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Are high street banks leaving Wales behind? MPs to examine access to cash

27 March 2024

The Welsh Affairs Committee will examine the closures of high street banks in Wales as it launches a new inquiry into access to cash and high street banking.

The Committee will consider how declining high street banking services are impacting vulnerable people and small businesses across Wales, who are often more reliant on cash than digital banking.  

In recent years, Wales has experienced a rapid decline in the number of high street banking services available to the public. Already in 2024, 22 high street bank closures have been announced in Wales, while automated teller machines (ATMs) declined by nearly a quarter between 2018 and 2023.  

Small businesses often rely on cash due to the costs involved in using credit card and mobile payments, which can undermine small profit margins. Vulnerable groups also risk being left behind by the disappearance of cash and in-person services from their local communities. Such groups could include people on lower incomes, those with physical or mental health disabilities, and those living in rural areas and older people.  

The Committee’s inquiry will examine how Wales is being affected by the loss of high street bank services, and whether the problem is worse in Wales than other parts of the UK. It will consider whether current regulations go far enough to ensure the population have access to banking services, and whether suggested solutions like banking hubs, banking vans and community banks provide an adequate replacement to bricks and mortar high street banks.  

Chair's comment

Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Stephen Crabb, said:  

“As online banking grows in popularity, high street services are disappearing across Wales. But the many small businesses and vulnerable people reliant on cash risk being left behind by this change.  

This has the potential to be a serious issue for Wales that could quickly spiral out of control. We must not sleepwalk into a situation where entrepreneurial micro-businesses or the already disadvantaged are locked out of the banking services on which we all rely.   

In this inquiry, we are particularly keen to hear from those likely to be directly affected by the shift away from cash and physical banks. I encourage anyone with first-hand experience of losing banking services to give evidence to the Committee.”  

Terms of reference  

The Committee is inviting written submissions by May 8th 2024. These should focus on, but not be limited to:  

  • Which regions or communities are most affected by the loss of high street bank branches and access to cash?  
  • Which social groups are most affected by high street bank branch closures? 
  • What is the impact on customers and small businesses of losing access to high street banks?  
  • Are the issues arising from bank branch closures more acute in Wales than in other parts of the UK? 
  • Does the existing regulatory environment ensure that physical banking infrastructure is accessible to customers in Wales? 
  • Are the current replacements for high street banks (including banking hubs, banking vans and community banks) adequate and do they provide communities with sufficient access to cash?

Further information

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