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Barclays to do a U-turn on Post Office cash ban

Written by: Emma Lunn
The bank has reviewed its decisions to stop allowing customers to withdraw cash from Post Offices.

Barclays has bowed to public pressure and reversed its decision to stop its customers from withdrawing cash at Post Office counters.

The bank’s re-think came just hours before a committee of MPs published a report describing the move as a ‘highly retrograde step’ which would hurt vulnerable customers.

Barclays announced on 8 October that from January 2020 customers would no longer be able to withdraw cash from the Post Office using a debit card. The decision was predicted to save the bank about £7m a year, but campaigners criticised the move for limiting customers’ access to cash, especially in remote areas.

Labour MP Chris Elmore co-ordinated a letter from a group of MPs to Barclays CEO Jes Staley last week. The letter said the move “will only add to the cash crisis many of the most vulnerable and elderly in our communities are currently facing”.

Barclays Group CEO, Jes Staley said: “Ultimately we have been persuaded to rethink our proposals by the argument that our full participation in the Post Office Banking Framework is crucial at this point to the viability of the Post Office network.

“Whilst we have concerns regarding the sustainability of relying on this model in the longer term, and want to work with government and others to address the problems inherent in it, we recognise that the Post Office is a network valued by many communities in the UK today.

“So we have amended our position, and will now maintain a full service proposition in the Post Office for our customers, including cash withdrawals using a debit card, for the next three years.”

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee report on the Future of the Post Office network, published today, called upon Barclays to reverse its decision and said it intended to haul in Barclays bank bosses to face questions on the impact of the move. It said Barclays’ initial stance was “a penny pinching move”.

Rachel Reeves, chair of the BEIS committee, said: “Post offices are a crucial public service and perform a vital social role in our struggling high streets, helping to fill the gaps left by retreating banks. But our Post Office system is under threat. Sub-postmasters are working long hours and struggling to make a living, and the retailers running Post Offices are finding it hard to make them viable. If we want to avoid a bleak future of post-office closures, the government needs to step forward with a long-term funding commitment beyond 2021 to support the Post Office network.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “Barclays’ decision to bow to public pressure and reverse this move will be a massive relief for its customers, who have seen almost 500 high street branches close over the last four years.

“This issue highlights the fragility of our cash infrastructure in the UK, with no safety net for people affected when a company makes a damaging commercial decision – like cutting cash withdrawals from the post office network.

“The industry cannot be relied on to prevent people being stripped of access to cash and vital financial services, so the government must urgently intervene with legislation that protects cash for as long as it is needed.”

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