Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jack Sargeant Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Joel James
Peredur Owen Griffiths
Rhys ab Owen

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Ben Cottam Ffederasiwn y Busnesau Bach
Federation of Small Businesses
Dot Gallagher Mencap Cymru
Mencap Cymru
Janet Jones Tyst
Steven McGee Tyst
Trudy Davies Woosnam & Davies News, Llanidloes
Woosnam & Davies News, Llanidloes
Wayne Crocker Mencap Cymru
Mencap Cymru

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Gareth Price Clerc
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Samiwel Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Sara Moran Ymchwilydd

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:03.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 14:03.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

I welcome everyone to this committee meeting this morning for the Senedd Petitions Committee. Again, this is a hybrid meeting for this particular session. As a reminder, the meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations for conducting proceedings in a hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place.

Item 1 on today's agenda: apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. We have received apologies from Buffy Williams. We've received no substitutions today. I remind committee members that they should note any declarations of interest either now or at the relevant point during today's proceedings. Okay.

2. Sesiwn dystiolaeth - Panel 1 - P-06-1335 Dylai Llywodraeth Cymru gymryd camau i sicrhau y gall oedolion agored i niwed heb gerdyn banc dalu ag arian parod
2. Evidence session - Panel 1 - P-06-1335 Welsh Government should take steps to ensure vulnerable adults without bank cards can pay with cash

Item 2, then—we have our first evidence session for petition P-06-1335, 'Welsh Government should take steps to ensure vulnerable adults without bank cards can pay with cash'. Can I welcome all our witnesses who are in front of us today? I'm grateful to you for being here. Perhaps if you could start by introducing yourselves for the record. 

Yes. Good afternoon, I'm Wayne Crocker. I'm the director of Mencap Cymru.

Good afternoon. I'm Dot Gallagher, chair of Mencap Môn.

Good afternoon. I'm Janet Jones. And this is Steven McGee.

Thank you all for being here with us. We do appreciate your time today for what is an important petition. The committee certainly recognises that. Wayne, perhaps I could start with you this afternoon. Mencap Cymru started this petition; perhaps you could tell us why you decided to do that, and how Mencap are campaigning on this particular issue.


Yes. Mencap Cymru provide support to over 170 people with a learning disability in Care Inspectorate Wales-registered services across Wales. One of my roles as Mencap Cymru director is to visit those services and to chat to people we support and to their support staff around how things are going and are there any issues in terms of the support that they're given. On a visit to one of the services in Carmarthenshire, I was chatting to somebody we supported who was talking about the fact that he'd been given birthday money from his family and had decided to go to a rugby club locally to buy a rugby shirt, and had gone there with his support staff, had known what sort of shirt he wanted to buy, had gone into that venue and was told that it was cashless. So, essentially, he could only purchase a shirt if he had a debit or credit card. He didn't have either of those. I thought, 'Actually, that's interesting—I wonder whether that's affecting other people,' so I started chatting to a lot of people within our services and to other organisations. Mencap Cymru is part of the learning disability consortium in Wales, so we work alongside Learning Disability Wales, All Wales People First, all-Wales parents and carers forum, Cymorth. We were chatting around actually are people being discriminated against because they're not able to access services, because venues are starting to move to cashless, and lots of people were saying that they were discovering this was happening.

Thank you for that. You mentioned a number of organisations that you're working with. In response to this petition, the Minister has said she would encourage engagement with the disability rights taskforce group. Have you had that engagement with them?

Yes. So, I was invited to go and speak to the disability rights taskforce a few weeks ago, and there was a general view that, actually, lots of disabled people were being excluded because of the move to cashless, so they are looking at what they can do as a taskforce. As you know, the taskforce are looking at a number of issues that have arisen out of the COVID period, to see whether there are some additional barriers that disabled people are facing in Wales. So, we're really pleased that both the Minister and actually that taskforce is looking at this as a way of understanding what exclusion is being faced by people, either people with a learning disability or disabled people. But one of the things we say as an organisation is that actually this is much wider than disabled people, so people who access other services, homeless people, actually will struggle because they don't have access to the sort of bank accounts that give them credit or debit facilities.

Thank you for that. That's really interesting. I think the committee may want to seek further information from the taskforce, but we'll consider that later. We'll move to questions from members of the committee, starting with Peredur Owen Griffiths.

Diolch, Jack. Croeso. Welcome to the committee. I just wanted to ask Steven and Janet—could you talk us through your experiences? Have you come across this yourselves? How did it make you feel? Tell us what happened, and maybe an example or two.

Steven is very sociable. He likes going to coffee shops, or maybe a fast food place, and he likes to pay with his money. Now, I've said earlier that the first time we ever experienced it was here in Cardiff, where we went in, we ordered our coffees, and we were told, 'It's card only.' If you say to Steven, 'Do you want to use your card?', he'll say, 'No.' He wants money. We've experienced it at home as well. We have two or maybe three cafes where we live that are only card payments as well. It takes that social aspect away from somebody like Steven.

Does that make you upset? To him, if you go into somewhere and you order something and then you're told, 'It's card only,' he's going to see either his food or a drink still on the counter. There's no other way of explaining it to him, is there?

No. Do you find that people in those shops or cafes—do they do anything to try and help? Is there anything—


No. There's—. It's been like, you know, 'We've already told you, sorry: it's card only.' But then they won't understand that Steve won't have money in his wallet to pay for something.

Can I just add to that—

—because I think it's a really interesting link as well? So, one of the other campaigns we're running as an organisation at the moment is the concerns that we have around day centres closing. So, there are lots of day centres that were closed during COVID, they haven't reopened, and the one of the aims of many of the local authorities is to support people in the community. So, there's a real challenge there, because, if you have venues that people have been using for a very long time closing, people being told to go and use services in the community, and those individuals don't have access to debit or credit cards but only use cash, they can't use services in the community, but they're not accepting people who go in with cash. Dot chairs Mencap Môn—it's an incredible centre in Llangefni on Ynys Môn—and you've got lots of examples of people who haven't been able to access services.

Lots. Yes. And my own son—. It makes them very, very vulnerable. I've got two sons with learning disabilities, and my eldest son, who isn't here today, he would wrestle you to the ground if you wanted to take a £20 note off him, but he would freely give you his card and tell you his PIN number, because it means very little to him. Even though we explain that that's where his money is, the physical thing is not there. And my other son Michael, with Down's syndrome, who is up in the gallery, he would give you his card and his money. He was once on a train, and when he got off the train—I was meeting him—he didn't have his iPod in his hand. And I said, 'Where's your iPod?', and he said, 'Oh, the boy's borrowed it.' So, I said, 'He's borrowed it?' So, he said, 'Yes, he's borrowed it.' So, I said, 'And where is he now?', he said, 'I don't know.' So, I said, 'So, what will happen?', and he said, 'He'll find me. He'll give it me back.' And to this day, he does not realise that he was actually mugged that day. He wasn't wrestled to the ground with somebody in a balaclava, somebody very nicely asked him for his iPod, and he gave it to them, because he didn't see there was anything wrong in that. And most adults with learning disabilities—I know we have Hate Crime Week coming up—but lots of them have never really been dealt with badly; they've always been with nice people who treat them nicely. So, they're unaware that there are people who would take complete advantage of them, if they had the chance, and quite easily hand over a card and their PIN number, with no issue at all.

