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Year of the Rat signals wealth: Should you invest in China as we celebrate the Chinese New Year? 

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This Saturday marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year of the Rat, the first in the 12 signs of the zodiac. The story goes that the Jade Emperor said the order of the zodiac would be based on the order in which each animal arrived to his party. 

The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride and as they arrived at the finish line, it jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, coming first.

According to Chinese culture, the rat is a sign of wealth and surplus and those born under it are generally believed to be industrious, thrifty, diligent and positive. 

Millions of people over the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year on Saturday 25 January

Millions of people over the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year on Saturday 25 January

Millions of people over the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year on Saturday 25 January

China has faced struggles of late: ongoing trade wars with the US and, more recently, the dramatic outbreak of the Coronavirus. 

It has taken a toll. Chinese mainland stocks are trading below historical averages meaning equities might appear attractive from a valuation point of view.

Over 2019, the MSCI China Index delivered an 18.9 per cent total return in sterling terms, ahead of the 14.3 per cent return from the MSCI Emerging Markets Index in which Chinese equities are the biggest constituent at 34 per cent.

So what should you do? Invest or steer clear?  

As millions of people celebrate the Chinese New Year today, This is Money speaks to industry experts about their thoughts on the country’s economy, where they see value and even some of their top Chinese fund picks. 

Barclays' Will Hobbs suggests keeping an eye out for business confidence surveys

Barclays' Will Hobbs suggests keeping an eye out for business confidence surveys

Barclays’ Will Hobbs suggests keeping an eye out for business confidence surveys

Will Hobbs, chief investment officer at Barclays Investment Solutions

China’s economy has been slowing over several years, even predating the current US administration.

We expect this slowdown to abate a little this year, perhaps contributing to a more helpful backdrop for the country’s stocks to do well. 

We are among those who have responded to this stabilisation in the wider region by adding a little exposure to emerging market equities to our multi-asset class portfolios. 

A lot of investor interest within the Chinese markets tends towards companies that benefit from the so called ‘New China’ economy. 

This theme takes in the continuing emergence of a Chinese consumer story, meaning a focus on media, retail and pharmaceutical businesses.

In terms of the US-China trade wars, tensions have certainly dissipated in the past few months, however we suspect the main agitations between the two sides of the debate will remain for some time to come. Investors should be prepared for sporadic flare-ups at the very least.

Surveys of business confidence and early warning signals on trade remain key to watch for the wider Emerging Asia space.

Fund picks: We like the Fidelity Asia fund, managed by Teera Chanpongsang. It has about 40 per cent invested in China and the manager has a long and successful performance track record.  

Caroline Yu Maurer says government support on the macro economy may drive a mean reversion trade for 'old economy' sectors

Caroline Yu Maurer says government support on the macro economy may drive a mean reversion trade for 'old economy' sectors

Caroline Yu Maurer says government support on the macro economy may drive a mean reversion trade for ‘old economy’ sectors

Caroline Yu Maurer, head of greater China equities at BNP Paribas Asset Management

China’s economic growth slowed materially in 2019 on weakening global demand and ongoing trade tensions uncertainties, but Chinese equities markets outperformed significantly over the year.

The tech sector had a good performing year mainly driven by strong expectation on 5G handset rollout as well as recovery of data centre demand.

Despite the re-rating in 2019, Chinese equity markets’ valuations remain attractive relative to developed equity markets.  

Given its structural changes towards more consumption, innovation and sustainability, we believe long-term earnings growth opportunities can be found mostly in sectors like IT, healthcare, consumer space. 

Having said that, old economy sectors such as financials, energy and materials have suffered de-rating due to economic slowdown. Any further government support on the macro economy may drive a mean reversion trade for those sectors. 

China and the US signed a temporary trade agreement this month, as expected though the Trump administration made an unexpected comment that the tariff cuts would not take effect before the US election in November. 

This comment has dampened the positive sentiment and underscored the market’s concern that the so-called ‘Phase One’ deal might have over-promised and is now under-delivering. Any substantive progress in bridging the gap on key, long-standing issues remains to be seen.

Darius McDermott says demographics are not great in China - a consequence of many years of the one child policy

Darius McDermott says demographics are not great in China - a consequence of many years of the one child policy

Darius McDermott says demographics are not great in China – a consequence of many years of the one child policy

Darius McDermott, managing director of Chelsea Financial Services

China has an economic growth rate that – although it is slowing – is still the envy of the rest of the world. 

