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More than 8,000 cash points switched off as hundreds of bank branches close

Written by on 28/08/2021

Thousands of cash points have disappeared during the pandemic with many not being replaced, new data shows.

Around 8,000 ATMs have been switched off in the past 18 months, according to research by consumer group, Which? – equating to a fall of around 13%.

The vast majority of cash machines were put out of action while the UK was under national lockdown between March and May last year.

Research has also found a total of 801 bank branches closed between the start of the lockdown in March 2020 until restrictions were lifted in July this year.

Another 103 branches are due to close their doors by the end of this year.

The analysis from Which? – based on cash machine data from Link – found there are large discrepancies in the number of ATMs charging for withdrawals in Britain, varying according to different regions.

In the West Midlands, 28% of machines charge users, compared with 19% in the South East.

More on Covid-19

The research comes as a new survey revealed 57% of people have experienced at least one issue using cash points or finding a bank on the high street.

Around a quarter had a problem using a cash point in the past year – including 17% who said the ATM had run out of cash or was not working.

Millions rely on cash points and are 'not yet ready' to bank digitally, say Which?
Image: Millions rely on cash points and are ‘not yet ready’ to bank digitally, says Which?

A further one in eight said a cash point they used had been removed or introduced charges.

Some 43% of those surveyed said they had been affected by bank branch issues including closures and reduced opening times.

A number of high street banks have announced closures in the past 12 months – as bosses point to a rise in online transactions.

But consumer groups are concerned older people and those without internet access could be left struggling.

Which? has urged the Government to do more to protect consumers.

It has questioned when new rules proposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to ensure cash withdrawals can be made locally, will be made law.

Gareth Shaw, Which? head of money, said: “These stark figures show the extent of the damage caused by the pandemic to the already fragile cash system, and demonstrate the consequences that this is having on consumers who are trying to withdraw cash.

“While many people can now bank digitally, millions of people are not yet ready or able to do so. It is consumers who are looking to withdraw and spend cash in nearby shops or the high street who will be hardest hit if they are left without a way to access it locally.

“This should serve as a wake-up call to the Government and the FCA. The cash system is continuing to crumble and legislation on safeguarding access to cash must be introduced swiftly.”

A Treasury spokesperson said: “We’ve committed to legislate to protect access to cash across the UK and we’re currently consulting on proposals for new laws to make sure people only need to travel a reasonable distance to pay in or take out cash.”

 Sky News

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