   Editor   |
Saturday 4th June 2022 11:00 am
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The remains of a sign over a former branch of Barclays Bank, now closed, in Kew Gardens, south west London.
Bank closures on the high street are a growing concern (Cambrian News )

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There is a disturbing report in this week’s Cambrian News that highlights the decline in the high streets of our towns up and down this region.

Banks, which used to be a mainstay of commercial activity in our market towns, were institutions that represented the prosperity and stability of the communities where we did our business.

Not anymore.

According to data compiled by the consumer group Which?, we lost approximately half of the high street bank branches in our region over the past seven years.

More than a third of the banks in Ceredigion have closed their doors since 2015. In Gwynedd, two-thirds of bank branches there have closed their doors. And a similar rate of closures has been experienced across Wales.

Indeed, the figures suggest that Wales in general has been harder hit by financial institutions putting profit before people and shutting up shop.

Yes, the way we bank has changed with a switch to online. That much is true. But the new data also suggests that the withdrawal of banking services has also meant a similar reduction in free-to-use ATM machines in our towns and villages. And a majority of ATMs that remain charge users higher fees for access to notes.

We would like to be able to report that when banks leave, Post Offices are there as substitute banking services. That’s not the case. Nearly 150 more of our post offices across Wales are set to close under the latest service review — making it even harder to access financial services in person. And the loss of post office facilities on top of banks leaves another gaping hole in our high streets.

Add to this the chaos wrought by safe zones brought in by local councils in a ham-fisted response to Covid — is it any wonder our towns are slowly suffocating?

The decisions taken at board level in the City of London are having a critical impact on our streets. We certainly don’t need our councils compounding that decline.

What we do need are community alternatives such as credit unions — locally controlled for local people — to service our needs. If others are not willing to help us, then we have to do it ourselves.

Sadly, that’s been the way here for too long.

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