The stock market isn’t particularly cheap, but more companies are being made accessible to foreign investors: more Chinese A Shares have been added to the MSCI Emerging Market indices (so passive funds are forced buyers) and I believe China’s weighting in indexes can only continue to grow. 

There is also political will to encourage companies to have better corporate governance and to return money to shareholders in the form of dividends. This is good for investors.  

We like the Chinese consumer story and we also like technology where it is linked to the consumer. As a long-term story, the Chinese consumer should be an attractive one for investors.

It’s not all plain sailing though. There are obviously issues around things like Huawei, ongoing trade wars and the demographics are not great with an ageing population that is feeling the consequences of many years of a one child policy. 

Debt is also very high – for the government, companies and now individuals. The banking sector is one that many professional investors avoid as a consequence.

Fund picks: There are some excellent active managers in this space. My favourite funds include the Invesco China Equity and First State Greater China Growth funds and Fidelity China Special Situations investment trust.

Jason Hollands recommends the Schroders Asian Total Return trust and Fidelity Emerging Markets fund for good exposure to China

Jason Hollands recommends the Schroders Asian Total Return trust and Fidelity Emerging Markets fund for good exposure to China

Jason Hollands recommends the Schroders Asian Total Return trust and Fidelity Emerging Markets fund for good exposure to China

Jason Hollands, managing director at Bestinvest

The last year – the Year of the Dog – saw investor sentiment towards this vast country overshadowed by the US-China trade war. 

Despite this, investment returns were very strong, as they were across most markets. 

Of course you should only invest on a longer-term horizon and when it comes to China, as with emerging markets generally, do so with your eyes wide open about the risks. 

Governance standards are not the same in China as those in developed markets and despite the veneer of embracing the trappings of market capitalism, the Chinese authorities wield considerable influence over the markets and have the ability to intervene aggressively. 

In fact the Chinese markets are packed with state-owned enterprises whose boards include representatives of the Communist Party. Shareholder interests can readily be eclipsed by companies being dragooned into actions that are deemed to be in the interests of the state.

On the positive side, the long-term case for being exposed to China is structural in nature and driven by the sheer, vast numbers. Over time, if China does continue to become more integrated into the global financial system, then clearly the potential growth from Chinese equities could be truly significant. 

Fund picks: Funds and trusts worth considering include the Schroder Asian Total Return investment company, which has a defensive strategy, and currently has 23.9 per cent exposure to China, and Fidelity Emerging Markets which currently has 27 per cent invested in China. 

Alex Farlow says positive figures in 2019 should provide healthy economic performance for Chinese markets this year

Alex Farlow says positive figures in 2019 should provide healthy economic performance for Chinese markets this year

Alex Farlow says positive figures in 2019 should provide healthy economic performance for Chinese markets this year

Alex Farlow, head of risk based solutions at Square Mile 

The recently agreed trade deal between China and the US, and positive macroeconomic figures for 2019 should provide a good platform for healthy economic performance and therefore for Chinese markets to move higher in 2020. 

But one should not think that this is the end of friction between China and its Western economic super power rival. It is likely to only be the beginning.

Other factors, however, appear to paint a decent outlook for China over the coming year. 

Whilst the headline numbers show that Chinese GDP growth has slowed over the last decade from 9.4 per cent to 6.1 per cent, what it fails to highlight is that, given the strong increase in GDP over this period, the incremental expansion in growth over 2019 is bigger than it was at the faster growth rate 10 years ago – 145 per cent bigger in fact. 

This means there are greater opportunities for Chinese companies than there were 10 years ago. The fact that the Chinese government has only undertaken modest levels of monetary easing over 2019 would imply two things. 

Firstly, the government is happy with the current level of growth and secondly that they have more room to manoeuvre with interest rates currently at 4.15 per cent.

Fund picks: We see the First State Greater China Growth fund, which places an overriding emphasis on selecting higher quality companies, as a very strong option for long-term investors who wish to access the greater China region, but in a more conservative manner. 

Meanwhile, the Matthews Asia China Smaller Companies fund seeks to take advantage of China’s growing shift towards a more consumer-driven economy by targeting the most innovative and entrepreneurial companies, typically located in emerging industries such as automation, healthcare, and e-commerce.    

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Jaguar Land Rover forced to fly car parts into the UK from China in SUITCASES

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Jaguar Land Rover bosses admitted they have been flying car parts into the country in suitcases due to difficulties in the supply chain from China caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The UK’s biggest car maker, which produces around 400,000 motors a year, has three vehicle manufacturing plants in the UK – all of which rely on components delivered from China.

