PROTESTERS gathered outside Abergavenny’s Halifax branch this morning to voice their concerns about the forthcoming closure of the bank and how it will effect the community.

Nearly 200 banks have been earmarked for closure across the UK this year, with 14 in Wales. The Barclays branch in Frogmore Street shut its doors for good earlier this year, and many residents fear that the loss of Halifax will be another nail in the town’s coffin.

“I find it quite ironic that when Abergavenny was honoured as the best town to live in Wales last month by the Sunday Times, that the feature was sponsored by none other than Halifax,” explained protest organiser Owen Lewis.

“Yet here we are, standing outside their Abergavenny branch on a cold and wet April morning, hoping that if we get enough support they’ll actually change their mind about leaving a town they have helped enrich for decades, and which still relies on the face to face banking service they provide."

Owen added, “If they take that service away then surely it will diminish the town as a whole and make it less likely for us to win similar accolades in the future.”

Owen explained to the Chronicle that he organised the protest because he believes that although digital banking may work for some people, for others, particularly the elderly, it presents nothing but problems. He feels without the personal touch and face-to-face contact of in-person banking, many will struggle when it comes to keeping their finances in order.

“I lived in Bristol for a while and nearly fell victim to an online banking scam,” explained Owen. “One of the things that I found reassuring and comforting about moving back to Abergavenny is that when I popped into Halifax to sort things out, the staff were warm, friendly, helpful and supportive. I suffer from anxiety and that sort of human touch can make all the difference to someone’s day.”

Owen added, “Banks are an essential part of any community. Many people make going to a bank of part of their regular visit to town. That sort of social interaction has always been important, but even more so now in an age where we have become so disconnected from one another because of technology.

"Doing things online or talking to an automated service is a poor substitute for talking to another knowledgeable and supportive human being. I’ve talked to the staff, they don’t want to leave. The residents I’ve spoken to also don’t want the bank to go. So what sort of business ignores what its customers and staff want when making such a big decision about its future. Where is the democracy?”

Halifax protest banner
(Tindle News)

During the short time the Chronicle was present at the protest, the branch which is earmarked to close in August enjoyed its fair share of visitors who were more than keen to chat to Owen and his fellow protestors, sign their petition, and voice their own concerns about the bank’s closure

At a time where cynicism and apathy make it easy for corporations and governments to steamroll their changes through with scant regard to community feeling, Owen feels it is more important than ever for people to have their say.

He told the Chronicle, “A lot of critics will say that standing outside a bank that has already decided to close is futile, but what I have seen from other protest movements I’ve been a part of, such as the one to save the Tudor Street day centre, is that change can and does happen. We want Halifax to continue having a presence in Abergavenny and hopefully, someone who calls the shots will agree.”