Lancashire business group’s call to protect cash in Queen’s Speech

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The Lancashire-based Federation of Small Businesses has said the Government needs to act to save access to cash in next week’s Queen’s Speech.

The FSB was responding to new findings from Which? that has revealed that early a quarter of free-to-use ATMs have vanished since 2018 and almost half of bank branches have been earmarked for closure since 2015.

The consumer group said customers who rely on face-to-face banking services and cash to pay for everyday essentials are at risk of “being cut adrift”.

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FSB national chairman Martin McTague, who sits on the Access to Cash Pilots Board, said: “With our bank branch infrastructure further decimated over the pandemic, this Queen’s Speech is the last chance saloon where protecting access to cash is concerned.

Martin McTague FSB National ChairmanMartin McTague FSB National Chairman
Martin McTague FSB National Chairman

“Four in ten small high street businesses say cash is the number one payment method among customers, and six in ten need to make regular cash deposits.

“Since the Access to Cash Review was published, we haven’t seen meaningful movement in the numbers of customers and small firms that rely on cash day to day. But we have seen further closures of bank branches, and new limits on opening hours – choking off supply while demand remains.

“Notes and coins are still important to the lives of millions of consumers, not least disabled people, the elderly and those on tight budgets. Physical currency is also a vital backup for when digital systems fail.“Online banking brings massive benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency. Policymakers and banks should be working hand in glove to get everyone online and up to speed with all the perks that managing finances safely online can bring.

“But so long as the need for cash remains, free access should be protected. Often, it’s in areas where consumers are most reliant on notes and coins that pay-to-use machines pop up – every pound spent on accessing cash is a pound not spent with the local small businesses on which our recovery will depend.

“Legislation and clear oversight by a single regulator in this space is overdue – the former was promised years ago. It’s time to turn positive words into positive action.”

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Since 2018, 12,178 free-to-use ATMs have been cut, which is equivalent to nearly a quarter of free cash machines, Which? added.

The UK Government has previously said it will legislate to protect the future of cash, and Which? is calling for this to happen in the Queen’s speech.