JLR boss Ralf Speth said the factories could run out of parts in two weeks due to the strangled supply following the outbreak of the deadly virus.

Supply shortage: Jaguar Land Rover bosses confirmed that car maker has been forced to fly vehicle components into the UK from China in suitcases due to the outbreak of coronavirus

Supply shortage: Jaguar Land Rover bosses confirmed that car maker has been forced to fly vehicle components into the UK from China in suitcases due to the outbreak of coronavirus

Supply shortage: Jaguar Land Rover bosses confirmed that car maker has been forced to fly vehicle components into the UK from China in suitcases due to the outbreak of coronavirus

Speaking at the official opening of the National Automotive Innovation Centre at Warwick University in Coventry on Tuesday, Speth – who is due to stand down from his role as JLR chief executive in September – said production was safe for the next two weeks but in three weeks’ time will have ‘parts missing’.

He went on: ‘We have flown parts in suitcases from China to the UK.’

In a later interview with Sky News, he added: ‘This is an issue for the complete car automotive industry.

‘We don’t know how long it will take before the supply chain comes on stream again in China.’

Jaguar Land Rover’s manufacturing headquartered in Changshu, China, has been closed for an extended period for the Lunar New Year, though is due to re-open next week, albeit with a limited supply of components available, Speth admitted.

Ralf Speth said at an event held in Coventry on Tuesday that the current supply of parts at JLR's three UK car plants could start to run out after two weeks

Ralf Speth said at an event held in Coventry on Tuesday that the current supply of parts at JLR's three UK car plants could start to run out after two weeks

Ralf Speth said at an event held in Coventry on Tuesday that the current supply of parts at JLR’s three UK car plants could start to run out after two weeks

All three UK car plants - two in the West Midlands and one in Merseyside - all rely on parts shipped from China

All three UK car plants - two in the West Midlands and one in Merseyside - all rely on parts shipped from China

All three UK car plants – two in the West Midlands and one in Merseyside – all rely on parts shipped from China

Speth was speaking at the opening of the National Automotive Innovation Centre at Warwick University Coventry on Tuesday. JLR used the event to unveil this Project Vector self-driving electric pod that will be used for autonomous trials on UK roads next year

Speth was speaking at the opening of the National Automotive Innovation Centre at Warwick University Coventry on Tuesday. JLR used the event to unveil this Project Vector self-driving electric pod that will be used for autonomous trials on UK roads next year

Speth was speaking at the opening of the National Automotive Innovation Centre at Warwick University Coventry on Tuesday. JLR used the event to unveil this Project Vector self-driving electric pod that will be used for autonomous trials on UK roads next year

His comments came during the opening of the Coventry automotive technology centre, which was attended by Prince Charles. 

The event was used by JLR and owners Tata Motors to unveil the new ‘Project Vector’ self-driving electric pod, which will be used for an autonomous vehicle trial on UK roads in the midlands from next year.

Guenter Butschek, the boss of Tata, also spoke at the launch about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on JLR’s operations.

‘We are safe for the month of February and for a good part of March,’ he said.

‘Are we fully covered at this point of time for the full month of March? Unfortunately not.’ 

The UK's biggest car maker announced earlier this year that it is cutting jobs at its Halewood plant in Merseyside due to declining demand for new vehicles

The UK's biggest car maker announced earlier this year that it is cutting jobs at its Halewood plant in Merseyside due to declining demand for new vehicles

The UK’s biggest car maker announced earlier this year that it is cutting jobs at its Halewood plant in Merseyside due to declining demand for new vehicles

It also announced full day and half day halts to assembly lines until the end of March at the Castle Bromwich and Solihull vehicle plants in the West Midlands

It also announced full day and half day halts to assembly lines until the end of March at the Castle Bromwich and Solihull vehicle plants in the West Midlands

It also announced full day and half day halts to assembly lines until the end of March at the Castle Bromwich and Solihull vehicle plants in the West Midlands

Jaguar Land Rover remained the UK's biggest car maker in 2019, though outputs at the brand's three plants fell by 14.3%

Jaguar Land Rover remained the UK's biggest car maker in 2019, though outputs at the brand's three plants fell by 14.3%

Jaguar Land Rover remained the UK’s biggest car maker in 2019, though outputs at the brand’s three plants fell by 14.3%

Efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak – which has so far killed 1,800 people in China – has resulted in factory shutdowns and movement restrictions in the world’s second-largest economy. 

