/ Money

Lord Holmes: we must guarantee access to cash

The government cannot leave the cash system vulnerable to further damage. Our guest, Lord Holmes of Richmond, explains the action he’s taking.

This is a guest post by Lord Holmes. All views expressed are his own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

Is cash facing an existential crisis? The pandemic has accelerated an existing trend towards digital payments and increased discussion of a cashless society. Heavy cash users have traditionally been unlikely to switch to digital payments, but the pandemic has swept away much of that resistance and forced change.  

The use of cash has fallen dramatically, and behaviour change has been driven by both consumers and retailers with a significant rise in online shopping as well as an increase in cashless retailers – including the House of Lords canteen.

ATM withdrawals are down 90% in London. Bank branches are shutting at a considerable rate, five hundred in the past year. Cash points are following fast.

The speed of change

I’m a huge advocate of fintech (financial technology) and support the growth of open banking and digital payments, but I am concerned about the speed of change and the real risk of exclusion. The majority may be happy with a move to a cashless society, but what about the minority who, for a variety of reasons, still rely on cash?

To go back to the data, ATM withdrawals are down 90% in London but just 43% elsewhere. Rural and isolated communities are far more likely to rely on cash. As are small business owners, some people with disabilities, some people on tight budgets or people without bank accounts.

There are millions who, for a myriad of reasons, still rely on cash. Which? reports that 1.9 million rely on cash for nearly every transaction, and eight million who would struggle in a cashless society.

Without protecting access to cash for those who need it, we will exacerbate inequality and turn this country and our communities into a place of exclusion. 

A recent Access to Cash Review made five important recommendations; guarantee consumer access to cash, take steps to keep cash accepted, make radical change to wholesale cash infrastructure, move from a commercial model to more of a utility approach, make digital inclusion in payments a priority and finally have a clear government policy on cash supported by a joined up regulatory approach which treats cash as a system.

Government must act

I’m working hard to promote these recommendations in Parliament. During the passage of the Financial Services Bill the Government, accepted my amendment which enables customers to obtain cash without the need for a purchase.

This speaks to the first recommendation of the review: we must guarantee access to cash, not access to ATMs. There is huge potential for new ways of providing cash access which could both widen access and help keep the high street alive. I think the Post Office ‘bank hubs’ and other community cash access pilots currently underway can also play a huge role here.

The review was also clear that market forces alone won’t make this happen. We need leadership and the government must act

On Monday (19 July) in the House of Lords I will ask the government what plans it has to:

(1) to designate the United Kingdom’s cash infrastructure as critical national infrastructure, and

(2) to introduce a universal service obligation for the provision of cash.

I look forward to the government’s response. I welcome that one of the review recommendations focusses on digital inclusion in payments. Financial and digital exclusion all too often walk hideously hand in hand.

Currently, there is a risk that digital payments innovation could continue to focus on the 80% who are mainstream adopters, not the 20% with various barriers to adoption. Digitally include, financially include and we all benefit – the benefits are not merely economic but social, and psychological.

It’s a challenge, a mission for us all. Let’s play our part and transition together, enabling, empowering, and unleashing potential. 

This was a guest post by Lord Holmes. All views expressed were his own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

Which? is clear that voluntary initiatives or public commitments can not replace government or regulatory oversight. We need a firm commitment from the Treasury on when legislation to protect cash will be introduced, as the system will continue to be under enormous pressure until it is brought forward.

Cash is a necessity millions couldn’t live without. You can help us protect it by signing our campaign petition.

Comments

The epidemic and lockdown has inevitably led to much less use of cash. You cannot use cash when you order your shopping for home delivery, or other online purchases that you would normally buy in a shop. Nor other things you would normally use cash for. I expect this will reverse as we get back to a more normal life, so I think that this argument is a little flawed. And while the value of cash purchases may well have declined there are still a huge number, as opposed to value, of cash purchases.

Rather than raising the spectre of a cashless society – very unlikely in the foreseeable future – we need to take a positive and constructive approach and accept that, as life evolves, things will change. While ATMs and bank branches naturally decline as we choose to use them less and less, we have seen Post Offices taking on the important functions, including giving access to cash.

However, more importantly, now we have left the EU we are able to put a system in place where we can use debit cards to get cash without purchase from cash businesses. Trials are underway and I would suggest supporting a move to this method of accessing cash would be one of the constructive ways forward. In principle such businesses are within easy reach of far, far more people throughout the UK than could ever access an ATM, bank or post office.

