Jane Hutt’s Response to Barclays Bank Plans to Close Llantwit Major Branch

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Re: Barclays Bank Llantwit Major Vale of Glamorgan

I am writing as the Vale of Glamorgan Assembly Member to convey my strong opposition to the closure of the above bank in my constituency.

I understand that UK Government protocol on bank closures stipulates the necessity of producing an impact statement, to consider the consequences of closing branches for vulnerable customers, small businesses and those in rural and deprived areas.

Since Barclays announced in December 2015, its plans to close the Llantwit Major branch, I have collected a wide range of evidence from constituents and small businesses, in collaboration with Councillor Gwyn John, who is an elected Member of the Vale of Glamorgan County Council and Llantwit Major Town Council.  I chaired a well-attended public meeting on January 8th and a petition against the closure is in circulation.

I trust that the evidence provided below will inform your impact statement for the Llantwit Major branch and I would urge you to reconsider your decision.

Older People and Vulnerable Adults

 I am deeply concerned that the closure of the Llantwit branch will impact detrimentally on vulnerable and elderly customers who feel safe banking in their own communities and who value a ‘person to person’ service and the support of helpful, familiar staff.

Digital Exclusion

Barclays has stated that branch transactions are low, but it has been pointed out that there are a great many customers-often older or vulnerable adults- who value a branch service over internet banking due to issues of digital exclusion-either they do not have access to a computer or do not have the skills to use it with confidence, or they cannot afford one.  Have you considered the impact of the branch closure on your digitally excluded customers?

Following the closures of HSBC and NatWest one campaigner observed on social media:

I was particularly concerned about the number of elderly and infirm people who use the bank, people who wouldn’t know where to start on internet banking.”

Cost of Travel

I understand that Barclays has advised that its Llantwit Major customers will need to travel to Cowbridge or Bridgend in order to access a full NatWest banking service.

Bridgend is over 10 miles from Llantwit Major and Cowbridge, a town in the rural Vale of Glamorgan, is over 5 miles.   For older and vulnerable customers in particular, the cost of travelling there-especially for those without private transport- is not inconsiderable.

Cowbridge, it should be noted, is a smaller town than Llantwit Major which leaves many of your customers bemused at your decision to close the Llantwit branch and divert customers to its smaller neighbour.

Even for those with their own transport, car parking is difficult in the busy market town of Cowbridge, and any plans to introduce parking charges in the town could add to the costs of travelling outside of one’s community to access banking services.

Post Office Service and Security

I understand that Barclays has advised that every day transactions can be completed at the Post Office in Llantwit Major.

However, I am told that a full banking service will not be available-no face to face advice or specialist services for example.

Concerns have also been raised about these new responsibilities for post offices in dealing with coinage-for example for churches for collections, for charity shops and for the Llantwit Major Victorian fair stalls.

Some small businesses, clubs and charities have also expressed concerns about difficulty paying in coins.  Others are concerned that there is no provision in post offices to speak about confidential matters. I am discussing these concerns with the Post Office External Relations Manager and local post office service providers.

A number of my constituents have also highlighted concerns about confidential, financial details being released to a separate organisation like the Post Office.  I would be interested to know your response to your customers’ concerns. I am also aware that Barclays Bank does not enable post offices to take on a full range of responsibilities as is shown in the Post Office’s own statement (attached) about different arrangements afforded by banks. Will Barclays commit to enabling a full range of services to be provided by the Post Office?

Atlantic College

Has the impact of the proposed closure on students from the nearby UWC Atlantic College been considered?  Each year, the college offers an education experience to over 350 students aged 15 -19 from over 90 different countries.  As Llantwit Major is the nearest town to the college-(there is a local bus service too)-do you have student customers using your branch?  Do some of them require special advice services? What consideration has been given to the impact of closure on this demographic?

Small Businesses

In my meetings and visits to local businesses in the town centre, small business owners have expressed particular concerns about the impact of the closure of the Llantwit Major branch.

The loss of the branch will make it difficult for business customers to access coinage, special advice and other necessary and frequent business transactions.

Furthermore, as the presence of a local bank increases footfall in a community and benefits small businesses, what will be the impact on Llantwit Major of the closure of yet another local bank branch?

One campaigner, who spoke to local businesses on the high street, made the following observations:

“They make a great deal of use of the Llantwit branch because they haven’t got time to travel elsewhere.  In a number of cases, these were also largely cash-and- cheque based businesses, small hairdressers, window-cleaners, one-man tradesmen like carpenters, plumbers, electricians and so on.  They were most concerned about the effect of this closure on small shops in the town as well as on their own small businesses.  And once the traders have gone, they pointed out, the town might as well be dead.”

The loss of Barclays will certainly have an impact on the business community.  Llantwit is after all, a major town centre in the Western Vale with an expanding population as a result of the Local Development Plan-(there are proposals for over 1500 more homes in the town and nearby villages.)  To be without a local bank, when smaller towns like Cowbridge, are retaining these services, seems paradoxical.

I hope that in light of this, you will reverse your decision to close the Llantwit Major branch or, at the very least, agree to keep the branch open for a number of days a week and the ATM on a full time basis.

With very best wishes

Yours sincerely

 

Jane Hutt AM

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