Community Banking Hubs

The way we bank has undoubtedly changed over the past few years, and it continues to evolve as more and more people bank online. Online banking has made things easier for many, but not everyone has access to the internet which forces them to travel miles on end no reach their bank branch. In addition to this, not all actions can be completed over the web, as community organisations and businesses know all too well. The banksargument is that fewer people are using local branches, and there is no valid reason to be keeping them open. However, these recent decisions cannot be justified on the basis of this fact alone.  

Since the beginning of 2024, Barclays, Lloyds and Halifax have announced that they will be closing their branches in a few months, leaving Ceredigion without any of these banks. When I first raised this problem in Westminster back in January 2018, this is exactly the situation I envisioned. I called for the establishment of Community Banking Hubs - an alternative solution that would in fact benefit customers and banks as it would give banks the opportunity to co-locate and offer people a full banking service.  

Here is a list of the times I have raised issues relating to banking in Westminster:  

11/1/2018 - Banks and Communities - Hansard - UK Parliament 

27/2/2018 - Access to Banking Services - Hansard - UK Parliament 

14/2/2019 - Santander Closures and Local Communities - Hansard - UK Parliament 

7/9/2022 - Financial Services and Markets Bill - Hansard - UK Parliament 

20/3/2023 - Cash Acceptance - Hansard - UK Parliament 

Community Banking Hubs have now been established in other parts of Wales – a development that I welcome - but why is it that one hasn't yet been established in Ceredigion?  

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published a 'Consumer Duty' back in 2022; a set of rules that set higher standards for banks, to ensure that their customers are protected and that their needs are the number one priority. The 'Consumer Duty' aimed at protecting customers with personal accounts as well as charitable or community organisations. However, I would argue that recent actions taken by the banks do not seem to comply with these tenets and so I decided to carry out a banking survey for charitable and community organisations to gather experiences of officers and volunteers of banking in Ceredigion. 121 responses were received, and it became clear that most of those who took part in the survey were extremely dissatisfied with the current banking services. They felt that the banks did not understand their needs nor were they confident that the banks were acting on their behalf as organisations. It seems as though individuals with personal accounts as well as businesses feel the same.  

The frustration with the banks at the moment is clear - for the branches that continue to close, but also for the inefficiency of the service in general. The results of the survey, as well as the rate at which banks are closing branches recently, have only reinforced my belief that Community Banking Hubs are now necessary services for Ceredigion. I will be meeting the FCA and Link before the end of the month (March 2024) to discuss this situation. During these meetings, I will make a strong case for the establishment of Community Banking Hubs as soon as possible which will provide a full banking service to the residents of Ceredigion and will tackles this current crisis. 

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