Closing banks in Rural Wales – Llanidloes

Yesterday, a public meeting was held at Llanidloes Town Hall. It was well attended with local residents and business people. It is clear that the announcement of Barclays’ closure has angered many people.

IMG_0222The situation so far.

Llanidloes Town Council met with Russell George AM on the 7th of August to discuss how to move forward with the situation.

Barclays has agreed to meet with both Russell George and Glyn Davies, however, what is dismaying is the fact that the bank cannot, or probably will not meet with them until the 29th of September. Also, what strikes me as infuriating is the bank’s point blank refusal to meet with any of the residents of Llanidloes to discuss the closure – I for one see this as blatant cowardice.

The bank has attempted to give reasoning for their decision to close in an online document – let’s take a look at this.

  1. 68% of customers “use the other ways of banking”well duh! Of course they do, however, this is not a reason for closing the branch. It is perfectly possible to do some banking online, i.e. transfer money or pay a bill, and then go to a branch for other banking such as pay in a cheque or cash.
  2. 51% of customers of this branch have used neighbouring branches in the last 12 months”. This statistic isn’t qualified in any way. What was the nature of the visits to the neighbouring branches? It is perfectly plausible that the 51% Barclays mention used those other branches only once as they happened to be in those towns.
  3. Between April 2016 and March 2017 there were 21,826 counter transactions at Llanidloes, compared to 26,618 the year before. On the face of it, an 18% drop in transactions is bad, however, the bank doesn’t provide enough data to show a trend – for all we know the average number of transactions might be around 21,000 per year – Barclays should be more open about this.
  4. Barclays have identified only 104 regular customers who use the branch exclusively for their banking. Again, is this a bad thing? Who doesn’t have accounts or savings in different banks? This suggest that there are more than 104 customers at Llanidloes Barclays branch. Once again, Barclays need to be clearer with the statistics here.
  5. According to Barclays change in weekly business transactions were as follows compared to the previous:
  • Counter transactions: -12%
  • Cash Withdrawals: 0%
  • Cash deposits: -13%
  • Cheque deposits: – 13%

At face value this looks terrible, until you look at the actual numbers:

  • Counter transactions: this is only 17 fewer than the previous year.
  • Cash Withdrawals: This is the same as last year
  • Cash deposits: This is only 8 fewer than the previous year
  • Cheque deposits: This is only 9 fewer than the previous year.

What came of this meeting?

First of all, it was heartening to hear that there was not one person in that meeting who was ready to accept this decision. Many raised concerns on how this will effect businesses in the area. The very idea of having to travel to Newtown to bank money is ludicrous! I mean, a 22 mile trip which can easily take well over an hour.

It is very promising to hear that the Town Council has made progress on the issue of getting more ATMs in the town through CashZone. This will make up for losing Barclays ATM come November.

The local MP certainly got a feel of the mood in the town, and was even given an idea by the people there of bringing this issue up at the Welsh Affairs select committee when Parliament convenes; an idea he hadn’t thought of prior.

Points of action for the MP:

  1. Present an Early Day Motion on the issue in Parliament (although he admitted this wouldn’t achieve much apart from drawing attention to it).
  2. Hope to win the ballot to hold a debate on the issue.
  3. Raise this case at the Welsh Affairs Committee
  4. Raise the issue with the Secretary of State for Wales in the hope that he might bring pressure in the bank not to close the branch as soon as November.

Points of action for residents of Llanidloes:

  1. Write to Barclays (name and address will be provided by the clerk of the Town Council) expressing opposition to the closure.
  2. Write to the First Minister (and I think to the local AM and Regional AMs too).
  3. Sign the petition HERE

 

 

When buying an Audi is the “cheapest” option?

Recently elected Plaid councilor, Elwyn Vaughan, last week highlighted the outrageous fact that Powys County Council has spent £36,000 on a new Audi car for its Chairman. I’m enough of a realist to know that such things are why some people enter politics. However, it certainly stings when you see in the local press, right next to the report of the new car, an article about how the Council will be consulting the public on how to cut £200,000 from youth services.

