Vikki Howells AM challenges Lloyds Bank over the closure of their Mountain Ash branch

Following Lloyds Bank’s damaging decision to close their Mountain Ash branch in March 2017 I challenged senior Lloyds executives to meet with me to discuss the impact of this closure upon the community.

During the course of the conversation I challenged some of the data which Lloyds used to justify their decision. For example, they claimed that 90% of their Mountain Ash customers already use the branch in Aberdare. I questioned the accuracy of this data and asked if it was based simply upon cashpoint withdrawals, which are in no way comparable to over the counter services.

In our discussion, I opposed the decision on several grounds.

Firstly, I emphasised the impact of closing this branch on a community where car ownership and family income is below the national average, and which is also home to a higher than average number of older people. Lloyds have offered support to get people using online banking, but this is something many customers, even if they have access to the internet, may not want to do. In addition, many customers who travel from surrounding areas to the Mountain Ash branch already need to catch a bus – having to travel to the Aberdare branch would substantially increase their journey time and costs, and may require them to catch two buses.

Secondly, I raised the impact of the closure on local traders – Lloyds does not allow its business customers to access banking services in the Post Office, so I pointed out that this closure is driving their business customers into the arms of other banks. What is startling about this omission is that the email from Lloyds informing me of the branch closure proudly boasted about Post Office banking as an alternative. It is a shame loyal local business customers have obviously been forgotten.

Thirdly, I also sought assurances on the future of the premises the branch is based in. The building is in a prominent site on a route into Mountain Ash, and its disuse would be a cause for concern. Unfortunately, Lloyds weren’t able to give any commitment on this point, but it is something I will keep a watchful eye on.

Fourthly, Lloyds had promised the branch was not scheduled for closure when they reduced opening hours 18 months ago, and reiterated this in their discussions with Cllr Andrew Morgan again just three months ago. I pointed out to the executives this was unacceptable and could harm the reputation of the bank, and they did agree they should have worded the previously given commitments to retain services differently.

It was disappointing that Lloyds were not willing to shift their position. I am glad at least that provision has been made for the branch’s staff. However, as I feared when this news broke, Lloyds have decided that they are no longer by the side of people in Mountain Ash, despite the message in their stylish and expensive TV advertising campaign.