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100 bank branches close each month

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An average of 99 bank branch closures have taken place each month since 2021, leaving some of society’s most disadvantaged people at risk of financial exclusion, leading campaign and charity groups warn.

As of 2022, there are 12,178 fewer free-to-use ATMs in operation compared with August 2018.

At the same time, an average of 99 bank branch closures have taken place each month, up from the typical 52 per month recorded since 2015.

In an open letter to The Treasury’s John Glen MP, campaign group Which?, along with a coalition of organisations, charities, industry bodies and MPs, have yet again highlighted their concern about the decline in access to, and acceptance of cash in the UK.

The groups, including Age UK, Fairer Finance, Federation of Small Businesses and StepChange, to name a few, urge the government to include legislative measures promised in 2020 in this year’s Queen’s Speech, saying this is likely the last opportunity it has before the General Election in 2024.

The letter reads: “While the vast majority of people benefit from the speed, ease and convenience that digital payments provide, cash remains an incredibly important payment method for millions of consumers and businesses.

“This includes people with poor broadband and connectivity, and some of society’s most vulnerable and marginalised – including some older people, people on low incomes who use cash to budget, survivors of domestic abuse or those who struggle with a physical disability or mental illness.

“With rising living costs placing additional pressure on people’s personal finances, the consequences of being unable to withdraw cash for those consumers who already rely on it could be significant.”

With the decline in both free ATMs and branch networks, the consumer champion said unless legislation is introduced urgently, “the ability to access, spend and deposit cash could be permanently lost for many consumers, leaving some of society’s most disadvantaged at risk of financial exclusion with no way to pay for the goods and services they need in their daily lives”.

Which? said some proactive steps to maintain cash provision have been positive, but added they’re not enough to guarantee access to cash UK-wide.

“The government must now build on these developments by giving industry initiatives the regulatory oversight needed to protect consumers as the Chancellor promised in 2020”.

It added: “We urge the government to seize the opportunity afforded by next month’s Queen’s Speech and deliver on this commitment, providing reassurance to the millions of consumers and thousands of businesses who will be seriously disadvantaged if permanently unable to withdraw or spend cash.”

Just yesterday, the government published a response to a petition calling for it to be illegal for businesses to refuse cash payments. The Treasury said it won’t mandate cash acceptance, with the decision down to individual retailers, though it “supports cash acceptance”.

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