It has had a global impact of the export of goods to customers, even hitting giants such as Apple, which confirmed this week that it will suffer damages due to the outbreak. 

The impact on JLR is just the latest in a number of headaches endured in recent times.

The brand has suffered immensely from the fall in demand for diesel cars, resulting in thousands of job losses and reduced hours at UK manufactuing plants.

At the beginning of the year it confirmed there were to be 500 job losses at its vehicle production plant at Halewood, Merseyside.

And earlier this month the firm announced it has been forced to halt production on selected days over a four-week period from late February at its Castle Bromwich factory in the West Midlands and also stop assembly lines on some half- and full days at the nearby factory in Solihull until the end of March.

The car maker has also been hit with battery supply issues for its I-Pace electric car – though believed not to be linked to the coronavirus outbreak – which has forced an ‘adjusted production schedule’ at the firm’s production facility in Graz, Austria.

Brexit uncertainty has also taken a toll on UK car makers, not least Jaguar Land Rover, which produced 64,000 fewer units in 2019 than it did the year previous

Brexit uncertainty has also taken a toll on UK car makers, not least Jaguar Land Rover, which produced 64,000 fewer units in 2019 than it did the year previous

Brexit uncertainty has also taken a toll on UK car makers, not least Jaguar Land Rover, which produced 64,000 fewer units in 2019 than it did the year previous

JLR is one of the car makers hit hardest by the falling demand for diesel vehicles, with its recent vehicle range swung heavily towards using oil-burning powerplants

JLR is one of the car makers hit hardest by the falling demand for diesel vehicles, with its recent vehicle range swung heavily towards using oil-burning powerplants

JLR is one of the car makers hit hardest by the falling demand for diesel vehicles, with its recent vehicle range swung heavily towards using oil-burning powerplants

It comes at a time when it – along with all other mainstream car manufacturers – are being forced to heavily invest in the development of electric vehicles and self-driving technology.

Brexit uncertainty has also taken a toll on UK car makers, not least JLR, which posted a 14.3 per cent decline in outputs last year.

It’s three auto factories produced 385,197 vehicles last year – some 64,000 fewer than they did in 2018.

As a whole, UK car production across all makers fell to its lowest level in almost a decade in 2019.

Vehicle outputs were down 14.2 per cent to 1.3 million cars – the lowest since 2010, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders revealed last month.  

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VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Don’t abandon saving, everyone needs a fund

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What is the point of saving? That’s the question posed on the front page of this paper yesterday, after it emerged that National Savings and Investments (NS&I) is to slash interest rates for millions of savers from May.

It is estimated that this latest round of cuts by NS&I will cost savers at least £234 million a year. And for some it will be one bitter blow too many.

On easy-access accounts alone, savers have already suffered more than 1,000 rate cuts since the base rate was raised to 0.75 per cent back in August 2018.

Rate cuts: It is estimated that the latest round of cuts by NS&I will cost savers at least £234 million a year. And for some it will be one bitter blow too many

Rate cuts: It is estimated that the latest round of cuts by NS&I will cost savers at least £234 million a year. And for some it will be one bitter blow too many

Rate cuts: It is estimated that the latest round of cuts by NS&I will cost savers at least £234 million a year. And for some it will be one bitter blow too many

And experts are now warning that this year’s Isa season will be a flop, with cash Isa rates at their lowest level in almost three years.

Is it any wonder that so many of the nation’s downtrodden savers are starting to wonder if there is any point putting money aside?

And I sympathise. Over the past few months, First Direct has pulled my favourite regular saver paying 5 per cent, Marcus has cut my previously top easy-access rate, and now my chances of winning a Premium Bond prize have gone from slim to, well, slimmer.

But regardless of what happens to rates, it is absolutely vital we do not give up on saving.

Everyone needs a rainy-day fund to cover those unexpected bills, such as having to buy four new tyres for your car, as in my case this month.

Without this pot of money, you’ll be forced to turn to expensive credit cards, loans and overdrafts, which will only exasperate the financial blow.

Britain is already facing a personal debt crisis — only last week we revealed how a new instant credit craze is landing young shoppers with bags of debt.

The new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, must do something in the next Budget to lure the public back into the savings habit.

It has been eight years since Money Mail launched its campaign to Get Britain Saving Again. 

We exposed how consecutive governments, along with the Bank of England, High Street banks and building societies had stripped away incentives to save.

Last year, we launched our Stop Short-Changing Savers campaign, calling on banks to end derisory returns for loyal customers.

