Much-needed plan to protect access to cash

Brits will have a legal right to withdraw and deposit cash within a reasonable distance of their home or business premises under long awaited government proposals.

The plans, which are designed to ensure notes and coins remain available to those who need them, are welcome news to campaigners who fear some retailers could stop accepting cash altogether in favour of card payments.

Those campaigners include Age UK, who said that people require the same guarantee of access to cash as they do to electricity, running water and a postal service.

The charity said older people had been particularly exposed to operating without the cash they needed during the pandemic and faced difficulties owing to the rapid switch to online banking and digital payments.

Small businesses have also been affected by closing bank branches as travelling further to deposit takings gobbles up both time and money.

The percentage of purchases made using cash has been falling in recent years and accelerated during the Covid crisis. According to banking trade body UK Finance, the number of payments made with notes and coins dropped by 35% last year, reflecting the reduced opportunities to pay for things during lockdown.

Cash still accounted for 17% of all payments, making it the second most popular way to pay behind debit cards.

The Treasury has already backed the use of local shops as an alternative to ATMs and likes the idea of shops offering cashback to customers.

In the proposals, it said that people should not have to travel beyond a reasonable distance to withdraw or deposit money, even if they are in low population areas.

Initially, the Treasury suggests that people should not have to travel more than one kilometre but that distance could be extended if cash does becomes less popular. Other considerations include whether the facilities are secure for high-value cash deposit, are accessible for those with disabilities and have adequate opening hours.

The City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, would oversee the system and consultation on the proposals ends on September 23. As a business that has always understood the needs of those based in rural settings, SW&A sincerely hopes that a satisfactory system can be put in place.