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Poorer areas worst hit by free-to-use cashpoint closures

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Free cash machines are vanishing faster from more deprived areas than affluent ones, new research reveals.

Consumer group Which? found poorer communities are being hit hardest by the move to fee-charging ATMs, which charge up to £2 per withdrawal.

Which? analysis of data from Link – the UK’s biggest ATM network – shows one in 10 free cashpoints across the country closed or switched to fee-paying in a 17-month period.

It has asked Chancellor Sajid Javid to take action to guarantee people’s access to cash.

According to the Which? study, deprived neighbourhoods saw 979 free-to-use machines switched to pay-to-use machines, equivalent to six per cent of their ATM network.

The least deprived areas lost 223 free cashpoints – equivalent to four per cent of their network of machines.

Birmingham Ladywood, which has a large proportion of its ATMs in deprived neighbourhoods, saw the biggest losses, with a reduction of 47 free machines.

Bristol West lost 40, while Manchester Central and Belfast South lost 36 and 34 respectively.

Previous Which? research found that over three-quarters (78 per cent) of people in the two lowest household income groups rely on cash the most – using it at least two or three times a week.

And while cash use is in decline, there are still 1.9 million people in the UK reliant on it in their daily lives.

Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “We know that people in more deprived communities tend to rely heavily on cash, so it’s deeply concerning that those who can least afford it are being hit with the extra burden of hefty fees to access their own money as free cashpoints close at an alarming rate.

“The government and regulators must urgently get a grip on these rapid changes to the cash landscape and guarantee people across the UK can continue to access this important payment method for as long as it is required.”

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