And while we have had some victories — the latest in January, when the Financial Conduct Authority laid out plans to force providers to pay a blanket interest rate to long-standing customers — more needs to be done. Over to you, Chancellor Sunak.

Budget wish

While I’m compiling my wish list for the new Chancellor, I would very much like to see him include a guarantee to protect cash long-term in his first Budget.

A series of industry-led initiatives has been launched to help communities in danger of losing bank branches and ATMs, such as shops offering cashback.

Their arrival follows a major review this time last year, which exposed how Britain is in very real danger of sleepwalking into a cashless society.

But they are not a substitute for proper legislation that will ensure many communities are not cut off in the future.

We saw only recently how quick Barclays was to suddenly bar customers withdrawing cash from post offices. 

The bank has now done a U-turn, but that’s not to say others won’t sneak in similar changes down the line.

Bag that freebie

We receive endless complaints from readers who, to take advantage of a special offer, have signed up for something online, but then never get the promised free gift.

Well, Money Mail reader Andrew in Manchester has a great tip to help you fight your corner.

He says: ‘Whenever I make a transaction online, I save a screenshot before hitting ‘submit’, as well as a screenshot of any offers and terms. It only takes a few seconds, and then I can check back if something goes wrong.

‘The process is simple. Before hitting submit, press ‘print screen’ (usually to the right of the F12 key), open a Word document or email, put the cursor in the document, right click and select ‘paste’. Then save the document somewhere you can find it again.’

A very sensible idea.

v.bischoff@dailymail.co.uk

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Branch and ATM closures hit seaside towns St Ives and Hayle

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Philps Pasties in Hayle, Cornwall, was set up in 1958 with a loan from the Lloyds Bank 100 yards down the road.

The pasty business thrived and it now has seven branches across the county, including two in Hayle.

But Lloyds is set to pull the plug on its historic connection with the bakery — and the town – after it announced it will be closing its branch in May.

Abandoned: The seaside town of Hayle in Cornwall, will be left without a bank in May after Lloyds shut's their branch

Abandoned: The seaside town of Hayle in Cornwall, will be left without a bank in May after Lloyds shut's their branch

Abandoned: The seaside town of Hayle in Cornwall, will be left without a bank in May after Lloyds shut’s their branch

It will leave Hayle, whose population swells to 50,000 in the summer, without a bank. Five years ago, it had four.

‘It will affect us in a big way,’ says Paul Philps, 64, whose father Sammy founded the bakery. ‘Lloyds is trying to save money, but there is a balance to be struck for the community.’

Bank branches are shutting at a rate of 55 a month across the UK, placing holiday hotspots such as Hayle under strain. 

Shopkeepers fear tourists will go elsewhere, while the elderly face arduous journeys to get to a bank.

Neighbouring St Ives, which has been named one of the UK’s best seaside resorts, has lost seven branches since 2015, according to Which?

Rumours abound that the last bank in that town, Barclays, will be next.

Barclays has shut at least 482 UK branches over the past five years, with the real total likely to be higher because the bank will not give figures.

Lloyds has closed 441 UK branches in that time.

The astonishing vanishing act has today prompted warnings that millions of people could be left behind if the UK becomes cashless within a decade, as predicted.

For Hayle, the timing couldn’t be worse. The town is second only to Newquay for the number of holiday beds in Cornwall. This is thanks largely to Towans beach, which stretches 5km across St Ives Bay.

Baker’s dozen: Margaret Ferrell of Ferrell's bakery, doesn't accept card payments because of the transaction fee

Baker’s dozen: Margaret Ferrell of Ferrell's bakery, doesn't accept card payments because of the transaction fee

Baker’s dozen: Margaret Ferrell of Ferrell’s bakery, doesn’t accept card payments because of the transaction fee

In January, work finally began on a £250 million redevelopment of its North Quay. 

The first phase will build around 140 properties with views over the estuary, while it’s hoped 20 new retail units will drive a boom in trade. 

But unlike Sammy Philps, businesses won’t be able to set up shop with the help of a local bank branch.

‘We’ve been waiting decades for Hayle to regenerate,’ says resident Charlie Cartwright, 56. ‘It seems to be entirely the wrong time for the bank to be closing.’

Hayle shopkeepers say they have seen increased footfall since Lloyds closed its branch in St Ives in 2017, with residents making the 15-minute bus ride to Hayle to do their banking instead. 

