Plaid Cymru Members of Parliament continued to put the future of local banks on the parliamentary agenda this week as Ben Lake MP introduced a Bill in Parliament looking to ensure customers aren't left without basic financial services by bank closures.

The devastating effect of banks pulling out of communities leaves thousands of people unable to complete the most simple of financial chores – like pay-in a cheque or even access cash.

Rural communities have been particularly hard hit.

The closure of the last bank in some villages and towns is forcing people to travel tens-of-miles to the nearest bank.

Coupled with poor internet access and an inability to access online banking, countryside customers and business are being left in a "banking black-hole".

Local MP Jonathan Edwards and Assembly Member Adam Price have been putting pressure on both Welsh and UK Governments to consider and drive forward plans for a public and community banking model.

The group of Plaid Cymru MPs in Westminster took this work a step forward by introducing a Bill in Parliament.

The Bill is being led by Ceredigion MP, Ben Lake, whose constituency towns have faced similar baking closures to those of Carmarthenshire.

The parliamentary Bill has a three prong approach to address the issue where banks are still in operation, where they are thinking of leaving and where they have already left.

The measures in the Bill, outlined to Parliament, will:

i.Make it more difficult for banks to close – by changing the 'Access to Banking Protocol' so banks will have to consider transport time to their next nearest branch – not just distance as is currently the case – when making a decision about closing.

ii. Create 'Local Banking Hubs' – By changing existing rules, banks will be allowed to 'co-locate'. Meaning more than one bank could share a premises and some administrative functions. This will make it more cost-effective for multiple banks to remain open in an area.

iii. Enhance financial services offered by Post Offices – Post Offices already have the ability to offer a range of banking services – from paying in cheques to withdrawing cash. But many branches lack the basic infrastructure, funding, and training to carry out these services. By investing in Post Offices, the Westminster Government could ensure the 99% of retail customers and 95% of commercial customers that have easy access to Post Offices can at least use basic banking services.

Ben Lake MP said: "Banks are the beating financial heart of our communities. By pulling out of high-streets across the country they are leaving customers high-and-dry.

"In rural areas, people are being forced to travel tens-of-miles to the nearest bank. And with underinvestment in broadband infrastructure, online banking is not an option. These communities are being left in a banking black hole.

"Businesses can't make deposits, customers can't pay bills and fundamentally, our communities are left poorer. It is older and vulnerable people, and small local business that suffer most when a bank closes. That is why I and my Plaid Cymru colleagues are putting forward solutions which the Westminster Government can act on right away.

"With the three prong approach outlined in the Bill, we can make sure banks can't simply disappear and where there is already not a bank, customers can access the banking services they need more easily through the Post Office.

"I also recognise that banking is changing. That's why I am pushing for a change the law that would allow for 'Local Banking Hubs' to be created. This will cut costs and make it commercially viable for banks to stay open by sharing premises and some other administrative functions.

"Last week, RBS announced a near billion-pound-profit whilst only a matter of weeks ago they closed 20 branches in Wales and hundreds across the UK. Profit is being put before people and that needs to change. With these proposals, we can make sure that the City of London is not the only place where the banks are left."

Mr Edwards added:"Just like Carmarthenshire, the communities of Ceredigion are also having banking services stripped from their towns and villages.

"I was therefore delighted to support the Bill put forward by my Plaid colleague which, if implemented by the Westminster Government, could make a positive difference to banking services in our area.

"As Ben told the House of Commons – banks should be looking to co-locate, not vacate our communities.

"MPs from across the political divide have now supported this Bill, moving it to the next phase in the parliamentary process where we will have further Parliamentary debates on the measures we propose to introduce."