Thank you for that. I'll bring in Rhys ab Owen, who's online on the screen behind us, in now.

Thanks very much. I just wanted to follow up on that. So, is that, Dot, the real issue—people are able to take advantage when there are cards rather than cash? Or is it the fact that a lot of people with disabilities don't have a bank account? What's the main issue, in your view, or is it both—and more, perhaps?

It's both, but it is—. It's often very difficult to get a bank account for an adult with a learning disability; you have to jump through all sorts of hoops. And myself, coming here today, Gary, my son at home, his bank is the Co-op, which used to be in Bangor, which was our nearest branch on Anglesey, and for the last six years, seven years, his nearest branch is in Chester, which is a round trip of well over 100 miles, if he wanted to physically walk into his bank. They won't deal with me on the phone, because, if they hear me speaking, they say he's being coerced. He can't remember any of his security stuff; he can never pass security. So, we're just about—. The only bank we have now left in Holyhead is a Santander, and I went to see them on Friday, because the plan, while we were here, was we were going to go into the Co-op in Cardiff, and made an appointment, but he wasn't well enough to come, so we're not able to do that. So, he's going to change his bank to the only bank that we have in Holyhead now, because, physically, to go to Chester, it's, you know—. And for him—. They won't deal with me; they need to deal with him. But if I give him any information—if they say to him, 'What's your memorable name?', and I tell him what it is, they can hear me and they'll say, 'Somebody's talking to you', and they end the call immediately. So, we can be two hours waiting to speak to somebody, and then they won't deal with me, and, in the end, they won't deal with him.

One of the challenges is that many people, when they try to open bank accounts, they are, as Dot has explained, you know, regarded as not having capacity to manage bank accounts that have debit or credit facilities. Also, there's a real challenge around the number of people in Wales who live in supported living houses, where they essentially are supported to live independently, but they might have a financial appointee. So, the local authority often will be the financial appointee, either because that person is deemed as not having capacity to manage a bank account or they are at risk of being financially abused. So, when you have a financial appointee, often you will be given access via a cash point machine to physical cash, so you won't have access to a credit or debit card. Support workers, rightly so, can't pay for things with their own bank cards, because (1) support workers are not paid well enough to be constantly paying for things themselves, and (2) it causes quite a significant amount of problems for how you financially manage it when somebody is paying for it. And people are supported to live independently, so we have to find a mechanism for them to access services without the need for their support staff to be constantly paying with their credit or debit cards, which isn't the right thing to be doing in 2023.


I take it, Janet, that it's very upsetting when you go up with some goods or some items and then there's somebody turning around saying, in front of other people, 'No, sorry, we can't serve you'. 

Yes. A young man I know with severe disabilities, it happened to him once in the shop, and he ended up just sitting on the floor and having a real—. He was just really, really upset that he couldn't have—. He'd taken a magazine about motorbikes and things, and it ended up with the police being called for him to be escorted off the shop premises. All he wanted to do was buy his magazine—I think it was £2.60, and he couldn't spend his cash. Because if they live in residential homes, they're often given their cash once a week, so that they physically know how much they've got to last them through the week. If you're a young lady and you're buying personal things and the shop won't take your money, then I don't know what you do.

Do you have any evidence of establishments being flexible with regard to this, meaning there might be a sign there saying 'Cards only', but, once it's explained, they are willing to accept cash? Or is it your evidence that they're pretty firm and they'll stick to the card-only policy?

I don't think they have the facility to take the cash.

No, you're right, and, often, the option is—. So, a number of restaurants where people have tried to go in and purchase things using cash and they've been told before they get to their table that they're card only, the option from the restaurant is, 'You can buy vouchers'. Again, that's a real challenge for people in terms of how they manage their money, when they're reporting through their financial reporting within the house, and we've had a number of issues—. You're probably aware that as well as this petition, we did a survey and got lots of stories from people around their inability to pay for things in their communities with cash, and we'll present that to you so that you can listen to people's stories around the barriers that they're facing. But there doesn't seem to be any flexibility at all.

No. They haven't got the facility to take the cash. They don't have tills and things anymore, or change.

Yes. And finally, Wayne, maybe you're the best placed to help us with this. It feels like not long ago—certainly only a few years ago—when you used to see signs saying, 'No card payments for less than a certain amount—£5 or £10'. I've certainly noticed that some places in Cardiff were bringing in the card-only policy before COVID, but, certainly, COVID has accelerated this. Is this true across Wales? How widespread is it, Wayne?

A survey of the responses that we got from across Wales was that it was happening everywhere. One of our major concerns is that it's happening in venues where people are getting money from statutory agencies—so, that's theatres, arts venues, sports venues—where the culture department is funding them, the Welsh Government is funding them. And it's ironic that the Welsh Government has a very strong commitment to equality and equity in Wales, and yet they fund organisations that are slowly moving to inequitable activities by, essentially, creating barriers for disabled people to access their services. Access is more than just whether someone has physical access to a venue; access is about how does that person go in and use the money that they have to be able to buy, whether it's a coffee in a coffee shop or theatre tickets. We've had stories of people going to theatres and whilst the ticket has been purchased, actually, on the day, they've got cash to buy the theatre programme or a drink in the bar in the theatre, but those are only accessible via card.

And, I suppose, you yourselves as a charity have probably seen the impact of this, have you, with buckets and—


As a charity, there's no point in standing at the end of the checkouts because nobody comes out with any change. I was talking to the man from the air ambulance last week, and he said he'd been there all day and if he had £5 in his bucket, that was all he had, and he'd been there for the whole day. At one time you could collect £200 or £300 in a supermarket at the end of the tills. But most people run in with a card, don't they, and you just end up feeling your pockets, and you haven't got any change.

Thank you, diolch, Rhys. Before I bring Joel James in, can I just try and draw out a couple of things? Firstly, it would be very good if the committee can have sight of the survey responses. We'll follow that up with you after the meeting, but that would be useful for us to take into consideration. And then, in questioning, we heard the experience, Dot, in Anglesey with the Co-op Bank. We see often, don't we, high street banks leaving the high street. In my own constituency, Buckley no longer has a bank at all. There are 20,000 people within that community. So, that seems to be a problem, where high street banks are closing and leaving. This is clearly another issue that they've not thought about. And then, can I just try and understand the access-to-cash card? You go in, you won't have your debit card or credit card, you'll put your access card into a cash machine, and if that cash machine was charging you for the transaction, that money then comes out. So, essentially, what we're doing is charging someone just for going about their daily business. I find that quite depressing, actually, and quite shameful. So, I think the committee will certainly take that into consideration as well. Joel James.

Thank you, Chair, and thanks ever so much for coming in this afternoon. I suppose I only wanted to ask the one main question. As a committee, we can make recommendations to the Welsh Government and suggestions, and I just wanted to get an idea of the key things you would want us to suggest to the Welsh Government, really—just to get an idea of that, I suppose. 

So, there are five asks that we've made of the Welsh Government, and any support that the committee can give us to try and get these actioned would be really, really welcome. So, the first one is that we think, given the number of people who live in Care Inspectorate Wales-registered services, we'd like Care Inspectorate Wales to be including questions in their reviews of services around how people who are supported in those services access community facilities if they don't have access to digital or credit payments. So, I think that should be part of the regular reviews that CIW does with the services that are inspected, and the Welsh Government has the ability to influence the criteria of the inspections. 

