Monday, December 18, 2017


There are times when you can get the feeling that our communities have been regenerated to death. Don’t get me wrong, regeneration; if it is done right can bring real and potentially long lasting benefits to many of our hard-pressed communities. It is important that regeneration is a process rather than an event and that is done for people rather than to people and does not end up simply enriching the regeneration professionals instead of our communities.  The unwritten rule should be if you are going to spend public money then you need to work the money exceptionally hard to ensure that every possible benefit is extracted. There is a real need to ensure that any bodies set up to spend public money are democratically accountable and are established after a wide ranging accessible consultation process. To most people this should all sound pretty reasonable and sensible stuff, but it has often been to easily overlooked. The danger is that many of our local authorities simply perceive ‘regeneration’ as a means to accessing additional public monies rather than bringing meaningful beneficial change too many of our communities. Hand in hand with this concerning trend, in recent years there has been a disturbing tendency to effectively seriously marginalise any real community real involvement in the regeneration process, something that undermines the very objective of community based regeneration.

Saturday, December 2, 2017


An all to familiar sight - a bank closure notice 
Bank closures, remain, and are likely to remain at least fir the foreseeable future a simple sad fact of life for many communities across much of rural and not so rural Wales. This has been highlighted by the announcement of the mass closure of 20 NatWest branches across all of Wales.

The closures appear relentless and unstoppable, despite the fact that high street banks could and should have a roll to play within the economic life of our communities. We have been here before and will no doubt be back. It should be obvious by now that the big 4 banks clearly don’t give a Scooby about public opinion or the consequences of the closures. 

The local political and community leaders have rightly kick off and justifiably angry local residents have been interviewed by local media. There will be the usual weasel words from the bank themselves, but, once the initial fuss settles the closure will roll on – as the large London based banks are pretty much answerable to no one save themselves – certainly not anyone here in Cymru / Wales.

Dropping the spin (about the growth in on-line banking and it’s use – if you have no choice what else are people going to do) this is about nothing more than cutting running costs, the banks have little (or no concern) for their relatively unprofitable personal customers or the concerns of their local business customers or our smaller communities.

As has been noted elsewhere, by no less than the US Senate, some banks have other more pressing interests than those of their domestic customers like helping to launder money for drug dealers, dictators and terrorists, so much for being a local bank.

Local banks remain useful for the high street and local communities, they help to promote vitality and vibrancy and make it easier for local businesses to operate. Local businesses to a degree benefit from the existence of local high street branches by picking up passing trade from bank customers.

Once local bank branches close, the impact will be felt locally especially by older residents and local business owners who have to trek further and further to pay in their taking and the subsequent drop in passing trade. This situation has been aggravated by the demise of many building societies., most by no means all of which were largely hoovered by the banks.

It is perhaps a pity that we don’t have some sort of risk free Post Office Savings bank – save for the fact that it was recklessly sold of by a previous Conservative government on the cheap. That said, it is of course important to remember that one result of the demise of the regional banks was the relentless rise of the big 4 banks which led to the growth of the reckless casino banking and cheap credit that brought about the financial crash.

Once you factor in the ruthless Post Office closure programme that was pushed through by the then Labour Government, the former Con - Dem coalition government prior to it’s privatisation of the Post Office. Which in turn was preceded by the rapid floatation and rapid demise of most of our building societies you can clearly see how we got here - sorting the mess out is not going to be easy – perhaps as has been said before we need some sort of publically owned community owned Wales savings bank.