'Access to Banking' Inquiry Report Released - Assembly for Wales Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee
The Wales Tourism Alliance input into the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee 'Access to Banking' Inquiry Report, with Adrian Greason-Walker, WTA Policy Adviser appearing to give evidence before the Committee on the 19th June 2019.
The WTA's main argument is that access to banking services should be maintained, particularly access to cash in order that our visitors are able to maintain their spend, which per head, is lower in Wales than other parts of the UK. Many of our micro and small businesses particularly in seaside and rural areas are dependent on cash. We are pleased to see that the Committee has taken our concerns on-board as per much of the recommendations below, although not explicitly relating to tourism, cover much of our industry’s needs. We look forward to their implementation.
Recommendation 1. The Welsh Government must prioritise its engagement with the Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group (JACS) and ensuring that the specific needs of Wales are represented and reflected in the actions taken to protect and improve access to cash.
Recommendation 2. The Welsh Government must continue to work with LINK and the regulators on efforts to strengthen and support the existing free-to-use ATM network, and ensure that coverage is where it is needed most.
Recommendation 3. The Welsh Government should explore how regional hubs, and cooperation and collaboration between different agencies can improve the access to cash in Welsh communities (recognising that cash-handling is an expensive business).
Recommendation 4. The Welsh Government must work with local government to ensure that local development plans address any barriers to maintaining the cash infrastructure, for example by balancing heritage conservation measures with the need to maintain ATM access in rural areas.
Recommendation 5. The Welsh Government should update the Committee on how its plans to amend the Consolidated Use Classes Order and permitted development rights will take account of the need to protect and maintain banking infrastructure in Welsh communities.
Recommendation 6. The UK Government and the JACS group should review whether the Access to Banking Standard is sufficiently robust to address the impact of bank closures on vulnerable people, SMEs and local communities, or whether regulatory or other mitigating action is needed.
Recommendation 7. The Welsh Government should review its support for the Post Office Network and explore with the UK Government and Post Office Ltd how to support efforts to expand the cash-in-out and other services it can offer, and to raise public awareness of its banking services across Wales.
Recommendation 8. The Welsh Government should properly map the gaps in banking services overall - access to banks, Post Offices, free-to-use ATMs and connectivity for digital banking. Based on an increased understanding of the gaps, Welsh Government should explore what more it can do to address the wellbeing impacts associated with reduced access in rural communities, e.g. investing in Access to Banking 8 transport options, partnership approaches, planning interventions and connectivity projects to improve access in the worst affected areas.
Recommendation 9. The Welsh Government should continue to pursue urgently with the UK Government and Ofcom, the implementation of measures to provide adequate connectivity for digital banking across all of Wales.
Recommendation 10. The Welsh Government’s support for digital inclusion should prioritise a) maintaining support for existing digital skills training, b) consulting stakeholders on how to further address barriers to older and vulnerable people safely accessing online banking, and c) providing additional support to teachers to deliver financial education within the school curriculum.
Recommendation 11. Welsh Government to set out in detail how it intends to consider the impact on communities, town centres and high streets of bank closures and the loss of free-to-use ATMs in its regeneration and community wealth building activities.
Recommendation 12. Welsh Government should ensure that any community banking proposal in Wales takes full account of the need to deliver bilingual banking services.
Recommendation 13. The Welsh Government should: ▪ Provide assurances that the due diligence process for supporting the Banc Cambria community bank included a rigorous assessment of the impact this could have on the credit union sector, and set out how it will mitigate potentially negative impacts in consultation with that sector; ▪ Detail its strategy for managing the ongoing risks associated with putting public money into the un-tested Community Savings Bank Association banking model, and clarify the level of future support it anticipates offering the community bank; ▪ Confirm the timescales for delivering a community bank for Wales; and ▪ Confirm whether it is confident the Banc Cambria proposal will meet the evidenced desire for physical face-to-face banking services for elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers.
Recommendation 14. The Welsh Government should actively pursue other collaborative ideas for delivery of banking services, including through partnership arrangements, alongside its support for the Banc Cambria community banking model. Its criteria for supporting proposals to improve access to banking services Access to Banking 9 should have a strong emphasis on guaranteeing greater financial inclusion.