Banks will be forced to provide cash machines within a ‘reasonable distance’ of every UK home under laws being prepared by ministers
- Network operator Link said that 12% of ATMs were shut during the lockdown
- Consumers have ditched cash at an unprecedented rate during the pandemic
Banks will be forced to provide cash machines within a ‘reasonable distance’ of every UK home under laws being prepared by ministers.
Network operator Link said that 12 per cent of Britain’s 60,000 ATMs were temporarily shut during the coronavirus lockdown and more than 5,000 ATMs have not been turned back on, raising fears that many may never reopen.
Consumers have ditched cash at an unprecedented rate during the pandemic over fears it might spread the virus.
Cash in hand: Network operator Link said that 12 per cent of Britain’s 60,000 ATMs were temporarily shut during the coronavirus lockdown
Some retailers have stopped accepting cash, while the limit for contactless payments was increased from £30 to £45, leading to cash use falling by 90 per cent in some parts of Britain.
Some ATMs were not refilled during lockdown, while others were located in premises that were forced to close.
Now the Government is concerned vulnerable communities – including the elderly and those without debit bank accounts – will suffer if more machines permanently close.
They have launched a consultation with banks, building societies and industry regulators including the Bank of England to find ways to ensure all homes have access to cash.
It follows a promise by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Budget on March 11 to pass laws so that everyone who needed cash could get it.
Yesterday the Treasury said: ‘We know that many individuals and businesses still rely on cash. We have committed to bring forward legislation.’
The loss of cash machines has caused alarm among campaigners. Gareth Shaw, head of money at consumer watchdog Which?, said: ‘Millions of people have had no choice but to rely on cash during lockdown. It is vital that banks do all they can to ensure customers have access to the services they need.’
Natalie Ceeney, who led an investigation into cash access in 2018, told the Sunday Times: ‘Quite simply, digital payments don’t yet work for everyone, and maintaining the UK’s cash infrastructure is essential to stop millions being left behind.’ Even before the pandemic, Which? warned that free-to-use cash machines could disappear within two years.
Around 9,500 free ATMs have been removed or introduced charges of up to £2 between Jan 2018 and Feb 2020.
The Post Office has developed its cash withdrawal and deposit services, and now offers free cash withdrawal for customers of 28 banks.