But Lloyds claims its counters are 21 per cent quieter than the same time last year, prompting its decision to close the branch.

A spokesman adds: ‘We are sorry for the inconvenience this may cause, and encourage customers to contact us so we can discuss the ways we can support them.’

The announcement sparked an ill-tempered town meeting earlier this month. Councillors took turns to denounce the move as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘a classic case of rank profiteering’.

Concerns were raised that the town’s two Post Offices would be unable to cope with demand.

Michael Watton, 36, who runs Duckies Cafe, compares the closures to the Beeching cuts, which axed a third of UK railway lines in the 1960s.

He says most cafes in Hayle, including his own, are cash only, but the closure of Lloyds may force them to start accepting cards, which incurs a fee.

‘I know we’re talking small percentages, but we’re a small business,’ he adds. ‘It will make a massive difference to us.’

Hayle has a large proportion of elderly and vulnerable adults. Many say they switched their accounts to Lloyds because they were told the branch would never close.

Colin Roberts, 37, has learning difficulties and relies on cashiers recognising him in the branch and giving him his money, because he is unable to use a card.

Getting to the next nearest branches requires a 40-minute round trip to Camborne or Penzance, but Colin cannot get there unaided.

Support worker Elle Lowe-Houghton, 35, says the closure will make his finances ‘inaccessible’, adding: ‘For adults with learning disabilities these local amenities are vital. This closure is putting vulnerable people into a corner.’

A review panel, set up by ATM network Link, says bank closures are partly to blame for more retailers going cashless, as it has made it difficult for businesses to deposit takings

A review panel, set up by ATM network Link, says bank closures are partly to blame for more retailers going cashless, as it has made it difficult for businesses to deposit takings

A review panel, set up by ATM network Link, says bank closures are partly to blame for more retailers going cashless, as it has made it difficult for businesses to deposit takings

It comes as experts today warn the UK’s cash system will collapse without legislation to protect it. A year ago, the Access To Cash Review said the UK could become ‘virtually cashless’ by 2035.

But data from UK Finance has since shown that cash use has fallen faster than expected — making up less than 30 per cent of transactions — and the trade body now expects the UK to hit this point by 2030.

The review panel, set up by ATM network Link, says bank closures are partly to blame for more retailers going cashless, as it has made it difficult for businesses to deposit takings.

It also points out that Barclays only reversed plans to stop customers accessing cash at the Post Office following pressure from campaigners and Money Mail. 

Meanwhile, 13 per cent of free cash machines have closed over the past year, saving banks around £120 million, according to Which?

Panel chair Natalie Ceeney says: ‘The UK is fast becoming a cashless society — without knowing what this really means for consumers or for the UK economy. 

Many people may want a completely digital future, but we need to make sure that this shift doesn’t leave millions behind or put our economy at risk.’

No wonder the people of St Ives fear that they will be abandoned, too.

A NatWest, an HSBC and a Lloyds used to be within a stone’s throw of the High Street, but all have shut within the past five years.

Phyllis Bennett, 87, Joyce Williams, 86, and Doreen Barber, 86, have lived in St Ives since they were born.

Phyllis has to travel 40 minutes to Penzance for her nearest NatWest bank, while Joyce will soon have to do likewise when Lloyds closes in Hayle. 

Only Doreen, a Barclays customer, still has access to her local branch. ‘We’ve been abandoned by banks,’ she says.

Alongside the seven branch closures since 2015, St Ives has also lost ten free-to-use ATMs since 2018.

The remaining two Post Offices and three ATMs are spread across the town. Barclays is open only three days a week, rising to four during the summer holidays, when the town’s population grows from 12,000 to around 27,000.

But the bank stocks only £50 notes at this time to meet demand, which is a nightmare for the town’s small businesses. ‘It means you need £46 change for every customer who just wants coffee and cake,’ says Graeme Parkhill, 46, of Scoff Troff Cafe. ‘It’s just not viable.’

Margaret Ferrell, 61, of Ferrell’s bakery, doesn’t accept card payments because of the transaction fee, but doesn’t accept £50 notes either because of the high proportion of counterfeits.

Instead she directs tourists to change their money at the Post Office next door, but that regularly has queues of up to half an hour.

On Bank Holiday weekends, the cash simply runs out.

A Barclays spokesman says its St Ives branch has been ring-fenced until at least October 2021 as part of its commitment to more than 100 ‘last-in-town’ and remote branches. But locals fear the reduction in Barclays’s services means closure is inevitable.

m.dilworth@dailymail.co.uk

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