/ 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. 


Protecting cash in the short term is absolutely important, but what is far more important is getting everyone ready for an inevitable cashless society. It is about when not if and the government needs to support that transition. It is a fine line between pouring pointless money into keeping cash going. Yes I agree cash disappearing in 2 years or less is not acceptable but in 5 years? 10? That infrastructure needs to be ready.

The Department of Work & Pensions are ending the contract with the Post Office. Pensioners will soon have to have their state pension paid into a bank account, rather than a Post Office account. Hopefully they can access cash from a bank account through the post office but why ?. Is this just another nail in the coffin for the local post office. When the bank & building society branches have all gone, the next will be the local post office.

When cash machines started charging it started at £0.99 but I noticed that a machine has now been programmed to charge £1.25 and so it will continue to ramp up. Disgusting.

Most ATMs are still free to use and, according to LINK 96% of withdrawals are fee free. Hopefully the trial using cash businesses to withdraw cash without a purchase will be successful and rolled out UK wide. COVID will temporarily (hopefully) restrict which businesses are open, of course.

Pamela Murgatroyd says:
23 December 2020

I need cash to pay people when they get my shopping or doing things around the house .With out cash one would be in a poor state .

Once we lose the use of cash, all our transactions will be digitally recorded and could be made accessible to any malign government or criminal organisation in the future, thus bringing about a “big brother” society in which all our movements and actions can be monitored. This would be the end of freedom as we know it.

Brian Edmonds says:
27 December 2020

Why is no one concerned about the endemic VAT fraud and tax avoidance?

https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-responds-to-link-figures-that-show-three-in-four-believe-covid-will-affect-cash-use/ – Which? Press Office
“The pandemic has put added strain on the UK’s frail cash network. Our research shows some of the most vulnerable, who rely on cash to pay for essential goods and services, are at risk of being excluded as the UK accelerates towards a cashless society before they are ready.
“The government must urgently press ahead with its promised legislation to ensure consumers have access to cash for as long as they need it. The FCA must also closely track cash acceptance, as protecting access to cash will be undermined if there is nowhere to spend it.”

Inevitably, I’d suggest, the restrictions imposed by COVID has reduced our use of cash. I do not, however, see this as a reason to raise the spectre yet again of a rush to a cashless society. Too many reasons have been put forward in support of cash.

What seems odd is the omission, by Which?, of any reference to the Access to Cash initiative in this press release despite supporting an initiative that is currently in trials. https://communityaccesstocashpilots.org/2020/09/innovation-in-community-access-to-cash-pilots-unveiled/ It is proving successful and when rolled out nationwide it will provide convenient access to cash to far more people than have ever had it.

Meantime, we have mostly chosen to use other methods to make payments, for our own convenience. But while we will continue to make fewer cash withdrawals we will also continue to pay for some transactions in cash, although in smaller amounts. We will not halt “progress” but need to adapt our systems to help everyone and that, I suggest, is exactly what being able to use a debit card to withdraw cash without a purchase from cash businesses nationwide should give us.

There was, on ITV tonight, a programme “Has cash been cancelled” that explored access to and the use of cash. I thought it a well balanced summary with contributions from different sides of the argument. Essentially it concluded what we have been saying here, that while the use of cash has declined many find it essential.

The huge cost of ATM’s and physical bank branches was pointed out with the role of the post office shown to deal with the main banking services and dispensing cash.

It was said was that we have to adapt to changing times; that seems to be to add the service of cash-back, free of charge, in any amount however small, from a shop and other cash business without the need to make a purchase. Several years ago I suggested this was the way forward, one that would benefit far more people than have ever had the convenience of a nearby bank, post office or ATM, even in the “good old days”. I hope the trials prove successful and the principle is rolled throughout the UK as soon as is feasible.