Secondly, I think the Welsh Government needs to be doing an audit of the organisations that they fund. So, whether it's the culture department or other departments, to see whether there has been a slip, I guess, in that commitment to equity and access, and actually whether those organisations are doing effective equality impact assessments on those decisions to move to cashless. We'd like to see an organisation—potentially Cymorth, or one of the other organisations in Wales—pull together a conference or a seminar to really understand what the barriers are for people, and to come up with some solutions. We also think that local authorities need to be challenged around their moves to cashless booking, whether that's paying for parking or paying for leisure facilities. Often, now, they have moved from paying by cash to paying by card on some sort on app.

And then finally, I think, given that 51 per cent of people with learning disabilities in Wales live with their parents or family carers, what support is given to those families to understand the options around payments? We'd like to see an awareness campaign launched by Welsh Government to actually help parents understand the options, because lots of those parents will manage the finances of their family members, and often that means basically giving cash to their sons and daughters or their family members. If they go into the community and can't access services they're being, I think, discriminated against. So, we'd like something done for parents to help them understand what they can do that could be potentially an option other than cash.

Just this morning, we're staying down the bay and there's a vending machine in the corridor, and last time we came, Steven got himself a chocolate and a drink out. He's gone to it today and it's card only. Last time, he physically put his money into the machine, and today, it's card only. He can't put cash in it, so he didn't get anything out of the machine.


Yes, and that's just this morning—

It's just a little example, isn't it? It's little things to us, massive to him. It's the same with his—. I have another son with special needs as well, and that would cause him a challenge. He would challenge over something like that. They're both different in different ways, and—. Steven was absolutely gutted this morning.

Yes, but he did accept it, whereas Nathan would have a real struggle with accepting that he could not get what he wanted out of that machine. And somebody else would have to step in. And like Wayne said, often if they're with support, it's unfair to ask a support worker to use their own money. And it doesn't look good either and, you know, it's not the way to do it.

So, I've been working with people with a learning disability and their family carers for 30 years, and in that 30-year career only two things, really, have shocked me in terms of my personal ignorance in terms of the exclusion that people face. The first is Changing Places loos. Back in 2008 we ran a campaign called 'Changing Places, Changing Lives', and it was actually about the fact that so many parents with sons and daughters or family members with profound impairments were changing their sons and daughters on toilet floors. It led to a campaign and Welsh Government funded a number of Changing Places loos across Wales, and made changes to 'Technical Advice Note 12: Design', the technical note around access to buildings. That was the first one that shocked me, because, actually, I should have known about that.

And the second one is around the fact that people are being excluded because they don't have access to digital payments. And it's one of those things that's just under the radar. And actually, for me, personally, I rarely use cash. There are a few local authorities in Wales where you can only pay for parking by cash, so I have a pot of coins that I use if I'm paying when I'm visiting places. But most of my life is digital and, actually, it's very easy to forget that for many people access to cash, as Steven's just said—. To be able to go and buy something from a vending machine is part of your life choices, and you become more disabled, more excluded if you can't do that because those venues and those facilities have moved to debit and credit payments only. 

Just a quick question, and the answer might be 'no'. Are there any businesses local to you that have gone cashless that you've actually engaged with and spoken to, and then they've changed their behaviour?

No. We've had discussions with people in those shops and places—I mean, Oriel Môn and places like that—but it's not down to the person that's behind the till and serving you. What they say is, 'I really can't do anything about it. This is how it is. This is what I have to do. This is the way I have to do my job.' And it's not their fault, you know—

I'm just thinking, maybe an independent business or somebody that—where you actually speak to the boss, if you like, and whether or not anybody is—. I suspected it would be that, that answer. And, just another aspect, is there any research that's been happening around this anywhere that we should as a committee be looking at?

Yes, there was a report commissioned in 2019 by—let me get her name correct to you—. It's the 'Access to Cash Review' that was undertaken by Natalie Ceeney. So, she did a review for the Westminster Parliament on access to cash and it's a really interesting report in terms of the number. So, about 8 million people in the UK struggle to have debit or credit payments, so would struggle to be able to pay for things if, essentially, they weren't able to pay in cash. So, I think that would be a very useful report. And I'm really pleased that you are going to invite the Friendly Trust to come and give evidence, because they will support a wide number of people to access some payments and they have a really deep understanding of the barriers that people face. 

Diolch. We will certainly discuss with our colleagues in Westminster to try and find that report because I think it will be useful for us to see it. Before we go and end this session, I just wanted to ask perhaps a final question and give you an opportunity to say any final comments. In the next session we're going to be speaking to the Federation of Small Businesses and a business owner as well. Is there any particular message that you would like the committee to give to businesses that are thinking about going cash free, or that already have gone cash free?


I'll start off. I guess, for me, it's the point I made earlier—that accessibility and access to a venue isn't necessarily just about ensuring that people have physical access to a building. If people go into a building to use a service, and because they only have access to cash, they can't use those services, they are being discriminated against and excluded. So, I would ask organisations that are thinking of changing to really think about their access to their services for the community, and how comfortable they are in excluding a range of people—whether that's people with a learning disability, people who find themselves homeless, or older people who don't have access to debit or credit cards. You're excluding those members of your community, and they are customers that have money, that want to buy things. So, that would be our message: you need to think about access in a much wider way, rather than just physical access to a building or a venue.

I think physical access is something that needs to be thought about as well. I think the banks need to go a long way. In Holyhead, which is quite a big town, a port, people come into it all the time, we've only got one bank left. There was a Lloyds, a Barclays, a Midland—they've all gone—and we've now got a post office and a Santander, and nothing else. Even for the small businesses—. My hairdresser was saying she won't take card, she only does cash, but now, it's getting more difficult for her to put her cash into the bank. She's only allowed to put £200 into any machine at a time, and if she takes £400, she's left with £200 that she has to carry home, because there's nowhere else to go with it. So, I'm sure they're going to have issues as well. I just think it basically comes down to the bank wanting to make more profit out of our money.

I tried to allude to it before that a number of high-street banks have left communities—not just in our own communities in Wales, but across the United Kingdom. It's quite stark and telling. And your evidence, again, proves that. Janet and Steven, are there any particular comments you'd like to make towards the end?

Have you got anything to say?

I agree with Wayne and Dot, because it's not just Steven I have to deal with, I have to deal with my other son, as well, and he doesn't understand—. You know, a card. His staff member carries his card in a wallet, and Nathan is only allowed to have so much money in the wallet; so, it's just hard for everybody. I mean, to buy things for Nathan, you have to use your card if you have to go on the internet. Because of Nathan's needs, you can't take him into a shop to pay for something. So, it's hard for both of them.

I guess the message at the end of the day is that people need that choice. Otherwise, they are excluded. Some people will be comfortable—there are lots of people with a learning disability who have bank cards and are comfortable using them to pay for things and online payments—but there are lots and lots people who don't; and, actually, if we don't give them the choice, then we are excluding by default.

I think those points at the end bring this session timely to a close today. Your evidence has been loud and clear, I think, for the committee to take into consideration.