I think less pessimism and more practical proposals would be a good approach.

I have not used cash since before the pandemic. Nowadays I use mobile banking to pay friends and am happy to accept online payments too.

I am very much in favour of retention of cash for those who want to use it and fully support the suggestions in the introduction. Sadly, those who live in rural communities have suffered from closure of banks (often accompanied by loss of ATMs) and closure of their local Post Office, government action is long overdue.

Every Which? Conversation we have had on this question has generated hundreds of examples of where cash is essential. While various work-arounds to the absence of cash in a myriad of small personal payment actions have been outlined, none have been regarded as entirely satisfactory and there have been suggestions that the people who advocate keeping access to cash are just dinosaurs who are not prepared to move with the times.

We don’t need to recite these examples all over again now but in most cases the human interaction element plays a very strong part. Functionally, we can all manage without handy access to cash if we have to, but for family, voluntary organisation, leisure and social activities the pleasure tends to turn on the giving and receiving of notes and coins

The government promised a legislative commitment. The coronavirus epidemic hasn’t negated its need. It’s time for action; in fact, it’s long overdue.

Thank you, Lord Holmes. Elementary really.

This is Which?’s take on what is going on in the cash world ( mainly what others are already doing).
https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/05/the-future-of-cash-seven-things-we-learned-from-the-which-cash-summit/

In particular ” Cashback without purchase is another important recent development. As of April, the government amended laws** to make it possible for shops, cafes and pubs to offer cashback without you needing to make a purchase first. Many of our speakers were optimistic about the role this could play in the future of the cash network, particularly in communities where access to banks and ATMs is poor.
And
5. The cash supply network will need to change” As the demand for cash falls, it becomes less cost-efficient. This is because of the costs associated with cash infrastructure, like the production, storage and transporting of cash……..

I hope Which? will now continue supporting new ways forward and, maybe, come up with its own constructive suggestions.

There is no further case to be made for cash; it is quite clear it is a payment method used and needed by very many people. However, when we speak of “legislation” we must be clear that there are sensible means of meeting that legislation. As I understand it some legislation was needed for cash businesses to dispense cash against a credit card, something that was prohibited by the EU when we were a member. It appears that has already been enacted so if the trials prove successful they can swiftly be rolled out across the whole of the UK, include the remote and sparsely populated areas.

**” Holmes put forward several amendments to the Financial Services Act 2021 during its Lords stages.[44] The amendments were related to fintech and financial inclusion[45] and one amendment regarding cashback without purchase was accepted by the Government and passed into law when the bill gained Royal Assent in April 2021.” I am pleased to see the Baron has a progressive approach. Let’s hope so do others.

I am house-bound (disabled , not Covid) and live alone, so cannot get cash from any banking system. My bank seems disinterested in offering a solution and I have no relatives who can support me. Companies offer to deliver to me foreign currency for my holidays – why cannot they deliver pound notes? They seem shocked when asked! If I ask a neighbour to get me a pint of milk I can hardly offer them a credit card in payment or do a bank transfer for 50p (or whatever) I have to ‘trust’ a relatively unknown person to get cash – usually on their account and then do a bank transfer to reimburse them. What is the answer?

https://www.yourmoney.com/saving-banking/post-office-launches-cash-delivery-service-to-help-vulnerable/
”Post Office launches cash delivery service to help vulnerable
0
Written by: Paloma Kubiak
23/04/2020
Cash delivery payments can be made to the most vulnerable people in England as the Post Office has partnered with the Department for Work and Pensions to offer the service.
”.

Does this service still operate?

Even though I’m a big tech fan I’m a supporter of this push on the government. I live in the Cotswolds and have seen first hand how farm shops struggle with online payments. The charges by the bank, even though small, make a real impact on what are already tight profit margins.

Transport for London has decided to allow passengers to pay cash at London Underground ticket offices again. TfL withdrew the option to use money at the start of the coronavirus emergency but it is now returning on a permanent basis.

This is a very good development because it removes a form of justification for other organisations not to accept cash.

Em says:
24 July 2021

London Travelwatch are claiming this is a direct result of their campaigning:

“This news is a huge win for London TravelWatch and all the people and organisations that supported us along the way including … Which? … and many, many more.”

They are also in favour of retaining face masks on public transport.

There is now plenty of evidence that being close to other people, especially indoors, has been responsible for spread of coronavirus but none that I am aware of that it is being spread by handling cash or touching an ATM keypad.