Must cut back on Youth Service, but not the Chairman’s hot wheels

Or how about the fact that our children will start school two years later than other counties’ children in order to save money. Placing financial burden on young families of the County.

Then you have the while funding of social care and day centres for the elderly being under threat due to County Hall tightening it’s belt.

The Council’s response?

The council has issued a statement claiming that spending the £36,000 is the cheapest option for them. In the tstatement he council claims that after the Chairman’s tenure ends in a year, the car will be sold and that they will have recouped £33,000.

However, a quick look at the second hand car market prices suggest that a year old Audi A6, automatic gearbox, with 20,000 miles on the clock are going for no more than £25,500. Meaning rather than costing £3,000, the car will cost Powys citizens £10,500.

The main thrust of the Council’s argument, however, is the fact that the Chairman needs an automatic vehicle due to a disability. It is only right and proper for this to be taken into consideration, but here is where the Council’s reasoning starts to leak. Why must the car be a prestigious brand costing £36,000? Do Ford focus’ not come in automatic? Or any other make that cost far less than £36,000? Why must it also be a brand new one, which will devalue far more than a nearly new car?

The council then claims that this option is far cheaper than paying travel expenses to the Chairman, which, according to them, would amount to £7,000. Again, this is true, apart from the fact than the £7,000 is fuel costs. Surely, it will cost £7,000 on top of the £3,000 to run the expensive Audi A6? So, at best this car is costing the citizens of Powys £10,000, that is if the council gets a good price for its sale in a year’s time. So that would be £3,000 more than paying the Chairman his milage cost for his own car.

I don’t doubt that the council will recoup some of the cost of the car in a year’s time, but there are some questions that linger.

  1. Why not opt for a cheaper model?
  2. What else could that £36,000 have gone to pay for for this one year?
  3. How much is it going to cost us next year to buy another car after the sale of this one?

Another Conservative Councillor in Powys is suspended!

It was only a week ago I highlighted the fact that two Conservative councillors had been suspended recently in Powys. Today, the Council announced that a third Conservative councillor has been suspended from his duties for a period of three weeks.

Councillor Gwynfor Thomas, Llansanffraid ward, has been found guilty of breached the Code of Conduct and “bringing his office or council/authority into disrepute”.

Let’s hope this is publicised far and wide before people go to the polls in May.

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What happened in 1973?

Recently the Department for Exiting the EU released a graph on their Twitter feed with the statement “We have a long and successful history as a trading nation. We’ve seen steady growth in trade as a percentage of GDP in the post-war period”. However, as many of the people’s replies to the tweet asked, what happened in 1973 to speed up the growth?

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What’s going on in Powys?

It would seem that in the final weeks of their tenure in office, Powys’ Conservative group have checked out. Recently a member of the Conservative group had been suspended from the council.

Today, the leader of the group on the Council has been suspended! I’m not a PR person, but i wouldn’t say this is a great way to kick off campaigning for the May elections!

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What a bargain!

For one vote, Labour have sold themselves cheap, one might even go as far as to describe them as a “cheap date“. 

Plaid have played the situation brilliantly. For one vote today they have secured quite a list of concessions. Here they are:

  • Thirty hours of free childcare with a commitment to increase the number of Welsh medium places
  • National Infrastructure Commission to deliver investment across the nation
  • Establish fund to end postcode lottery and improve access to new drugs and treatments
  • Welsh Development Bank
  • Recruitment and training of GPs
  • At least 100,000 new apprentices
  • Securing a successful future for the steel industry
  • Campaign vociferously for a ‘Remain’ vote
  • New Public Health Bill without the controversial e-cigarettes element
  • Additional Learning Needs Bill which will include a new Autism Act
  • Strengthen Welsh Language Measure
  • Legislate to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement (the smacking of children)
  • Parliamentary Review into Health & Social Care

Has there ever been an opposition that has succeeded to get so much in so little time.