There will be a written transcript of what we've heard today. You'll also be able to watch back online, if that's something you'd like to do as well. We would be grateful if you could look for factual accuracy in what we've recorded, and if there are any problems with that, please let us know. Additionally, if there are further comments that you may wish to make, then please get in touch and we can make sure that you have the opportunity to do so. But for now, can I thank our witnesses—Wayne Crocker, Dot Gallagher, Janet Jones and Steven McGee—for coming into committee today?

We will take a short technical break whilst we swap witnesses over, then we'll hear from the Federation of Small Businesses and Trudy Davies from Woosnam & Davies News shortly. Thank you. We'll go into private session shortly.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:34 a 15:00.

The meeting adjourned between 14:34 and 15:00.

3. Sesiwn dystiolaeth - Panel 2 - P-06-1335 Dylai Llywodraeth Cymru gymryd camau i sicrhau y gall oedolion agored i niwed heb gerdyn banc dalu ag arian parod
3. Evidence session - Panel 2 - P-06-1335 Welsh Government should take steps to ensure vulnerable adults without bank cards can pay with cash

Welcome back to the second evidence session for the Petitions Committee this afternoon on P-06-1335, 'Welsh Government should take steps to ensure vulnerable adults without bank cards can pay with cash'. We have Ben Cottam, the head of Wales for the Federation of Small Businesses here with us this afternoon. We also have Trudy Davies from Woosnam & Davies News, who is trying to join us online, but is having some technical difficulties at the moment. So, Ben, perhaps we'll start the meeting and hope that Trudy can join us as we start.

If I start with questions, then, we've just heard from Mencap Cymru and other witnesses about their experiences and why they started this petition. Can I ask what the pressures are in driving small businesses in Wales to go cash free? Is this a trend that you see, in the FSB, is happening more often?

I think it is a trend that's increasing, and there are multiple reasons that are driving this. Part of it is market responsiveness—we as consumers increasingly are choosing what might be seen as convenient for some and using digital and electronic device payment facilities. We also know that access to cash on the high street has declined really quite significantly, so businesses find themselves—particularly but not exclusively in rural communities, but rural communities are particularly badly hit, in communities where the availability of cash is less than it would otherwise be. So, a business might switch over to a digital-only solution because there are costs that are incurred with both taking cash in terms of the deposit facilities and logistical issues, which we might come on to, but also, even going for a digital solution of a tap-to-pay or something like that, obviously, they have to invest in the machinery to do that and they incur a transaction charge. So, it may well be that businesses are moving from accepting cash and card to one single mode because it reduces their costs.

But a lot of it is down to the customers driving that change and choosing that convenience. That's notwithstanding the fact, though, as Mencap and this petitioner has rightly pointed out, that for some within society, this presents a real problem. And that's something that, in our work, FSB have recognised; that Wales and the UK are far from being possible to be—or it's desirable to be—a cashless society. So, I think we certainly welcome the petition and the conversation that this generates, because although some of the issues associated with this for smaller businesses are very, very different issues, they're nevertheless symptoms of the same sort of problem.

Thank you for that answer. One of the witnesses, Dot Gallagher from Mencap Môn, described her son trying to get an appointment with the bank—it was the Co-op Bank, I believe. They live in Ynys Môn—Anglesey—and their nearest bank branch is in Chester, which is some hours away, and they can't transact over the phone, because they think the person who is helping or assisting the person on the phone may be in a vulnerable position and, therefore, they put the phone down. Now, that is a similar position—access to banking services. I assume it's slightly different in terms of situation, but small businesses go through exactly the same issues with access to cash or banking services, because of the plight of banks on our high streets. Would that be a fair assessment?

Yes, absolutely. I guess it's important to separate the front line of business advisory that high street banks provide within a community for businesses; businesses traditionally have gone to a local bank manager or business development manager for those kinds of services. In terms of access to cash, though, we've seen a 21 per cent decrease in the number of ATMs available in Wales between 2018 and 2020. That's slightly below the UK average, but nevertheless, that's a really significant withdrawal of ATM facilities, and, actually, beyond that is the problem that many of the facilities that remain are paid-for facilities, and so there is a cost incurred. There's a disincentive for people to access cash, even if they wanted to use cash, because they incur a cost. It might be a £1.99 transaction cost. If you're getting £10 or £20 out, that's a significant disincentive, that fee, in itself.

We've pushed for the availability of free-to-use cash machines across communities. We have brought up several times with banks the problem that, when they withdraw their facilities from our high street, that also includes the withdrawal of their cash machines. We know that the cash policy statement from the UK Government seeks to address some of that, but, again, the Financial Conduct Authority is only just starting to look at how it'll use its powers to ensure availability of cash within our communities.

But we have countless examples, similarly, of members who are having to travel really quite significant distances to deposit cash. That presents a few problems, not least the safety of people travelling a significant distance with quite significant amounts of cash in their car. Quite often, it's not the business owner that is able to do that, because they have to be at their place of business, so it might be an employee that is asked to do that, and there's an insurance challenge in that, in people travelling with large amounts of cash. The withdrawal of banking facilities from our high streets has very, very different problems, again, that feel very, very similar. But, effectively, what they do is drive behaviours that may well mean that, even if cash is available in the community, maybe the the ability to use cash within certain businesses is curtailed because people are just assuming that cash is no longer a part of the community.

One other area that I would flag up, particularly, is Wales is very heavily dependent on tourists. We do find that people in tourist economies are quite heavily dependent on cash. When people come, particularly from overseas, what they will tend to do is exchange before they come or when they come, because, of course, if you are in a community and using your card every single time, some of the transaction fees for use in foreign countries can be really quite significant. So, cash availability and cash use within tourist economies is really quite important.


Thank you for that. I can see Trudy has managed to join us. Welcome, Trudy, to the committee this afternoon. We've just asked Ben about the pressures driving small businesses to go cash free in Wales. I'm happy for you to add if you wish to, or we can move on to the next section, whilst you settle in.

All I want to say about the pressures of business with being a cashless society is that we've got a problem with having no banking facilities. Although there are cash machines within the town, very often we go a couple of days, maybe, perhaps during quite a busy weekend, without any cash being available. That consequently puts all the charities and all the small businesses—. All the market stalls up the road on a Saturday, for instance, don't have the facility for machines and things to take payments. So, there is a lot of pressure there and a lot of problems with the community having a lack of cash. I don't want to push it too much down the road with not having any cash available. That's my take on the pressures on business. And also, the machines aren't always working. Even if you have got machines, the Wi-Fi goes down very regularly, something goes wrong, you can't do your business. You could lose half a day's business before you've sorted it out and your machines are up and running again.

Thank you for that, Trudy. On the access to cash points for both the consumer and the business, I think there's been in the Senedd, and I believe there still is, cross-party support for community banking. The sooner we see progress within that to address some of those issues the better.

Yes, I'm looking forward to being able to have hubs in most of the towns in Wales so that we can go into one place and do our banking. But I've also got a personal thing with banking, as well. My father's 85; I'm his only carer, his only child. He lives 14 miles away from me, and his nearest branch to do any business—if he wants to open a new account, transfer money et cetera—because he doesn't deal with Wi-Fi and he hasn't got a mobile phone, is Builth Wells, which is an hour's drive there and an hour's drive back for me. It means me taking half a day off work to get him there, because he can't go on his own. So, that's another reason why the hubs would be really important in all of the towns.


Thank you, Trudy. We'll take questions from Peredur Owen Griffiths.

