Thousands of free-to-use cashpoints are at risk of closure, which could have a real impact in rural communities, where residents rely on them to access their cash. At an event in Parliament this week, we once again urged the regulator to step in…
For millions of us living in small towns and villages across the country, life often revolves around a series of barely noticed but essential daily rituals.
The daily stroll to buy a newspaper and perhaps a pint of milk, stopping for a chat with the shopkeeper who you’ve known for years.
There might be a chance encounter with a friend on the high street and time for a cup of tea before hopping on a bus to visit a friend or relative across town.
Perhaps you take your child to a mother and baby group, sing in the choir or are a member of the bridge club – and in the evening enjoy a meal in a local pub or restaurant before taking a taxi home.
These small interactions and activities are the glue that holds our communities together – and all rely heavily on people having easy access to cash to pay for these goods and services locally.
But many communities could soon see their access to cash cut off – with free-to-use cashpoints threatened with closure by changes to the way the network is funded.
Link – the UK’s largest cash machine network – has announced a 20% reduction in the fees banks pay machine operators when their customers withdraw cash.
Such reductions will make some cashpoints no longer financially viable to run, leading to machines being removed in their thousands.
These changes have been led by pressures from some banks keen to cut their costs and have been waved through without any consideration for the very real impact they would have on communities.
That’s why Which? has teamed up with the Federation of Small Businesses to call on the Payment System Regulator (PSR) to urgently intervene and ensure that people won’t be stripped of their preferred and relied-upon method of payment.
Many people and small businesses are already reeling from bank branch closures – over 2,000 in the past three years alone.
The removal of free-to-use cashpoints would be a further blow, leaving many people facing an uphill struggle simply to pay for the goods and services they depend upon.
We know that over 2.7 million people are almost entirely reliant on cash. And we know, from the countless stories we’ve heard since our campaign launch, that for many people, there is much more at stake than convenience.
We heard from Sue, who lives in a rural Welsh community that’s already been hit with bank closures.
She needs cash to pay the milkman, top up electricity and pay the food delivery scheme of which she’s a member.
Her ability to carry out all these essential daily tasks is suddenly thrown into real doubt by potential cashpoint closures.
Recently, we found more than 200 mostly rural communities to be under-resourced in terms of access to a free-to-use cashpoint – with just one machine, or none at all.
Cardtronics – the UK’s largest operator of machines – has already warned that these changes will have the greatest impact in these areas.
This campaign is not about trying to halt the march of progress. There is scope to reduce the number of cashpoints side-by-side in cities and large towns as other forms of payment reduce the use of cash by many people.
We recognise that technological advances have brought new ways to pay that have enriched people’s daily lives. But we also recognise the needs of all those who do rely on free cash to go about their business. So the PSR must explore all the options available to guarantee convenient access to free withdrawals across the UK.
That’s why, at an event in Parliament on 26 February, we called on the PSR to intervene and ensure people like Sue, and all those people and communities that rely on accessing cash, can continue to do so.
This is an adapted version of an article by Peter Vicary-Smith, which was originally published in The Telegraph.
Do you think the PSR should be doing more to protect access to free-to-use cashpoints? Is your community being affected by cashpoint closures?