Rural communities are being left behind as crucial services dwindle

People living in the Welsh countryside are being put at a disadvantage, the Countryside Alliance claims, after a poll revealed they are losing access to important services.

Of rural people polled, 35% have lost a Post Office in the past five years and 32% a local bank, the polling carried out by YouGov for the Countryside Alliance has shown.

The results, released as the Countryside Alliance launches its Rural Manifesto for the National Assembly for Wales elections, also show that in the same period almost a quarter of people (24%) questioned have lost a public transport service and a fifth no longer have a village shop.

Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance director for Wales, said: “Rural services hold communities together but many residents of rural towns and villages across Wales do not have access to basic services, goods and amenities. This can affect quality of life, especially for the elderly and those on low incomes and be a deterrent to enterprise and potential jobs.

“Of particular concern is the closure of bank branches and Post Offices, meaning rural businesses are unable to access banking services in the same way as their urban counterparts. This may mean having to travel further to bank their cash, make withdrawals or send parcels – making their businesses less efficient and more expensive to run.”

In 2014 28 bank branches closed across Wales – 10 of which were the last bank in town. The Countryside Alliance is calling for business banking services to be offered by all major banks through the Post Office and improvements to rural broadband services to allow online banking. The proportion of businesses benefitting from high-speed broadband is lower in Wales than in the UK as a whole, according to a recent Ofcom report.

“A lack of services is hugely damaging to our rural communities. More needs to be done to ensure that the countryside continues to be a vibrant, sustainable place for the young, the elderly, families and people on low incomes to live,” added Miss Evans.