Okay, diolch, Cadeirydd. We heard from Steve McGee and his mother, Janet, earlier, and we heard about the distress that can be caused when somebody, especially who is vulnerable, is not able to pay with cash. I know, I'm sure, most small businesses wouldn't want to put their customers through that distress. What sort of things have you either put in place, Trudy or Ben, or have you heard of, that can mitigate some of that, and what is the good practice when it comes to accessibility?

I think, in the first place, where there is no option to use cash, then that needs to be properly communicated; people will need to have a conversation, but also understand the reasons why that does marginalise some people in that community. FSB's partnered with Which? in terms of their cash-friendly pledge, which is a proactive statement of your willingness to engage with cash and to use cash, and once a business registers for that, they are obviously on a database that Which?—which is obviously the most significant consumer voice—keeps, but obviously they get material as well that they can use within the business that communicates before you go into the business that you are able to accept cash, that you're able to transact in cash.

I think, as I said earlier, it's important that we help businesses understand the problems that not having access to cash, not having the ability to use cash does cause for some. I suspect, and Trudy may well be able to talk to this better than I can, though, that smaller businesses tend to be quite well—. You know, they have their ear close to the ground; they tend to have quite a close connection with their customer base. So, we do tend to find that there is an understanding about the customer base and those that they serve, but I think we would always encourage people to understand what not having access to cash can mean. Ultimately, it is the choice of the business. I think, ultimately, that's legally the status, but I think we'd always encourage businesses to be understanding and to understand the breadth of their customer base, and ensure that they also aren't gating themselves out of a potential customer base by not offering the use of cash.

What's your experience, Trudy, with your business? Are you cashless, or are you mainly cash based?

Cash is king for me, I'm afraid. Can you hear me?

Cash is king for me. I've got posters in the window inside the shop saying that we do accept cards—and we have to inevitably accept cards; we have to cover for all customers—but I have got people who don't even have a card; they just pay by cheque, for instance, and things like that, and they just go to the post office during the wee to, get their money. They budget with the cash, and there are also other people who budget with their cash, because they get a set amount of money out and they spend only that on the food and the products they need. If they're paying by card, they tell me that they're apt to spend more money than they need to on things that they don't particularly need, but want, and therefore they are short by the end of the week as well, and, being a community store, we would never let anybody go without, so it does impede on our cash flow then, because we tend to give them—perhaps I shouldn't say it—a little bit of credit till their money comes back in for the following month. It's one of the things we do as a community-focused store. So, it's a very difficult thing; although people should be able to budget with their money, they find it hard with cards.

In the high street, in your high street, how many of the businesses have gone cashless? And do you get business because they can't go somewhere else and so they come to you? Is there any anecdotal evidence like that?


At the moment, because we're a small town in mid Wales, I can't think of anybody who is actually cashless, but, for instance, you only have to drive half an hour away and there are places, events—especially events and things, when there are things going on in the community—that won't take cash. So, it's all card, isn't it? I find that, with people using cash, they're much more likely to be very careful about what they're spending on. With the cost of living and everything, and we are a poorer community, we need to look after the people who need to be able to use cash, and my philosophy is that I'd rather cash any day, but I will take cards, obviously. 

Thank you, Chair. I hope you don't mind, but I've got a couple of questions I was hoping to ask. Obviously, we've heard, especially from Trudy, about how some businesses just take cards and others just take cash, and Trudy prefers cash over card. I just wanted to get, from your own professional opinion, what is better for a business to operate—is it better for them to operate just with card payments or cash, because the issue as I see it, especially with card payments, is that there's an element of safety there with no cash on site. There's an element there where—I'm not saying people do this—sometimes people who are employed by businesses do take from the till, so there's a case for it so that everything is recorded, especially for taxation purposes as well. So, is it in the interest of businesses just to solely operate via card payments, rather than offering that cash option?

Well, firstly, it's down to the individual business—whatever the model of the business, whatever payment method works for them. Overwhelmingly we tend to find, as with Trudy, that businesses will tend to offer both. I think neither is perfect. We've talked about the problems of cash deposit facilities and taking big volumes of cash, but similarly card facilities, as Trudy has mentioned, are not bullet-proof. They depend on Wi-Fi, and how many times have we been in a pub or a shop and someone has said, 'Just bear with me, it's getting a connection.' That's quite a common occurrence. And, actually, in terms of the productivity of the business, if each transaction is taking x per cent longer, then that impacts you. Also, we have to recognise that card payment facilities incur a transaction charge. So, it might be 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent per transaction. So, there is a cumulative cost there for businesses that doesn't provide a silver bullet that says, 'Right, it is great just to have electronic methods of payment.' So, most businesses will have a balance of both.

But it really does depend on businesses making an assessment of what is right for them and, importantly, what is right for their customers and what their customers need from them, but also, as we said, the geography around them. We cannot get over the logistical problems of the lack of cash deposit facilities, particularly in rural areas of Wales, and that is a concern that far predates the availability of electronic chip and pin, for instance, devices. I remember this being a conversation many, many years ago. It is very difficult to get around that. Now, obviously, we've seen the emergence of banking hubs and we've seen, particularly here in Wales, the Principality-based hub in Cowbridge, which allows access to banking facilities. So, it's not just concerned with cash, but allows deposits and withdrawals. I think that's very positive. It's very early days, but I think, at FSB, we would want to see the roll-out of the banking hubs and they will each operate under a different model. But I think accepting—. We've seen a massive withdrawal of banking branch infrastructure, so there has to be an answer for that, and that's a positive answer but it's early days yet. 

I'm showing my age here, Chair, but I can well remember that machine where you had the card and you had a paying-in slip and you slid it across. That shows my age there. But, you mentioned it there and I was just wondering what role the Post Office can play in this, then, because I know that they offer banking facilities, but I also know that they're limited as to how much money they can take, especially from businesses. I was just wondering what conversations you've had there around the role that post offices could have. With the banks withdrawing from the high street, there's scope there for the Post Office to take over. I was just wondering what conversations you've had then, with the Post Office, or with Government, then, in terms of getting rid of that limitation on the money that they can take.


There have been conversations with FSB at a UK level about making sure that that limiting criteria is taken away. I think it's very positive to look at post offices as a model for community banking. I think the challenge, again, though, is that, increasingly, post offices are located in smaller and smaller premises. There are logistical challenges around that. But it has to be part of what will necessarily be a mix. Now, I'm very, very conscious also of not accepting at every turn the high-street banks and their withdrawal from our high streets. I understand, or I hear, their challenge about the business model and the expense of the business model, and increasingly we are doing more things online. However, they are a part of making viable high streets viable communities. They have to accept their responsibility, and for the FSB across the UK and across here in Wales, it's important for us to remind banks that, yes, they are commercial entities but they have a community responsibility, and so many of our high streets and communities depend on what you might call these anchor services, on which we personally and professionally, and businesses, will depend. So, yes, we need a mix of solutions to this, but it mustn't just accept at every turn the inevitability of the withdrawal of the physical infrastructure of your banks on the high streets. I know, today, very pertinently, Metro Bank has had some challenges in the past few days. They've secured a package this morning that allows their viability, but some of the commentary has been that part of the pressure is about the expense of branch infrastructure. Now, all banks face that, but I think we need to understand—. We need to involve banks in that community conversation, to say, 'This is not just for my members,' about access to business services. But it is also about citizens having access to the ability to bank, the ability to withdraw and use cash.