I hope that if businesses don’t want to handle cash they will make that reason clear rather than trying to justify it as a safety precaution. At least face masks do something useful.

John Clark says:
26 July 2021

Charities rely heavily on cash donations in boxes at retail outlets – the speed of change to digital payments over the last year or two is seriously affecting charities income. Please don’t ditch cash, our charities need it desperately.

Chris Beney says:
26 July 2021

I always use a rubber glove for withdrawing cash from the machine. The buttons could be contaminated. Cash out from my local machine is nearly all new.

I have become increasingly concerned at how very elderly people are becoming marginalised in society because they are not able to manage digital technology. This is now part of the day-to-day fabric of society, but how is a person in their eighties expected to understand this new fast-changing digital world – or those in their seventies – or younger? I don’t see any government help or support for older people in helping them learning how to use digital devices. Banking online is not realistic for them, reducing access to cash by doing away with banks and ATMs and now shops not accepting cash is making life very difficult for this generation in our society. They are being excluded and ignored and it is very unfair and discriminatory.

Perhaps friends and family can help, Cleo. There are plenty of people in their seventies who started using online banking years ago. Those living in rural areas have indeed been let down by their banks, something that those living in urban areas may not recognise, and this has also affected by small businesses.

As people get older they may find it more difficult to get out, so being able to bank and shop online could be a great help to the elderly, but it is important to be on the look out for scams.

”Those living in rural areas have indeed been let down by their banks,” . It could be argued that those people have also let down their banks by not using them. This is two way traffic. Banks have arranged for 11000+ post offices to provide banking services – many more than the branches closed and with better opening hours – and the access to cash trials should give far more people easy access than ever before.

Banks are commercial institutions, just like the village shops that closed when most of us chose to drive to supermarkets; like the branch lines that closed when we used our car instead of the train. They need “footfall” to justify their existence. The alternatives that evolve should be better than we have had in many respects.

Valerie says:
26 July 2021

I have several people to pay each week. Gardener, hairdresser, window cleaner and people who do bits of shopping for me. All 5 banks in my urban village have closed, as well as 2 post offices. I can get cash at an APT machine at the garage, but only up to £250. I used to collect anough money for the month. I could go on line but with the catalogue of fraud that even the police admit, hy on earth should I?

Em says:
26 July 2021

Withdrawing and keeping large amounts of cash is not safe either. You need to balance the risks.

Online banking is safe, provided you keep your account details secure and never transfer money to anyone you didn’t expect to have to pay. But why not speak to your bank – and maybe others – to see what they can propose.

If you are really worried about someone emptying your online account, keep most of your money in a “safe” account (whatever that is) and set up a standing order to transfer what you need to spend on a regular basis – maybe up to £500 per month.

You can get an additional Connected shopping card from Starling Bank that can be used by someone shopping on your behalf. From friends and family to a neighbour or childminder, it’s an additional debit card you can give to anyone you trust, so they can buy whatever you need; no cash, contact, IOUs or fiddly bank details. The money comes out of a designated Space you’ll set in the app (rather than your main account) and it’s capped at £200, so you’re always in control.

If you still think you need to withdraw over £250 from an ATM in a single day, open a second bank account and get a second debit card.

https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/four-in-10-disabled-consumers-suffering-as-a-result-of-bank-branch-closures-which-warns/
It could be useful if Which? also informed the positives.

For example, whilst 4300 bank branches may have closed since 2015, the banks have made access to banking available through 11000+ post offices.

While ATMs are closing through lack of use, they are being protected by LINK to maintain coverage. In addition, trials are underway to, hopefully, make cash available without purchase from shops, businesses, pubs, restaurants and the like across all parts of the UK, including those where there have never been banks or ATMs.

And if this service is still available, disabled people can have cash delivered to their home.https://www.yourmoney.com/saving-banking/post-office-launches-cash-delivery-service-to-help-vulnerable/
”Post Office launches cash delivery service to help vulnerable

Which? comments on reports of FCA considering new rules allowing it to block banks from closing high street branches
“Which? supports new laws to make the Financial Conduct Authority the lead regulator for monitoring and enforcing requirements on access to cash, with strong powers to hold the industry accountable for providing local cash services”

Trying to stop banks closing branches to maintain access to cash seems a very odd argument to use when there are ATMs and Post Offices that dispense cash and, as the Cash Summit accepted, a probable roll out nationwide of cash without purchase from a wide variety of cash businesses.

A more considered argument would be to preserve the ability to discuss banking issues face to face.