An agreement to move Wales forward

Today, Leanne Wood and Carwyn Jones will make a joint statement regarding the agreement reached to overcome the deadlock in nominating and appointing a First Minister. 

It is clear what this won’t be. 

It will not be an announcement of a formal (nor in formal) coalition. Plaid have made clear that they intend to be an effective opposition, unlike that of the Conservatives in the last assembly.

It won’t be an announcement of a ‘supply and confidence’ agreement where Plaid props up a Labour minority government for the next 5 years.

What will the announcement be?

This agreement is for one vote- that of appointing a First Minister. The will be a minority Labour government.

For this Plaid has won many concessions from Labour. These include:

  • Re-structure the committee process, which will strengthen the process of scrutinising the government.
  • Establish bilateral committees to examine legislation, budget and constitutional matter. This will put Plaid in an unique position to hold the government to account and have a hand in important developments.

Plaid has also successfully won concessions on 5 of their 9 election pledges. Although details of these will be announced later today, they range from commitments on childcare to working on a New Treatment Fund for the NHS.

In the first week of the Fifth Assembly, Plaid have shown that they are an effective opposition which will ensure that the people of Wales get the best possible deal. 

Just imagine what they could achieve on government in 5 years time!

What just happened?

What’s going on. More excitement has arguably happened in the Welsh Assembly in the last two days than in the previous 5 years.

Yesterday, a coup happened in the UKIP group. However, today we saw the coronation a blocking of Carwyn Jones as the confirmed First Miinister of Wales. Rhun ap Iorwerth nominated his party leader, Leanne Wood for First Minster. Surprisingly, bith the Tories and Kippers voted for Leanne, giving her the backing of 29 AMs. The exact samr as Carwyn.

What’s it all about?

Of course Plaid don’t aim to govern with 12 AMs. There is no agreement for a rainbow coalition either. This is a nessage to an arrogant Labour party, who wouldnt talk and compromise for support. a minority government that acts like one that has a cleate mandate. with 30% of the vote, they will have to learn to listen. The events of today might remind Labour that its good to talk.


Constitutional crisis?

The Chancellor said he and the Prime Minister were “clear” the actions of the unelected second chamber had constitutional implications which would “need to be dealt with”.

                                          Sky News 27/10/15

I’m not the most avid fan of the House of Lords, however the actions of the second chamber is fully in line with its purpose! It did not block a manifesto promise of the elected government, rather it blocked a measure that the Prime Minister categorically ruled out during the election campaign. 

Here is a summary of events so far:

The Prime Minister said there would be no tax credit cut – he won the election – prime minister tries to cut tax credits – House of Lords blocks it.

Some might argue that the Lords are bound by the Salisbury convention and by blocking the changes they are causing a constitutional crisis. However, Salisbury convention only applies to you pledges made in the winning party’s manifesto, and as we know this was not in the Tories’ manifesto.

No pay rise – not quite

David Cameron announced that ministers in his government will have their pay frozen for the duration of the parliament as part of his “One nation” approach.  Admirably, the government is showing us plebs that they too are hurting in the attempt to cut the deficit.

However, when you consider how ministers are paid you’ll soon realise that their ministerial salary forms part of their income. All ministers (apart from Lords) are MPs and so receive a salary for being a member of the Commons. Of course with all MPs, these courageous and selfless ministers who will be facing a 5 year freeze in pay will enjoy an inflation smashing 9% increase in their pay for their Parliamentary work. With many public sector workers facing a mere 1% pay increase, the “One Nation” spin explanation for the freeze seems a little diluted.

Although the government disagrees with the 9% rise, the question is, how many of David Cameron’s cabinet will be refusing the 9% increase in the spirit of “One Nation” Conservatism?