THE failure of the NatWest mobile banking van to turn up in Cardigan or Newcastle Emlyn for its first scheduled visit in the new year has been slammed by a local councillor.

Since the closure of the NatWest branch in Cardigan in May 2018, customers have been serviced by a weekly mobile bank every Thursday at the Fairfield Car Park between 11.10am and 11.55am.

However, on the evening of Wednesday January 2, Ceredigion county councillor and town councillor Clive Davies was told the mobile bank would not be present at the town on following day due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ – with the bank suggesting on social media that customers could use the banking services located at the local post office instead.

Cllr Davies said: “Simply put, the absence of NatWest banking van from Cardigan is completely unacceptable.

“Access to banking services had already been reduced due to the Christmas period, and NatWest’s cancellation last week was frustrating for many small businesses and customers looking to take advantage of the banking facilities available.

“The suggestion by NatWest that customers should rather use banking services at the local post office, is both and incorrect misleading with many services unavailable at the post office or may take a longer time to be processed.

“Frustratingly, many customers like myself were rather faced with a lengthy journey to Carmarthen or Aberystwyth as to partake in their banking duties – rather than the ability to do so locally, as should be the case.”

The mobile bank was also absent from Newcastle Emlyn on Thursday, with local customers expressing frustration at a lack of prior notice.

Ceredigion Ben Lake MP, who has tabled a bill in Parliament aiming to enhance access to banking services in rural areas, added: “Customers across Ceredigion have been in contact to share problems they have encountered with the mobile banking service, and by far the most common complaint is the brief window of time that the van has at every stop.

“The loss of five-day-a-week access with the closure of so many branches, and the transition to a slot of less than an hour each week is difficult enough, without last-minute cancellations such as these.

“There is no doubt that the way in which we bank is undergoing a transformation. Despite successive assurances and promises by high street banks that they are committed to serving our communities, the service that we receive in rural areas is greatly reduced.

“While a mobile banking service is better than complete abandonment, it simply cannot offer the service that so many customers and businesses require.

“As such, I am pushing in my parliamentary bill for banks to co-locate in areas that they would otherwise vacate completely - to establish banking ‘hubs’ that would ensure rural areas can access the services that they need, throughout the week.”

A spokesperson for NatWest Cymru said: “Supporting our customers is our number one priority and we therefore appreciate the inconvenience that can be caused when a service is delayed or postponed.

“On the rare occasions that this happens we call our regular customers to advise them about the alternative methods they can use including making deposits and withdrawals using the Post Office or using our online, mobile and telephony banking services.

“We always value the feedback of our customers on how these services are running and are continuously reviewing our mobile branch timetables. We also employ our local community bankers who bring the bank to our customers, meeting them where it's most convenient – whether that's libraries, places of work, clubs, leisure centres or customers' homes.”