Yes . . . all banking issues including loan applications, overdrafts, savings and investments, mortgages, foreign currency, money management and financial planning, insurance products, power of attorney arrangements and special facilities, and, not least, paying in cash.

Certainly some of those things although, if I were not able to use the internet, I would choose an insurance broker, a financial adviser for investments and financial planning, , a solicitor for power of attorney (although Which? might still offer this), foreign currency is widely available (but I won’t be going abroad yet a while), but loan and overdraft, yes.

But which bank branch(es) should be forced to stay open? It is unrealistic to expect the full range as we used to have and the chances are it is not your own. Would it be sensible to have a “travelling” team from each bank using a common premises, maybe visiting once a week – or two – where you could discuss matters far better done face to face? I wonder how much use it would get.

Small towns and settlements with around 5000 population should not lose their last bank branch.

Such places would not normally be able to support the full range of professional services so the customer’s bank might be a suitable and convenient place to do a number of personal financial activities. Not everyone has the confidence to go to specialist advisers they don’t know but will accept help from their bank – it might not be the most beneficial advice but they feel comfortable with it.

Even if someone has set up a lasting power of attorney for their finances, it still has to be registered with their bank and they might need to discuss with them how the relationship with their attorney will be conducted.

I don’t think we should do anything to undermine the role of banks in each sizeable community or develop arguments that expedite their redundancy..

As for your last sentence, neither do I. But we must recognise the decline in branch viability and replace it, where necessary, with as equivalent a service as possible. A small community will clearly use a diverse number of banks so any local facility needs to deal with them all.

As far as I know you don’t register a Power of Attorney until it is brought into operation.

It would be useful if Which? could provide a list of “trusted” financial advisors. I would recommend an IFA rather than any bank to get independent advice on saving and investing. However many older people will presumably feel more comfortable dealing with their bank, as used to be common in the good old days. I’m not sure how good they are now.

A comment was made about Apple products being far superior to a banks. Apart from the fact that Apple are very overpriced, judging by the profit margin, I have been very happy with the products I use with my bank – mortgage, cash availability and operating my current account primarily.

Here is the full press release:

“Which? comments on reports of FCA considering new rules allowing it to block banks from closing high street branches
10 August 2021
Gareth Shaw, Which? Head of Money, said:
“Legislation to protect cash is vital to ensure that millions of people who rely on it, including older and vulnerable consumers, are not left behind as more people transition to digital banking.

“Which? supports new laws to make the Financial Conduct Authority the lead regulator for monitoring and enforcing requirements on access to cash, with strong powers to hold the industry accountable for providing local cash services.

“It is vital that the government and regulators move swiftly in order to ensure appropriate banking services for customers remain.” https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-comments-on-reports-of-fca-considering-new-rules-allowing-it-to-block-banks-from-closing-high-street-branches/

It’s time to recognise that banks are not just there to make profits for their shareholders but must provide services for the public. I do hope that the FCA does take action. The problems experienced by those who have lost their local banks and with them their nearby ATM have been mentioned many times. Small businesses need access to banking services.

Alternatives to ATMs for access to cash have frequently been suggested without any analysis of the costs involved compared with using ATMs.

Cash was the focus of the release – in 2 out of 3 paragraphs – as I pointed out. Not the best argument to support the retention of branches.

The geographic ATM network is protected by LINK despite a substantial drop in usage – but more than made up for by giving access to cash from over 11000 post offices.

Cash without purchase does not require an expensive ATM with servicing facilities but, far more important, it should give many people access who have never lived near a bank or ATM. I’d like a progressive scheme that helps the many.

Banks are commercial entities and exist to make profits for their shareholders – which includes many receiving a private pension. If their costs increase then it is more than likely we will start to be charged for our current accounts. I would not be unhappy to pay for a service but many others may object.

However, there are other ways to give face to face banking, as has been discussed before, that move with the times and accept that declining use means some sort of change is inevitable.

How much would it cost for cash to be distributed by businesses? How many of them will wish to provide cash to anyone other than their customers? I have not seen much evidence of businesses supporting the initiative.

I have moved with the times and have not used cash since January 2020, except to pay a neighbour my share of having a fence repaired. It helped me get rid of old paper notes. Unfortunately pushing older and vulnerable people to move from using cash can be risky, which is one reason I favour retention of cash.

That is why there is a trial underway. Why presume none will want to do it? Why will they only want to favour customers if they receive a fee to dispense cash. In fact, bringing in people who want cash is more likely to improve custom.

