UK banks commit to free access to cash

The UK banking industry is promising to work with local communities to ensure that Brits continue to have free access to cash as the country drifts towards a digital economy.

The ongoing removal of bank branches and ATMs from Britain’s high streets has led to a rowdy debate about the consequences for a disenfranchised segment of the populace – estimated to comprise eight million individuals – who would struggle to cope in a cashless society.

In May the government outlined plans for a ‘Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group’ and the banking industry, through UK Finance, has been keen to demonstrate its commitment to work with the new entity.

Building on the findings of the independent Access to Cash Review chaired by Natalie Ceeney, UK Finance is promising to embark on an outreach effort over the summer, engaging with consumer representatives, local authority representatives, and market participants, including Link.

This work – described by City Minister John Glen as “extremely welcome” – will map the channels through which consumers can access cash – branch networks, the post office, ATMs, merchant cashback, etc.

It will also develop an approach to working with local authorities to identify and fill gaps in cash provision, as well as develop a definition of the industry’s commitment to customers and communities in terms of the “appropriate provision for free access to cash”.

UK Finance is also floating the idea of an independent body with responsibility for responding to access to cash representations and coordinating and facilitating appropriate industry action.

Stephen Jones, chief executive, UK Finance, says:: “Today the banking and finance industry is setting out a clear statement of intent and a series of practical next steps to ensure that cash will remain widely accessible and free for those that need it to help manage their finances and pay for goods and services.”