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NatWest branches to close across the county

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THERE are more bank closures expected across the county following an announcement by RBS this morning (Dec 1) that NatWest will be closing branches in Milford Haven, Narberth, Pembroke and Cardigan.

The Pembroke branch closes on May 21 next year, with Cardigan shutting on May 30, Milford Haven on June 21 and Narberth on June 28.

In total, 259 branches are closing across the UK, with a loss of 680 jobs.

RBS have cited the increasing trend of online banking as the main reason behind the decision.

A spokesperson for the banking group said: “The way people bank with us has changed radically over the last few years: since 2014, the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40%.

“During the same period mobile transactions have increased by 73%; and in the first half of 2017, there were 1.1 billion mobile and online transactions carried out by our customers: an increase of 41% since 2014.”

In Milford Haven, the announcement follows the recent closures of HSBC and Lloyds Bank. The closure means that Barclays is now the only remaining high street branch in Hamilton Terrace.

Stephen Crabb MP said: “NatWest customers in Milford Haven will feel deeply let down by this decision. Although more and more banking services are moving online, many customers still prefer the face-to-face interaction of going to their local branch. It is some comfort that NatWest customers can pay money in, take money out and check balances in the local Post Office, but it is still very disappointing to know NatWest is leaving Milford.

“There is currently a flight of banks from smaller town centres all across Britain as they seek to cut their costs and move more services online. Given the important role they play for local communities, there is a big question here about what kind of branch network will be left in rural areas in years to come. I have written to the Chief Executive of NatWest to express my concern about this and seek clarification of how they intend to treat the staff currently working at the Milford Haven branch. I hope there will no compulsory redundancies.”

Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman, said: “Bank branches are still vital to local economies up and down the country. Many local business communities will be disappointed to hear they are losing their bank branch today.

“Almost all of our members are using online banking. However, small firms still hugely value the in-person support they receive at branches, particularly when it comes to completing complex transactions and making big financial decisions. For many, these are relationships that have built up over years.

“In areas of the country still blighted by poor broadband, accessing online banking is a challenge. What’s critical is that small business owners that rely on bank branches are provided with suitable alternatives well before closures happen. What we can’t have is banks shutting branches on a whim, especially at a time when plans are afoot that may diminish our cash machine network in future.

“Access to cash is a big issue here. Cash is still critical to trade in thousands of our towns and villages, especially in tourist hotspots and rural areas. More and more small firms are accepting card payments but that comes with costs they’re forced to absorb. Equally, many have customers that only deal in cash.”

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The closure of those 20 banks will have a detrimental effect on the towns, as they serve not only villages but many of the neighbourhoods in surrounding areas, as well as providing employment to local people.

“These banks are 70% owned by the UK taxpayer, so we have to ask why are there no conditions to the bailout that guarantees access to such services. It is clear that Governments must do more for rural Wales.”

In addition the FUW is concerned that internet banking is still not option in all rural areas across Wales as many people will not have an appropriate internet connection- if they have a connection at all, and others may be worried about banking online for cyber security reasons.

“We have run cyber security workshops in co-operation with Barclays bank over the past few months, which should help our members become more savvy internet bankers, however the problem of internet access remains a huge problem for these rural areas.

“With more and more rural services and businesses being closed down, we must also acknowledge that it is becoming less and less attractive for young families and indeed business owners to remain in rural areas.

“If the problem of rural depopulation is not addressed with some urgency it could have severe consequences for our rural communities and with that also our rural economy.

“It is clear that if we want to ensure that Wales develops its full potential in being a rural economic powerhouse, we must make it attractive for working families to stay and also encourage vital services like business banking to remain available.”

Eluned Morgan AM said: “The news that 8 NatWest branches will be closing in my region is extremely concerning when economic conditions are so tough.  For a bank, owned in the main by tax-payers, this is a terrible decision that will have a big impact on some of my most rural communities.

“I have already written to the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Ken Skates over closures by other banks and will be speaking with him in the coming days to speak up for towns like Narberth, Pembroke and Milford Haven who are directly affected by this latest announcement.”

Paul Davies AM added: “I’m very disappointed that yet another bank will be closing its doors to a community in Pembrokeshire.  Whilst I accept that the face of modern banking has changed somewhat over the years, there is still a need for banks to have a high street presence, so that vulnerable and less mobile customers are able to access their banking facilities.

