/ Money

Win! Government will protect access to cash

I wrote to the Chancellor as part of our week of action to save bank branches and ATMs across the country. Today, the government has acted. Cash will be protected.

11/03/2020: Win! Cash will be protected

It’s been confirmed in today’s Budget that the government will bring forward legislation to protect access to cash and ensure that the UK’s cash infrastructure in sustainable in the long-term.

Read the full announcement

Thank you to the thousands of people across the UK who joined us in calling for the Treasury to act, which culminated in my visit to Downing Street to deliver a brief case full of your stories.

Which? CEO Anabel Hoult drops off the comments submitted to Which? Conversation to No 10 Downing Street

We know that the cash system faces irreversible damage within the next two years, so the government must swiftly press ahead with these plans to legislate, which must include putting a single regulator in charge of protecting cash.

It’s vital that today’s commitment is quickly turned into action.

We look forward to working with the government, regulators and industry to ensure that cash is protected for as long as it is needed.

26/02/2020: My letter to Rishi Sunak

Dear Chancellor,

The UK’s ATM network is on the verge of collapse.

In the past two years, 9,000 free cash machines and 1,200 bank branches have vanished.

We’re even being charged a fee to access our own money at 25% of the cash machines that remain.

Understandably, millions of people are unhappy about this. They rely on cash. For many of them, cash is the only option.

If things carry on as they are, cash as we know it will cease to exist in just two years.

Yes, digital payments are good, but right now the UK isn’t ready to go cashless. The government promised to maintain our access to cash.

As the new Chancellor, this budget is your opportunity to turn that promise into action.

Which? is the UK’s largest consumer organisation. We stand ready with our 1.3 million members and supporters to work with you, to protect cash for the millions of people who need it.

If you don’t act now, free access to our own cash will soon be gone forever.

Yours faithfully,
Anabel Hoult, CEO, Which?.


Do you feel that the Government should make sure cash is protected in the next budget?

Yes (100%, 2,739 Votes)

No (0%, 12 Votes)

Not sure (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,752

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Why do you want the government to protect cash?  Tell us why in the comments below, and we’ll share them alongside Anabel’s letter this Friday. 


Here is a Which? article that was posted after the budget: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/03/budget-2020-chancellor-poised-to-protect-access-to-cash/ ‘It is vital that this commitment is quickly turned into action. We look forward to working with the government, regulators and industry to ensure that cash is protected for as long as it is needed.’

It’s very encouraging to see Which? determined to work with those who can take action to do something about poor access to cash in some. parts of the country.

David Freund says:
12 March 2020

Having access to cash is an essential part of our democratic rights.

Unfortunately it actually isn’t, David. It is not even part of your contract with your bank.

Let us hope the legislation promised by the government will ensure that a right to [free?] access to cash at any machine anywhere in the country, and throughout the country wherever population settlements exist, is enshrined in law. I suspect that might be too ambitious, however.

I am concerned that there might now be a rash of closures of bank branches and cash machines in order to beat the legislation and I can’t see what could stop it other than public disapproval that affects the banks’ reputations.

Given the latest cut to interest rates, perhaps we should all turn to keeping our savings at home as cash rather than in bank accounts?

I doubt whether most people could manage without a bank account to receive income and make payments automatically but savings is a different matter and I should not be surprised to see savings accounts dwindling to nothing as the returns are now minimal.

I was considering taking out an ISA before the end of the tax year but looked at the rates and terms and it’s hardly worth the bother. But what is the alternative to keeping money in a savings account of some form if access to it might be required for a major purchase or expenditure?

John wrote: “Let us hope the legislation promised by the government will ensure that a right to [free?] access to cash at any machine anywhere in the country, and throughout the country wherever population settlements exist, is enshrined in law. I suspect that might be too ambitious, however.”

Many villages have never had an ATM or bank and residents have managed to cope. Complaints have arisen largely because facilities have been withdrawn.

It’s difficult to know what the best policy on distribution will be. I feel there should be some reinstatement of withdrawn facilities although the past provision might have been haphazard and not based on any rational principles.

It would be interesting to know what people think should be the right coverage, bearing in mind that some tiny settlements might be isolated but still need access to cash.

To meet the expectations of all those who have commented in this and related Conversations will not be easy or economical.

Here in Gloucester, there seems to be no shortage of free cash points at all. Almost all convenience stores, food shops, shopping malls and bus, railway and petrol stations seem to provide them, as, of course, do banks.

From what I’ve seen in more rural parts of North Wales, there are no longer any bank branches and most of the ATM’s are located at larger food shops or at some petrol stations.