We need to adopt a positive approach to a changing situation. I hope the trials prove successful and we all benefit.

I, too, want to retain cash and have not seen any move to prevent that; it is gaining access to it that is the issue. I want to see more people able to access it than just those currently near an ATM, bank or post office.

I did not presume that none will want to dispense cash but, as I said, I have not seen evidence of businesses wanting this to happen.

I am encouraged by the suggestion that the FCA could block closure of banks. Presumably this would be where closure of the ‘last bank in town’ was planned. I remain in favour of combined bank branches that could offer more than Post Offices do at present.

Where have you looked for evidence?

Some information on what is being looked at here https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2021/04/post-office-bank-hub-access-cash/

And here, where Which? recognises alternatives:
https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/05/the-future-of-cash-seven-things-we-learned-from-the-which-cash-summit/

I have searched for news periodically but have not seen evidence that businesses are trying to push this forward. I wonder if the intention is for them to do this voluntarily or require businesses to provide cash on request.

Do you think we will, in future, see more or fewer ATMS? Do you think there will be more bank branches and post offices? How will those more remote from traditional dispensers of cash get access?

I just wonder, when initiatives not supported, what the alternatives offered might be.

I am not optimistic about bank branches but thanks to public pressure we now have some more ATMs: https://www.link.co.uk/about/news/link-community-request-atms-dispense-over-50m/

After a period of absence, the Post Office sign has been reinstated outside our village shop.

LINK have been proactive in maintaining the ATM network given substantially declining use by customers. That includes ensuring when an ATM is closed there is another within 1km.

” Launched in October 2019 by LINK, the UK’s main cash machine network, the Community Request an ATM initiative was set up to support areas across the UK struggling to access free cash.

To date, LINK has spoken to more than 4,000 people about local issues and as a result has installed 57 free cash machines. A further 50 -100 are expected to be installed in the coming year.

In general this report looks at cash issues and potential progressive solutions
https://www.accesstocash.org.uk/media/1087/final-report-final-web.pdf

I’m not sure more ATMs and bank branches is especially helpful. The poor, elderly and vulnerable still need to travel to get to these places, however common they are. Why would someone want to walk to a bus stop, pay £2 to catch said bus and repeat the process, now with £100 or more in their pocket or purse?

I am sure technology and innovation will provide solutions that will make ATMs and the idea of counter service to access cash seem old fashioned.

What if everyone that needed one had a safe at home, that could be topped up by themselves or a secure courier service? My insurance policy covers money up to £1,000 against forcible or violent break-in, not even in an approved safe.

What if every home linked to the Internet has a mini-ATM? And before you scoff, why does it need to dispense hard currency? We already have the concept of print-your-own postage, so why not money? Ideal for giving children pocket money or paying the window cleaner. Stores would need to have a QR scanner or similar to validate the one-time use barcode before dispensing goods and change. After that, the note could be destroyed as it is of no value, reducing the need for retailers to bank cash themselves.

I think you are right that technology and innovation could provide safe and easy to use alternatives to cash, Em. Thanks to phone apps I am better informed about my bank accounts and card accounts than ever before. There is plenty of opportunity to introduce restrictions to help customers control their spending and limit the risk of loss. As Derek has pointed out numerous times, you don’t need to have a top of the range phone to take advantage of modern services.

But you have to have the ability and confidence to use a phone app – and assume you have a signal. And, if you follow Which?’s advice, keep your phone up to date which many people will not want to, or can afford, to do even if the do have a smart phone.

We need solutions for all, including those that do not depend upon personal technology.

All innovations have merit and need to be considered against a changing scene. Many people will just need to have a small amount of cash, easily withdrawn -if the trial is successful – from a local shop, pub, or other business. Saves the business having to pay to deposit excess cash as well.

A courier service would be useful for relatively substantial amounts of cash as it will cost money to operate, or even lesser amounts via secure post. But reports are that people don’t even like to pay for access to cash at an ATM – despite the convenience and saving the cost of a car or bus journey. I believe that the benefits service will deliver cash to the vulnerable; has anyone experience of that?

We do indeed have to think of everyone, but most do have phones, often replaced when their two year contract is coming to an end. 🙁 Em has mentioned that since we can print our own postage and perhaps the same could be done to provide single-use ‘cash’ that could be scanned and then binned, removing the need for retailers to pay it in.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.