I suppose, with Metro Bank, then, just to use that as an example, a lot of their branches are in the main city centres. They're at quite expensive rental prices, I assume, actually. So, the last question I have, then, is with regard to the older people's commissioner. Recently, she's done a report where she's highlighted this in a breakdown, really, of digital exclusion, where the elderly are not au fait, maybe, with bank cards, doing their banking online and everything, and I just wanted to ask is this is a conversation that businesses are having, whether or not they need to address this as a growing trend, I suppose, that we're moving towards that digital market.

Yes. We've not spoken to the older person's commissioner about this particularly. I think, and, again, Trudy may well be able to speak to this through her own experience, that increasingly, banks and businesses that we talk to know that they are providing more than just a transactional service. They are assisting people—I think Trudy alluded to it earlier—in those transactions and assisting people in things like budgeting and their understanding of cash. We haven't had a conversation with our members about the increase of that, but I suppose there's a complacency where we just accept that, for businesses, particularly retail businesses within the communities, that has always been part of their day to day, in assisting people, but it may well be that there is a form of support that businesses need. As I mentioned earlier, awareness raising that this is an issue for some areas of society is probably quite important. We'd be interested to have that conversation about how we raise better awareness. I think there is a solution, to some extent, in terms of the Which? and FSB cash-friendly pledge. But, again, having a pledge is one thing—operationalising and ensuring, for instance, that all staff within your business know that that pledge is there and know what the responsibility is of them—. Quite often, it might well be a misunderstanding because the person that you're interacting with might not be the business owner, they might be someone that works with them, and not clear about the policies of the business, for instance. But this is where I think educating businesses, helping businesses understand the problems that can be faced by certain members of society is important, as is understanding the pressure points of smaller businesses in providing the full range of transaction services.


Thank you, Joel. I could see Trudy on the screen nodding throughout those questions from Joel James there—in agreement, I'm sure. Do you have comments to add, Trudy, or—?

Well, only to reiterate what has been said, because I think we tend to forget the fact that there are older people and more vulnerable people. And I have a few customers that have special needs—they come in, and they just don't understand cards and the banking, and they just like cash. It would be a sad thing if we—. We're almost isolating people because they're almost getting afraid to come out. You know, they find it so complicated. I want them to be integrated into our community and be out and about and having a cup of coffee in the cafe and having a chat. It's part of their well-being as well, isn't it, to be talking to people on a daily basis in the shop. And if cash does go, I feel that we're doing them an injustice. It sounds a bit woolly, the way I'm saying it. It's because I'm so passionate about my community and the people within it, I want to do more. Not just me, but everybody should think about—. We're very competent in using cards and things; not everybody is, and we perhaps are forgetting them.

I should say I think what you're saying—I can see everyone nodding in this room, including the director of Mencap Cymru, who gave some evidence before you and shared similar experiences, where Steven, who was with us with his mother Janet, explained the experiences of those with learning difficulties being isolated because of simply going into premises that don't accept cash. And I think your commitment to your community shines through, indeed. I'll bring in Rhys ab Owen, who's also online.

Thank you very much, Chair. I want to address this first one to Trudy. Trudy, we've heard this afternoon about the groups of people who are impacted by cash not being accepted by some people, by some establishments, on the high street. We've heard about—. You mentioned people with tight budgets, perhaps—for people who are budgeting, it's very important to them. You've mentioned people with learning difficulties. We've also heard about older people. As you are on the front line, can you think of any other group that's impacted by the fact that cash isn't readily available at the moment? Charities, maybe, is another example I think you alluded to. Is there anyone else that you think we're missing or not aware of?

Lone traders, people who do their own crafts and sell at the market; we have a charter market on a Saturday, and they just trade on a Saturday. Little businesses starting up, they just haven't got the facility or the—not professionalism, but the facility for using cards and things. And the costs of the percentage they take from us, merchant bankers et cetera, prohibits people. It daunts people from starting their little enterprises. And of course, if we can get people on to the stalls and into the halls, where we have things in the town where they all have a table and they can make their own—. And then I've seen examples of—. Now, they've got bricks and mortar shops, when they started having a stall on a market on a Saturday; they've actually made it into a business, and it's a real going concern. It's not just that ground level that—. If we can get them starting in businesses without it being too complicated, then I think they can then go on to even employ people. There's one shop that I can remember that about 10 years ago had a stall on the market, in the charter market, and has now got a shop, and he employs two people, for instance. So, it's not just that person; it's a good thing for the economy as well. And charities—you know, loads of charities. For instance, every week—well, not every week, but most weeks—we've got some—. The poppy appeal will be coming up now soon, and we've had the RAF charity collections. Well, people haven't got, you know.— It's so simple. People won't tap a card into a machine to give to charity for a quid, but, if you've got £1, you'll put it in. Well, if you haven't got the money, we give cashback anyway, so we do allow, but then our Wi-Fi goes down very often as well. So, there we are.


That's very interesting. So, you see card machines as also potentially being a barrier and an expense for businesses that are entering the market, so that's very interesting. And then, I've got to admit, I've never been in your shop, but, in the eye of my imagination, by the counter there you have one of those charity boxes, like a lot of newsagents do—

Many. It's not just one.

No, I can imagine not just one. I've got a picture of your shop in my mind. It might be completely wrong, but, quite often, when I received change, I used to put it straight in one of the—. So you've probably seen a huge decrease in that over the years. 

I can tell you—. For instance, we've got a planner in the back of my shop with 12 months, and every month the charity box that goes for your change—for people putting in their change—is changed every month. So, at the moment it's diabetes. Next month, it'll be poppies. We've done a Mind month. Every month we collect for one different charity, and we can have anything up to, even now, between £50- and £100-worth of change that people have just popped in in a month. So, you can imagine that on a scale of every village shop, for instance, do you know what I mean, if they didn't have that facility. But it's not just popping your change in it, either. It's like the raffle tickets that we sell for the carnival, for the Christmas lights. How am I to take—? I can't sell my raffle tickets for all these different organisations, which I'm always doing, because, if there was no cash, I'd be charged 2.5 per cent to take a charity donation for selling a raffle ticket, for instance. Well, where is the—? Yes, I'm a business that does a lot of charity, but I'm not a charity, do you know what I mean?

Thank you, Trudy. It's very interesting. Maybe sometimes us in the city don't actually realise how—[Inaudible.]—village community shops were. So, thank you very much, that's very interesting evidence. 

I just wanted to direct my next question to Ben, maybe, before going back to Trudy. Both of you, Ben and Trudy, have mentioned banking hubs, and, in your answer to Joel James, Ben, you mentioned the opportunity or the possibility of the Post Office doing more. Are there any other solutions you can think of, Ben, to begin with, of ways that small businesses can be helped not to exclude people? Because that must be the last thing they want to do, exclude people, because they want the money. But are there any other ways that they can be helped to ensure people are not excluded?

I think the main way that they can be helped is to be given the tools and the wherewithal to understand the impacts of excluding people from using cash. So, I think a lot of that comes down to information. Now, as I say, it is a choice of the business, but sometimes it is made in mind of the operational restrictions of the business, so I think what we can do is do more to help raise awareness of the fact that not having access to cash or the use of cash does exclude certain portions of society. Trudy's given a much better overview of the way in which businesses like hers engage with different parts of society than I ever could. I think what Trudy has shown is that businesses quite often are catalysts for other parts of our community, so they're not just businesses themselves, but they are facilitators of charity. But that's not going to be the same for every single business. 

