Hopkins 'spurning his roots' by promoting Barclays as it closes his home town branch

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The Independent Online

Later today, 171 branches of Barclays will close their doors for the last time, leaving scores of rural communities and suburban commuter villages with no access to banking facilities.

The loss of their local bank is even more acute for the residents of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, near Swansea, as their local hero, and home-grown Oscar-winning actor, Sir Anthony Hopkins, is currently appearing in the company's "big world" television advertisements.

They have accused Sir Anthony of turning his back on his roots to cash in on a lucrative advertising deal and have asked him to join the fight to keep the branches open.

One said yesterday: "Sir Anthony's a local lad to people like us and we're very proud of him but we're not too impressed with what he's doing on the telly now. While he praises the value of everything big he should remember what that means in the real world is that small communities lose their services."

Gwenda Thomas, the Welsh Assembly Member for the area, said: "I have written two letters to [Sir Anthony's] London agents, one as soon as the advert came out, on 3 March, but I have had no response."

Glanville Mills, 67, of Ogmore Vale, another village in South Wales that is losing its Barclays said: "I am disgusted with the way the bank is being closed. Sir Anthony is one of the Welsh boys but he is just making money out of Barclays."

The bank announced just three weeks ago that it was closing the branches and sparked a furious response from customers. A group of five angry pensioners staged a sit-in in one branch which was then closed for five days so the staff could get over the shock. Chris Mullin, the Environment minister, advised customers to "vote with their feet".

Barclays has said the closures are justified as more and more customers are turning to the internet and telephone banking.

Barclays spokesman Andrew McDougall said they now had 700,000 online clients with people switching to the internet service at the rate of 4,000 a day. The percentage of customers who are regularly using their branches had fallen from 56 per cent to 36 per cent in under five years. Mr McDougall added: "It is important that people realise we are having to change because of the changing nature of banking."

Barclays last night attempted to appease its customers by announcing that a deal had been struck with the Post Office to offer some level of service in affected areas.

Speaking on BBC 1's Watchdog programme Barclays' retail banking director John Varleysaid: "After listening to our customers, we will have, within three weeks, in collaboration with the Post Office, arrangements in each of the areas where we are closing banks to help customers cash cheques, pay in and withdraw money."