CAERLEON is set to lose its only bank this autumn, prompting outrage from customers and politicians.

HSBC confirmed that it is planning to shut its branch on Backhall Street on November 2 – marking the firm’s third closure in Gwent since last summer.

Plaid AM for South Wales East Lindsay Whittle said the bank should ditch its “world’s local bank” slogan, with customers in Caerleon potentially left without a free cash machine when the branch shuts.

An HSBC spokeswoman said: “Customer usage of the branch has fallen significantly over the past few years as our customers either use other branches in the area, where they work, or they are using the 24-hour convenience of internet or telephone banking.

“Our network has to be fit for purpose and we have to ensure our branches are located in areas where they are used.”

The spokeswoman said the branch is currently only open for limited hours during the week and that HSBC is “investigating”whether it will leave a cash machine following the closure.

It said the branch’s two staff will move to another local branch.

HSBC had shut the next nearest branch to Caerleon, on Caerleon Road, St Julian’s, in June 2011. It closed its Blaenavon branch inMay this year.

A letter to Mr Whittle said each customer has been written to and will be transferred to Cwmbran, five miles away.

There are also branches in Newport city centre four miles away, and Usk, 7.8 miles away.

Mr Whittle said: “Once again HSBC is hitting the communities it purports to serves. Perhaps it’s time for them to ditch their ‘world’s local bank’ slogan, because it is leaving a pretty bitter taste in the mouth.”

City councillor Gail Giles said facilities in Caerleon were limited: “It’s going to be a big loss.”

Sue Gallagher, 66, of Isca Mews, has banked with HSBC in Caerleon for more than 20 years.

She said: “I’m very unhappy. As far as I’m aware its a very busy bank served by a lot of people in the area. I’m usually there twice a week.”



Petition against closure

ANGELA Jones, who runs the Red Lion pub next door and has been a customer of the branch for 14 years, has started a petition against the move.

Ms Jones, who is also a former city councillor, said she often has to queue in the branch which has the area’s only free cash-point.

She said: “We are going to have to go to Cwmbran or Newport, which is not convenient at all.”

Rosemary Butler, AM for Newport West and who is also a customer, said she was “extremely disappointed”.

She added that she had written to the firm’s regional director to challenge the decision to move customers to Cwmbran rather than the city centre. She has asked the bank to clarify whether a cashpoint will remain.

South Wales East AM William Graham said he was “greatly disappointed” and that many elderly customers rely on it.



EDITORIAL COMMENT: HSBC must think local

THE banks haven’t had a good press in recent weeks.

And today is no exception.

HSBC – which dubs itself ‘the world’s local bank’ – has announced it will be closing its third Gwent branch in less than a year.

The latest closure will leave Caerleon without a bank or a free cash machine.

Last year the bank’s closest branch, on Caerleon Road in Newport, was closed, and earlier this year Blaenavon’s lost its last bank when HSBC closed its doors there.We remain confused by HSBC’s definition of the word ‘local’.

There is no doubt that fewer people are using smaller bank branches as more customers use telephone and internet banking. And we understand there is a tipping point of customer usage belowwhich it becomes unviable to stay open.

But banks like HSBC are massive organisations making huge profits. They have also helped to create the economic crisis still afflicting this country.

Many people believe part of the problems facing most banks is that they havemoved away fromtheir traditional community-based customer service for personal account holders.

If you live in Caerleon your nearest banks are nowin Cwmbran, Newport or Usk.

As banks, post offices and pubs close, the beating hearts of many communities die with them. Perhaps it is time the likes of HSBC thought local rather than global.