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Access to cash should be a legal right, says Post Office

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

A campaign to stop access to cash disappearing from UK high streets has been launched by the Post Office.

The ‘Save our Cash’ campaign is calling on the Government to bring forward legislation to ensure access to cash becomes a legal right, with a requirement on banks to provide cash withdrawal services free at the point of service for those who need it.

Around eight million adults have said they would struggle day to day without cash, while 1.4 million people do not even have a bank account and rely exclusively on cash to survive, according to the Post Office.

Some 55% of cash-accepting small businesses deposited cash at least weekly and need somewhere convenient, reliable and secure to deposit their takings, it added.

However, research by Which? shows 4,188 bank branches have closed since the start of 2015, a rate of approximately 50 per month.

The South East of England has experienced the biggest reduction in branches in the period, while Scotland will see over half of its banks close by the end of the year.

The campaign will ask people across the country to write to their MP to call on government to bring forward legislation to protect access to cash.

‘Fragile’ agreement with banks

The Post Office has an agreement with 30 UK banks, building societies and credit unions to provide customers with free access to cash and vital everyday banking services over the counter.

But it said the agreement is inherently fragile since it relies on the goodwill of each participating bank to continue to want to provide their customers with a means to withdraw and deposit cash locally.

It said banks should be obliged to ensure their customers can continue to access their own accounts, free of charge, somewhere local to them.

Nick Read, chief executive of Post Office, said: “Continued access to cash is not a luxury for millions of people and businesses across the country: it is an absolute necessity for their way of life. For them cash provides safety, security and even survival, which is why legislation is now needed to place an obligation on the banks, whose own customers’ interests we are concerned with.

“We firmly believe working in partnership with the banks is pivotal to building a secure and sustainable cash system and ensuring financial inclusion.

But the current cash infrastructure is fragile and we need the industry to fully commit to meeting its service obligations, supported by appropriate legislation that ultimately ensures we Save Our Cash.”

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “Extensive ATM and bank branch closures in recent years have chipped away at an increasingly fragile cash system, and the Post Office is right to recognise that urgent action is needed to safeguard access for the millions of people who still depend on cash.

“With people returning to high streets, restaurants and pubs as coronavirus restrictions are lifted, it’s vital that consumers can continue to withdraw and pay with cash. The government must ensure that this is not jeopardised by a failure to act swiftly on its plans to legislate to protect against further damaging cuts to the cash network.”