As John says, provision of ATMs could have been rather haphazard. I presume that the ‘surplus’ machines in some cities and towns may have made economic sense, reducing the number of times they need to be refilled.

Where there is clearly a need for an ATM, perhaps a building such as the village hall or other public building could provide a suitable site.

It would be interesting to know how some rural communities have coped without ATMs and banks in the past. We might learn something.

I think rural communities found a way about once a week or every fortnight of going to a market town for food and household essentials and were able to access cash at their bank. People helped each other with cash in return tor a cheque, and many shopkeepers would recycle cash taken over the counter in exchange for cheques from trusted customers. Most communities had at least a post office which paid out pensions and benefits in cash, and even villages had banks. Nowadays, the withdrawal of rural bus services or reductions in services have made visiting a bank even more difficult.

I never gave this any thought until Which? launched the first Convo about saving ATMs. You are right that loss of bus services and Post Offices makes life harder. Most of the discussion here is about individuals being able to obtain cash and wanting to be sure that they can continue to spend it, but some have mentioned the problems faced by small businesses that no longer have access to a local bank.

It will be interesting to see how the government addresses the current challenges. Having seen what the Office of Public Safety and Standards has failed to achieve since its creation I am not optimistic.

Marlene Raddings says:
12 March 2020

Thank you for doing all you can to help people.

David Hall says:
12 March 2020

The Government must be mad having a big spending spree in the recent budget. Does any one realise that the National Debt now stands at over £2 Trillion, 320 Billion and is rising at a rate of £5,170 PER SECOND, or to put it another way each citizen of the UK owes £37,251, or each Taxpayer owes £64,000. If I ran my personal finances like that I would have gone bankrupt 1000 times over ! See :- http://www.nationaldebtclock.co.uk/ It is just creating a Massive Debt for future generations to pay off at some point in the future

Since, by a circuitous route via our savings accounts and the banks, it is our money that is funding the government’s borrowing, it possibly cancels itself out. Everyone who pays interest on a loan is contributing to the money that the government borrows.

Sue G. says:
12 March 2020

Many people, like market traders can only receive cash.

Martin Daines says:
12 March 2020

We MUST keep the ability to use cash when ever we want and not be bullied otherwise.

Barrie Tittensor says:
12 March 2020

As a Pensioner, I use cash every time I leave my House, ATM are disappearing all the time
such that I either catch a bus ( no shelters ) or walk ( recent knee joint ) these simple tasks
are now difficult !! also, I get charged to access my pension cash.
I 100% support your stand against disappearing ATM and the remaining, charging for accessing my money.
My Best Regards Barrie

George E Sargeant says:
13 March 2020

I do understand that there must be a cost in servicing the cash machines. However, with banks being out of reach of many people who are unable to travel long distances, the cash machines are necessary. Therefore the Government should protect us by ensuring that we have access to our money. [Free of charge]

It cannot be entirely free of charge, George. Bank customers will meet the cost of cash provision in one way or other, but not necessarily at the point of delivery.

kim eyeddul says:
13 March 2020

A point of great importance is that cash should be accepted as payment for all over-the-counter transactions.
The increasing number of card only retail outlets deprives many people, without cards or credit ratings, of access or the ability to shop.
This is the currency of the realm and should be accepted in all reasonable circumstances.

But anyone who actually has cash can shop at such places if they first go and buy a prepaid card, see:-https://www.money.co.uk/prepaid-cards.htm

Thanks for this link, Derek. I had associated prepaid cards with foreign travel and the possibility of expensive fees, but they look like a useful option for anyone who needs control of expenditure that a credit or debit card does not offer. Here is another link: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/prepaid-cards/

susan davies says:
13 March 2020

I prefer to use cash rather than card, couldn’t cope with having to pay small amounts with cards. Taking away cash is yet another way of restricting our freedom of choice

Vera Turnbull says:
17 March 2020

A Scandanavian country did without cash and found that it did not work. Why does GB not pay attention? Why is it assumed that a cashless society will work across all society

It has and it doesn’t. The UK government has pledged to protect access to cash and legislate to make the banks comply. It is not the government that has been withdrawing cash facilities or seeking to progress towards a cashless society, although to a significant extent that policy is a response to customer behaviour.

28 March 2020

Well done. Brilliant. Plenty of people need cash for bus or taxi journeys. Life is complicated enough without having to travel miles to access your own money.
Also, smaller holiday towns and villages need ATM’s to enable tourists to buy things locally from small businesses – essential as agriculture provides so few jobs these days in rural areas