“Families and businesses in rural areas across Wales will particularly suffer because these communities don’t always have a suitable internet connection. Therefore, it’s important that banking provisions are made suitably available to rural communities and I will of course be raising these issues with NatWest at the earliest opportunity.”

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Fishguard: Terminal could close for three months for improvement to infrastructure

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FISHGUARD’S ferry terminal could be closed for up to three months, the operator Stena Line has revealed.

A replacement of the mechanised bridge which connects the ferry to the dock could cause the temporary closure.

The project would cost £5m and is expected to start in February 2019.

Commenting on the project, Stena Line said it was ‘committed to examining the possibilities of investing in key elements of the port infrastructure’.

The spokesperson continued: “It is expected that the port will close for approximately three months. However this is yet to be confirmed.”

In an online planning application to Pembrokeshire County Council, the company lists replacing the Linkspan provision, which allows vehicles to disembark and board at various tide heights.

Tenders for the project are currently being sought by the company.

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Neyland pervert jailed for downloading child pornography

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A NEYLAND man who “learned absolutely nothing” after being caught by the police downloading child pornography has been jailed today for doing it again.

David Leonard Smith, aged 59, of Kensington Road, had been under a suspended prison sentence when police called at his home to check on his internet activity.
 
Dean Pulling, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that he pretended to own only a mobile telephone but officers discovered that an internet router was linked to a Samsung laptop.
 
Smith refused to accept he had one but a search revealed the computer hidden under a pile of magazines.
 
As soon as the machine was opened an adult pornography website flashed onto the screen.
 
A closer examination showed that Smith possessed 13 indecent images of children and nine of extreme pornography involving women and animals.
 
It was also clear, said Mr Pulling, that Smith had swapped indecent images with another internet user.
 
Smith admitted possessing and making indecent images, distributing them and breaching a Sexual Harm Prevention Order made when he was sentenced in August, 2016.
 
Judge Geraint Walters said Smith was “hugely” in denial about what he had been doing and had learned absolutely nothing from his previous court experience.
 
“There was a fair amount of deviousness involved this time,” he added.
 
Smith was jailed for 16 months and Judge Walters activated 12 months of the suspended sentence, making 28 months in all.

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Motorbike safety campaign launched across Wales

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A CAMPAIGN aimed at reducing the risk of motorcycle-related deaths and serious injuries on the roads is underway across Wales.

As the weather improves police see more bikers on the roads, taking advantage of the beautiful routes across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys.

Dyfed-Powys Police is urging motorcyclists to ride safely and warns that until October there will be an increased focus as part of the campaign, named Op Darwen.

Superintendent Huw Meredith, Head of Specialist Operations, said: “Motorcyclists have long been identified as particularly vulnerable road users and reducing the number of road deaths and casualties on the roads of Dyfed-Powys is a priority for our Roads Policing Units.

“We have always welcomed motorcyclists from outside our borders to enjoy the magnificent landscape, but they must be aware that Dyfed-Powys Police is doing all it can to ensure our roads are used safely by all, with our Roads Policing Units taking robust action to prevent fatal or serious road traffic collisions on our roads.

“Everyone must take responsibility for their own and others safety on our roads and be aware of their riding and driving manner. Action will be taken against anyone choosing to ride or drive anti-socially, recklessly or illegally on our roads.

“Our officers see far too many tragedies, many preventable. Roads Policing officers will be out in numbers throughout Dyfed-Powys using a combination of education, engagement and enforcement to prevent further tragedies.”

Officers will also be encouraging riders to improve their biking skills by taking part in BikeSafe workshops, which
offer an insight into what can be achieved with further advanced training. The workshops, run by police forces around the UK, use a mix of discussions, on-road observed rides and information videos. They are designed to enhance the skills of all riders who have already passed their tests and are suitable for all abilities, from the most seasoned rider to those returning to biking after a period of absence.

Economy and Transport Secretary Ken Skates praised the campaign: “Our roads continue to be amongst the safest in the world.

“However, the number of motorcyclists being killed or seriously injured is still too high.

“Campaigns like this are a key part of a wider range of measures aimed at making our roads safer and preventing future motorcycling casualties. This holistic approach includes ensuring motorcyclists are prioritised in our road safety funding, supporting Go Safe’s operation of speed cameras and funding local authorities to deliver Bikesafe and other motorcyclist training.”

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