Politics, Economics, Religion,

Save our Rural Bank

Barclays Bank in rural Llanwrtyd Wells
Barclays Bank in rural Llanwrtyd Wells

Dear Kirsty Williams

Further to you sharing the letter from Lisa Kennedy, Barclays Head of Corporate Relations Central Corporate Affairs Retail and Business Banking; I would like to personally address the questions she raised. I am sure other members of the Llanwrtyd Wells and outer village community have their own responses and further thoughts on the matter. Below is my response to Ms Kennedy. Please forward it for her consideration.

Dear Lisa Kennedy
You have asked the following questions and I appreciate you taking the time to review the impact of Barclays’ decision to close the rural branch in Llanwrtyd.
• What do you believe will be the biggest impact of the closure of the Llanwrtyd Wells branch on the local community?
• What do you believe will be the biggest impact of the closure of the Llanwrtyd Wells branch on customers of the branch?
• What alternative ways to bank do you believe need to be provided to help customers and the community adapt to this change?
Impact on the Community
Llanwrtyd Wells is a community of around 700 whose prosperity is largely dependent on tourism; particularly event –led tourism which in turn attracts a huge amount of media coverage, sustaining and growing further the reputation and growth of visitor numbers to the town.

This tourism is generated from the community working together as a united group of volunteers working tirelessly to sustain the reputation and smooth running / promotion of these events. In case you have been on another planet (!) these events include Man v Horse (35 years) World Bog Snorkelling (33 years) and more latterly, the World Alternative Games with the backing of the Welsh Assembly.

The businesses in the town could not survive without these visitors. I’m not just talking about accommodation providers; also the garage the few shops and the pubs/cafes would not sustain themselves without tourist numbers. Without the tourists these facilities would eventually close.

Many of these businesses trade using cash. Small transactions which do not justify card machines, electronic payments etc. These will be numerous over a short period and both the tourists and the businesses need to access cash and bank to survive. Many transactions would be lost if tourists did not have access to a cash machine
The community as you are aware is demographically challenged. Our nearest alternative banks are 12 miles away (a round trip would cost £5 in petrol and an hour in time). Business owners working 6/7 days per week and working to small margins can ill afford this additional cost to time or pocket
Impact on Customers
Whilst I accept that numbers accessing bank staff is in decline, it is not appropriate to further marginalise those who continue to require these services. These tend to be the less mobile and the elderly. In any other situation the disadvantaged and vulnerable are invested in to ensure they receive the protection they need, it is only the banking sector who seem to think this section of society should be penalised for not changing. This long serving and vulnerable group NEED access to the facilities to access their money, remain mobile within their accessible area and retain the business and social interaction local banking provides. Big businesses such as Barclay who year on year make large profits have a responsibility to respect their loyal, long term customers and support more vulnerable people
(NB the bank showed a 43% rise in profits in its half yearly figures (source http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com 29th July)

The community residents include farmers and elderly long term residents who do not wish to and should not need to isolate themselves further by switching to electronic forms of banking. Many people value beyond monetary measures interaction with the bank staff, shop staff etc as part of their social well-being.

Many members of our community are non-drivers, re-homed here from elsewhere through social services or electing to live here because it has the minimum basic facilities one needs with limited mobility. Remember there is very limited public transport solutions.
I (for example) chose Llanwrtyd because it had a school, library, doctors, pub, shop and BANK. Without this basic set of services younger, growing families would be less likely to base themselves here, resulting in an ageing, declining community.

What Alternatives?
Yes many young people are moving away from banks. However there is still the under 18 economy who babysit, garden, dog walk, wash up, waitress etc. for small amounts of cash. Have you considered they do not use banks because the Welsh Bac does not include basic finance management within its curriculum? How many teenagers/young adults do not know how to manage money and don’t understand APRs etc. The Bank could engage with future customers by interacting with the education system
The town at a minimum would require a cash machine. I cannot tell you how many time in my working life here I would have lost business had customers not been able to withdraw cash.
Banking solutions that do not incur further costs to businesses. Most of the activities in this community are not for profit, charity or community driven. These groups cannot afford to take on the costs of card machines, transaction fees etc.

Many of the small businesses cannot afford card machine fees as their margins are tiny. Transaction fees would increase prices and potentially reduce sales, resulting in business decline or closure.

Internet access and Superfast Cymru are a joke in this community. AS is mobile phone signal. Since BT put in the fibres there are still a large proportion of individuals and businesses who are ‘too far from the cabinet’ and also in the installation the old ADSL solution has been damaged. Personally, as a B&B owner, there are huge chunks of time where internet access is impossible from our location, making electronic banking unviable

To conclude
I would implore Barclays to be the Peoples Bank it always used to be, to support rural, marginalised, elderly and vulnerable customers, engage the next generation and support communities working hard to sustain their economies by maintaining local banking. Be better than the rest. One of you has to lead the way. Why not let it be you?
Bernice Benton
Small Business Owner
Active Member of community led tourism initiatives
Passionate resident out to protect her community

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