I think in terms of the solutions, now, the banking hubs, we want to see them rolled out, and see the different ways in which they're used, and it may well be that SMEs themselves, where they have capacity, can co-locate with a banking hub, so there may well be a use that can be made of SME premises. I know in the past there have been conversations about the use of licensed premises, for instance, for banking hubs. So, we need to look at communities and say, 'What are the assets within our communities? What are the solutions?' And then having that conversation with a customer base to say not just that the businesses within this community are able to offer cash and card, but also just be really positive about promoting that.

I'm conscious that for FSB to talk about the cash-friendly pledge, for instance, is one thing—. Arguably, yes, we don't have a day-to-day conversation with groups like Mencap and other support groups, for instance. And that's probably where, as a small community of organisations, we need to do a few more of the hard yards to make sure that we're not part of the problem in either not communicating effectively or inadvertently gating people out of the use of cash. I would say that it is important that businesses understand their own needs as well. There are limitations, and whereas FSB can encourage businesses to operate both cash and digital solutions it will come down to the individual circumstances of the business. 

The reality is, though, that four in 10 of my members take regular cash payments [Correction: 'take cash as their primary payment'] and six in 10 of them make regular cash deposits. So, cash is a really significant part of the business make-up despite the rise in chip-and-PIN and digital solutions. It's important that we don't accept the inevitable decline of cash, albeit I know that as consumers—. And me, I'm a problem, I've got the wherewithal to pay on my watch, so, you know, there is—. As long as people are paying on their watches, paying on their phones and paying by tap and go that creates a business case that militates against cash. But it's important that we realise that, in businesses like Trudy's for instance, cash is still a really important part of that make-up and we communicate that to service users.


Thank you, Ben. And I think with Trudy we saw even a third option, didn't we? Not even just cash, not even just card, we also heard of cheques being accepted with you, Trudy, I think. I checked the other day: the last time I wrote a cheque was in August 2019. And of course, the talk about the demise of cheques—. They were supposed to come to an end in 2018, but they haven't and you obviously still accept cheques. So, flexibility's obviously very important with you. So, you mentioned the banking hubs. You obviously take a very flexible approach on how you accept payments. Any other ways, you think, you could be supported to make sure that people aren't excluded—the people you've mentioned already—from using your shops and other shops on the high street of Llanidloes?

We can't enforce it, but I think there is a need to speak out publicly, like we do do, about cash being available for all customers. Every single person that spends 1p in my shop doesn't just help me, it helps my community, because the more I make, the more I can help them. And as for cheques as well, I've got about 20 people who pay me by cash on a regular basis because they have accounts, because they have their goods—. We deliver goods to outlying villages—have done for years—to people who don't even come through their garden gate any more. So, that's another thing. How do you take the card payment—when you're up in Pant-y-dŵr—when there isn't even a phone signal for instance, never mind a Wi-Fi signal?

But, anyway, I'm digressing a bit. I take cheques because there are a couple of people, for instance, who come in the shop that pay by cheque and they just hand me the cheque book. They can't, you know—. When we're talking about vulnerable people we're not just talking about young people who are with special needs and things, we're talking about people who are perhaps 80, 85 years of age and some of them can't read and write, for instance. They are too embarrassed to tell anybody this, but, because they've known me for 40 years, I know their situation. So, I just think the more we can get out there that we will accept—. Is there any possibility that we could say that, if it's a village store or something like that, the Government may be able to help smaller village shops and small shops with a reduced rate of merchant bank charges, and things like that as well? That would help. I know it doesn't help taking the cash, but it offsets the cost of banking the cash.


Thank you very much. That's all the questions from me. Thank you very much, Trudy, for taking time out of your busy business to come and answer my questions. Thank you very much.

Thank you, all. Trudy, I'm sure you'll have a visitor to Llanidloes to see your shop in action in Rhys ab Owen there. [Laughter.] I'm going to bring in Peredur Owen Griffiths, who wants to ask a supplementary.

Just following on from Rhys's line of questioning there, and something that I was aware of, but I've just checked online now and it seems to have come to an end—Bristol had a local currency for a while, and other places have experimented with that. Is there any scope in that to help? So, having a local currency—say, when we were talking about Anglesey, for example—having a local currency to be able to help? We were talking about Steven and his mum being able to use that instead of a card or whatever. So, I don't know if you've got any thoughts around that.

We haven't looked at that with regard to shoring up the availability of cash. A lot of that conversation tends to be about keeping wealth within communities, keeping spend within communities. It would be an interesting way of exploring that model. We've seen, though, as with Bristol, the 'Deal pound' was one of the ones many years ago—we have seen those come and go. I'm not fully sighted as to what a really good model of that looks like. A lot of it depends on capacity issues around organising bodies, a lot also depends on the availability of businesses to come together in locations. So, where you do see successes, where you might have a really good and active business improvement district—. Now, those don't tend to exist across Wales at a size that would allow businesses to organise themselves.

All I can say now is that it would be an interesting model to explore. It seemed, though, a lot of those conversations went quiet when COVID came around—that was the last time I certainly had any contact with any of these proposals, when COVID came—and it hasn't restarted since then, but it would be an interesting model. I guess my concern would be that that is necessarily going to be patchy, and if we want to get to a point where wherever in Wales there is an equitable and fair use and availability and access of cash payment, you may well tend to find it where there is critical capacity, such as in a business improvement district, in organising that. But I think where we're talking about the need for innovative solutions, that's got to be one of the things that maybe we would look at.

Thank you for that. I think that brings us timely to the end of this session. Can I put on record that I was pleased to hear the FSB's reminder that high-street banks do have a responsibility to their local communities? It think it's one this committee shares, and I think it's one the Senedd shares as well. I visited the OneBanx banking hub in Cowbridge. I thought it was a good step forward and an interesting solution that I would like to see perhaps extended to other areas across Wales to try and help with this issue.

Trudy, I thank you for joining us. You, too, Ben Cottam from the FSB. We will be sending you a transcript to check for factual accuracy. If there are any problems with it, please let us know. Additionally, if there are further comments that you may wish to make after this meeting, then please get in touch with our clerking team. We appreciate you both being here—in particular, taking time out of your local community, Trudy, to help with our inquiry. We may have some further questions that we might want to pick up on, and don't be surprised if you see Mr ab Owen in your local shop. Diolch yn fawr.

Tell him to bring some cash—[Laughter.]for my charity boxes.

Thank you. I can see he has definitely noted that. Thank you, both. Therefore, we will draw this session to a close.

4. Deisebau newydd
4. New Petitions

We will go to item 4 on the agenda, which is consideration of new petitions. Item 4.1, P-06-1359, 'Offer Welsh working parents the same financial support for childcare as England'. 

'In England from April 24 all working parents of 2 year olds get 15 hours free childcare. From September 24 this will be extended to parents of 9 months old +. From September 25 the free hours will be extended to 30.

'In comparison Wales will take until September 25 to provide 12.5 hours to all 2 year olds. With no plan in place for 9 months + or increasing the hours to 15 or 30.