I do doubt that most of us have phones that are replaced every two years. Many with phones will have SIM only, but many will not have a phone or an up to date one, particularly those getting on in years. We should not favour those who are “connected”; we need to give equal thought to those who are not. Just as we should not favour those who do their transactions electronically but also give access to cash to those who want, and need, it.

I’m not sure what happened to the planned withdrawal of cashback in Sainsbury supermarkets in 2018 and presume that this was shelved. It seems that Tesco is not keen on providing cashback: “Ministers want more shops to offer cashback — but Tesco has scrapped it”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ministers-want-more-shops-to-offer-cashback-but-tesco-has-scrapped-it-bfzj20jxj I expect that the ‘lack of demand’ has something to do with concerns that handling cash could spread coronavirus, a concern that has not yet been supported with evidence.

”It seems that Tesco is not keen on providing cashback” Not really when it offers an equivalent service – in fact, better as it requires no purchase so anyone can use it: ” Tesco, which accounts for 27p in every £1 spent in UK supermarkets, said it was no longer providing shoppers with cashback in some large stores where it had cash machines on site.

Our local medium-sized Tesco has removed one of the two ATMs in the past year and I have been told that all the self-service checkouts are now card-only. I have not been in to check.

I have been visiting our local micropub recently. It offers well spaced outdoor seating. Three years ago, anyone without cash would be politely directed to one of the ATMs in the nearby marketplace. Nowadays, the clientele pay for their pint or half pint by card or phone.

I have never seen anyone putting notes into a self service checkout,. Maybe some do.

Maybe we would drink less if we could only use the cash about our person 🙂 . I use little cash these days but support the many arguments made to keep it. I see no reason to be gloomy. However, it is up to businesses whether they promote electronic sales; I guess we spend more without thinking that way.

“Revealed: majority struggled to access cash or a bank branch during the pandemic”

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/08/revealed-majority-struggled-to-access-cash-or-a-bank-branch-during-the-pandemic/ – Which?

” Our survey of over 2,000 people found that almost three in five have experienced one or more issues accessing cash or a bank branch in the last 12 months. One in four respondents told us they experienced at least one cashpoint issue. One in six said a cashpoint they use had run out of cash or not been working when needed, and one in eight said a cashpoint they used has been removed or has introduced charges.

and, in response to comments in another Convo:

“We have teams of Which? statisticians and researchers who make sure the methodology behind all our investigations is robust. ” (https://conversation.which.co.uk/community/off-topic-lobby-3/#comment-1634842).

So 3 in 5 – the “majority” – had a problem. That’s bad news. Once in the last 12 months? That seems much less of a problem and hardly justifies the headline. Which? may have teams of statisticians and researchers but it is how that information is used that matters.

“Which? analysis of data from LINK, the UK’s largest cash machine network, shows that over the past 18 months the total number of ATMs in service has dropped by almost 8,000, equivalent to 13% of the total number of machines. Most of this decline occurred during the first few months of the pandemic (March to May 2020). But since May 2020 there’s been relatively little further change which suggests these closures will be a permanent reduction to the network.

The LINK data for the last 18 months shows 54127 ATMs open in June 21, 60549 in Jan 20. A decline of just under 11%. Of these. pay-to-use declined by nearly 18%, free-to-use by 8.3%. A significant part of the decline in “open” is attributed to premises (temporarily) closed for access due to Covid. Both ftu and ptu ATMs are now reopening – more in June than in Dec 20. “But since May 2020 there’s been relatively little further change which suggests these closures will be a permanent reduction to the network“. As we are only just getting some normality after the lockdown, with premises reopening, that statement seems premature.

We also found there are stark differences in the proportion of cash machines that charge for withdrawals across the country. For example, the proportion of pay-to-use machines in the West Midlands (28%) is nine percentage points higher than that in the South East (19%).“. I am not sure of the relevance of this, but what matters is the distribution of free-to-use ATMs in any locality, that are within reach of the inhabitants; that does not mean one on every street corner but within a reasonable distance. LINK had a protection policy in place to deal with this. So without this information the comment does not seem very useful.

There are more free-to-use ATMs now than there were in 2010, despite the huge increase in internet banking and the substantial decrease in the use of cash. As for access to cash, add in the 11000+ post offices that have offered this service for the last 3 or 4 years.

When Which? publish “News”, or any other information, I would like it to stand up to scrutiny, to be balanced, fair and complete. It seems to me sometimes to avoid that, instead concentrating on some statistic that will support a rather dramatic headline. See also food delivery freshness. That is not, in my view, quite honest.

However, that is a personal view and I am happy to be contradicted.