The impact of the closure of dozens of high street bank branches in Wales will be investigated by the Welsh Affairs Committee.

The committee is launching an inquiry into how declining high street banking services impact vulnerable individuals and small businesses in Wales, who are often more reliant on cash transactions than digital banking.

In recent years, Wales has seen a rapid decrease in the availability of high street banking services.

Already in 2024, 23 high street bank branches have announced their closures in Wales, while there has been a near quarter decline in automated teller machines (ATMs) between 2018 and 2023.

This decline affects small businesses that often rely on cash because of the costs involved with credit card and mobile payments, which can undermine small profit margins.

Vulnerable groups like those on low incomes; those with physical or mental health disabilities; those living in rural areas; and older people are also at risk as they could have difficulties adjusting to the disappearance of cash and in-person services from their communities.

The inquiry will aim to determine how the loss of high street banking services is impacting Wales, and if the problem is more pronounced there than in other parts of the UK.

It will also investigate if current regulations ensure sufficient access to banking services for everyone and assess the proposed alternatives, like banking hubs, banking vans and community banks, to replace traditional high street banks.

Chairman 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, Mr. Crabb voiced his eagerness to hear from those likely to be directly affected by the shift away from cash and physical banks, and encouraged anyone with first-hand experience of losing banking services to give evidence to the committee.

The committee has set a deadline of May 8, 2024 for written submissions answering their terms of reference.