Plans to set up a community bank in Wales are gathering political momentum, fuelled by ever-increasing numbers of high street branch closures across the nation.

As reported previously by The National, bank branches have been nearly wiped out in some areas, including the Clwyd South constituency, where just one remains.

Driven by the promotion of online services, the slow death of in-branch banking across Wales – and the rest of the UK – is leaving many residents unable to complete basic services and transactions.

But Mark Hooper, who is leading the development of the Banc Cambria community banking scheme, is fighting back against the decline.

"People are seeing the big banks leave communities, and when they leave it makes it difficult – technology [such as online banking] doesn't work for everyone, and banking is one of the things we all need to survive," he told The National.

"Try to imagine life without a current account – it just wouldn't happen. You wouldn't be able to buy food, pay your rent, go out. This sort of key service needs to be accessible to everyone."

Hooper think there's a public demand for a community bank. It would be especially suitable for three groups of people, he argues: people who've lost their local bank branches, people who want to bank through the medium of Welsh, and people who believe in the principle of a bank run by and for people in Wales.

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The community banking scheme has won cross-party support in the Senedd. At a debate this week, Labour, Conservative and Plaid Cymru members spoke optimistically about the project, which the Welsh Government hopes will deliver 30 branches within the next decade.

"We need to address the paucity, the devastation in terms of lack of bank branches," said social justice minister.

Political support may also be down to more practical reasons, Hooper jokes, due to the fact there's currently no bank in Cardiff Bay.

While there is a focus on restoring the more traditional banking services that have been lost in recent years, Banc Cambria won't ignore consumers' more modern demands.

Hooper says the project will cater to digital banking services, too, with apps and payment services to rival those of the big names.

"It's easier than it ever has been to deliver a really strong digital offering with banking, and that'll be at the centre of what we're doing," Hooper said.

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