REGIONAL AM Suzy Davies has meet HSBC managers about the bank’s decision to close down the branch in Maesteg.
Mrs Davies, who is a Welsh Conservative, asked South Wales area manager Mark Richards about alternative arrangements being put in place to provide services to customers once the bank closes.
She said: “I know it is futile to attempt to get any of the banks to change their minds once they have made a decision to close but they should not assume that they can leave town and that’s that. If they want to keep their good name, they need to play fair in the way they close.
“I raised this in the Senedd with the Cabinet secretary for Communties. He supported me challenging HSBC about their adherence to the Welsh Government’s financial inclusion plans, designed to ensure people have access to their own money.
“Closing the bank means losing two hole-in-the-wall cash machines. I have asked HSBC for a full list of alternative ATM’s in the Llynfi Valley – for their precise location and whether or not they are facing the street and are available 24/7. There’s no point telling me there are 13 other ATM’s available if they don’t know how far they are from the town centre or in places which close at night.
“I know that in the past there have been times when it has been difficult if not impossible for Maesteg residents to get cash as all the ATM’s in town were empty – this would sometimes happen at weekends when bank staff are not around to re-load the cash machines.
“The banks everyday services will be available in the future at the main post office, also in Talbot Street, which offers some reassurance. However, they said there were no plans to install a cash machine there and seemed a bit surprised when I suggested they might like to contribute to the cost of one!
“I’m also finding out whether the post office plans to open any new counter spaces to deal with the extra business brought in by HSBC customers. There are already long queues there on certain days.”
Other issues raised by Mrs Davies at the meeting relate to what will happen to the premises once the bank has quit.
She said: “I gather that there will be a year to run on the lease after HSBC leave and we discussed a few creative ideas for its use during this period and afterwards – a business start-up space or even if the building could feasibly house the indoor market.
“The idea of putting artwork in the widow space had already been mooted but I asked them to consider putting in window vinyls which look like a shop front, as done by Swansea BID with empty shops there, to help reinforce the idea that this is a thriving high street that needs good business tenants.
“This building needs to be re-let quickly by its owners to a business that will enhance the shopping offer in Maesteg or be put to good, sustainable community use. What we don’t want is for it to be let to a business that downgrades the town.
“I will be writing to the owners of the property to find out what their plans are.”