Which? Warns on Societal impact of Cashless Economy

Published on
September 19, 2019
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Free-to-use cash machines across the UK are disappearing at a worrying rate. However, more concerning, recent research has found that these free-to-use ATMs are vanishing more quickly from deprived areas. According to Which?, nearly one in ten free ATMs across the country had closed or started charging a fee during a 17-month period after changes to the interchange rates were set. There are now fears of ‘cash deserts’ with the further reductions of ATMs coupled with seemingly continual bank branch closures.

The concern is that poorer communities have been the hardest hit, with a 5.7% reduction in their ATM network. These communities often contain greater volumes of people who depend on cash the most, and who can least afford the added burden of fees at the ATM or the forced travel to access free-to-use ATMs. Meanwhile, wealthier areas have lost just 3.9% of their ATM network. Which? said that Birmingham Ladywood, which hosts a large proportion of its ATMs in deprived areas, saw the most significant losses with a reduction of 47 free ATMs. Bristol West lost 40, while Manchester Central lost 36, and Belfast South and Cardiff Central lost 34 each.

Anabel Hoult, Chief Executive of Which?, and Natalie Ceeney, Chair of the independent Access to Cash Review, have written to chancellor Sajid Javid calling on the government to act now and guarantee access to cash.

Ms Ceeney said “With ATM numbers declining, cash use dropping, and more and more shops not accepting cash, our fear is that the UK will fast go cashless, leaving millions of people behind”.

While increased technology is certainly a great development across the banking sector, it is important to recognise that not everyone is benefiting from this transition. Cash for many remains the only source of income and payment. A treasury spokesman has said that the government is working on regulations to protect access to cash for everyone who needs it. This change includes the investment of £2bn in the Post Office network since 2010, which provide the intention to give people access to everyday banking services at its 11,500 branches. Here, people will be able to access their usual high street bank account and withdraw cash, make a cash or cheque deposit, or check their balance - a positive development for those who depend on cash in an increasingly cash-less society.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/free-cash-machines-uk-poor-areas-atms-withdrawal-research-which-sajid-javid-a9109861.html

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