'We’re in a cost of living crisis where the Welsh Gov have the ability to support working parents but aren’t.'

There is additional information available to members of the committee and members of the public. This was submitted by Jade Richards, with 10,820 signatures in total. I'll bring in Rhys ab Owen to discuss this petition and any actions the committee may wish to take.


Thank you very much. Can I thank the petitioner for this very important petition? I probably should declare an interest as a father of a 3-year-old and a 2-month-old. This definitely is something that I hear a lot about from fellow parents outside the nursery. There's certainly real confusion about what's happening and what benefits parents can receive with regard to childcare.

We had a helpful letter from Sarah Rees at Oxfam highlighting some of that confusion and a call for some clarity. I think before doing anything else, it'd be worth us highlighting some of the points from the Oxfam letter to the Welsh Government before bringing it back to discuss again at a future meeting. Diolch yn fawr.

I'd agree with Rhys. I've had discussions about this with constituents and I know that other Members—and Rhun ap Iorwerth in particular—have raised this with me. I think it'll be useful to look at the letter and to write to Government to get some further clarity before we move forward on this.

Thank you, Peredur Owen Griffiths. Are there any further comments? No. I can see that Members agree. Okay. We will write to the Welsh Government following the suggestions from Rhys and agreement from committee members. Again, thanks to the petitioner, but also, thanks, as Rhys ab Owen said, to Sarah Rees, the head of Oxfam Cymru, for providing us with the useful information to take this forward.

Item 4.2, P-06-1363, 'Save our Fire and Rescue Service'.

'North Wales Fire and Rescue along with the Fire Authority plan to downgrade Rhyl and Deeside Stations from 24hr Stations to Day staffed Stations leaving the Stations empty at night. (Option 2).'

There is additional information available to members of the committee and members of the public. This was submitted by Gavin Roberts, with 1,937 signatures in total. Before I invite Members to discuss this petition, I should put on the record that, in my capacity as Member of the Senedd for Alyn and Deeside, I've stated my strong thoughts and opinions on the Deeside station in particular, where I've made it clear that I wish for that to remain a 24-hour station. So, I will remove myself from any decision making on this petition, but for the record state my clear thinking. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I know this has been discussed widely, especially, I know, Plaid Cymru members across north Wales have been talking about this—not just these two particular stations, but other stations as well. Looking at what we've got here, I think it would be good for the committee to write to north Wales fire and rescue authority to raise awareness of the petition and ask for the timescale for responding to the consultation. And once we get a response, then, from Welsh Government as well, we might look at, with both those aspects coming back in, and then discuss this petition after that as well.


Thank you, Chair. Thank you for bringing me in on this. I'm conscious I'm not a north Wales Member, but I have been following this quite closely because my shadow brief scrutinises fire services in Wales. I've got to admit, I've been looking at the consultation document they've been running, and I'm a bit confused, really, as to the need for why this has happened, because if we look at the desires to increase coverage, to increase response times, to increase more people getting a service within the 20 minutes—. If we look at their proposals, they would only increase that by less than 1 per cent, so the number of people they were aiming to reach—you know, more—within 20 minutes only increases by less than 1 per cent. So, there is concern there for me on this, and I fully support my colleague's motion to write to them about this. But one thing I would like to seek further clarification on, and I don't necessarily want to make this a political thing now, but it's the timing of this around about when we've introduced the new 20 mph phase. It'd be interesting to know if that has had any impact on them during this consultation.

Thank you for that, Joel. I'm sure avid viewers of Sharp End know of your interest in this matter as well. We can certainly write to the north Wales fire and rescue authority with those points in mind, as Members agreed.

5. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
5. Updates to previous petitions

Item 5 on today's agenda: updates to previous petitions. Item 5.1, P-05-1161, 'Routine collection and publication of data of how many babies/children return to their care experienced parents care at the end of a Parent and Child Placement', submitted by Nicola Jones, with 60 signatures in total. For clarity, this petition was first submitted before the change in Standing Orders requirements for the number of signatures required to start a petition and for a petition to be considered by the committee. Members will remember, back in July, earlier this year, we held a joint debate with the Children, Young People and Education Committee where the Minister responded to both our report and this petition and the CYPE committee and their inquiry with regard to care-experienced children. During that committee debate, the Minister agreed to meet again with the CYPE committee for a scrutiny session. I think that took place on 14 September. It's now the appropriate time for this committee to pass the baton on fully to the Children, Young People and Education Committee, where they will pursue progress on the wider issue of care-experienced parents and care-experienced children in general. Are Members content to close the petition on that basis? I can see they are. So, again, we thank the petitioner for their honest engagement with this committee.

Item 5.2, P-06-1337, 'Sycharth, the home of Owain Glyndŵr, should be bought to safeguard the site for future generations', submitted by Elfed Wyn ap Elwyn, with 10,534 signatures in total. Again, Members will remember and recall the debate in the run-up to Owain Glyndŵr Day in the Senedd, which was oversubscribed in its scheduled time, due to the importance of the matter. I think we had a number of speakers throughout that debate. Interestingly, we have a similar debate about a similar topic with regard to Ruperra castle scheduled for a few weeks' time.

During the debate, the Deputy Minister for sports, arts and culture told the Senedd that it was the local authority's responsibility with regard to the signage of the actual site. I think there was clear consensus from Members contributing from all sides of the Chamber that there was a need for improved signage at the site. With that in mind, can I call on Members to agree to write to Powys County Council regarding more prominent signage of the site, but also to suggest that we close this petition and, when we do have that response, we can note it for the record then? Joel James.


Thank you, Chair. I agree with that, and, as you say, normally, we'd close the debate, but I think there is scope to write to the local authority. But I was just wondering if we could just say that it's not just having prominent signing at the site, but directional signs leading to it as well, to see if something can be done for that as well.

Absolutely. I'm in agreement with that, and I'm sure all Members are. I can see they are. Okay. Thank you.

Item 5.3, P-06-1358, 'Review the inadequate funding for Schools in Wales' submitted by Martin Price, with 7,006 signatures in total. We considered this at our last committee meeting, where we said we would have a private discussion on a way forward and bring it back to update Members once a way forward had been agreed. At that point, I will bring Joel James in to discuss the petition.

Thank you, Chair. If you remember, I spoke heavily in support of this the last time it came to committee, and I definitely think there's scope to do more with this. I know we have discussed the possibility of bringing petitioners in to scrutinise them, to ask some questions and get a bit more of the background around the situation. I think that's something I'd be keen to do. And I'm conscious that, coming up to the end of the year now, we've got more budget drafting, as they say, and it would be good if maybe that could be fed in then to the various scrutiny committees. But I think, in the first instance, it would be good to try and get them in.

Thank you, Joel. I can see Members are content with that way forward. We'll certainly seek to do that, which would, I think, be more timely given the draft budget discussions that are ongoing at the moment. So, we'll seek to do that in the very near future, to have those conversations.

6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
6. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Okay, that concludes today's public business. Can I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), that the committee now resolves to meet in private for the remainder of our meeting? Are Members happy? They are. Okay, thank you. A reminder that we meet again on 23 October, and we'll be debating the petition I referred to earlier, on the preservation of Ruperra castle, I think, on 18 October. But, for now, diolch yn fawr. Meeting closed.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:57.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 15:57.