Stephen Crabb MP challenged Barclays Bank senior management about their decision to close the bank branch in Haverfordwest– a move that will see Barclays not only pull out of the county town, but means they won’t have a branch left anywhere in Pembrokeshire.
In a meeting held online on Tuesday (6th February) Stephen expressed his own disappointment at the decision they have taken and voiced the concerns that have been raised from bank users across the county since the news hit the local press a few weeks ago.
“Firstly, we discussed their reasons for closing the branch which is because of a decrease in customers using the branch. I pointed out that I often see people queuing at the branch and that it seems to be well used but they explained that the ‘32 regular customers’ it refers to are the number of people who use the branch as the only way to do their banking.”
There has been a massive switch to online banking, which Stephen believes the banks have pushed forward by slashing opening hours and pushing customers to use telephone or online services.
During the meeting Barclays confirmed their intention to move to a model of operating just a handful of branches across the whole of Wales. When asked by Stephen about provision for older or more vulnerable customers, they stated that they are expanding their network of ‘Barclays Local’ staff who are available to meet customers in community locations.
Stephen believes that Banking Hubs – where a group of banks share a single premises in a town centre should be what the future of banking could look like particularly in rural areas. Barclays expressed interested in being part of this banking model. However, the current rules for establishing a banking hub are too tight and require almost all the banks in a town to have closed. Last week, Stephen and a group of fellow MPs who are worried about the disappearance of banks, wrote to the Financial Conduct Authority to urge a change of approach.
“It is pretty clear now that other banks could close their branches in Haverfordwest, and Pembrokeshire could find itself not having a single remaining bank branch. We should be able to do the work now to get a Banking Hub established and not wait for all the horses to have bolted.”
“This could be an important solution for Pembrokeshire. Sadly, we aren’t going to change the way that banks operate but we can find a solution that will future-proof access to services for the future. I will follow up with the FCA and Link which connects all the UK's ATMs to explore this option for the County.”