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Lack of free-to-use cash machines could ‘shatter’ deprived communities | UK News

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Deprived and remote communities could be left “shattered” as a report shows access to free-to-use cash machines is declining in the poorest communities.

Researchers from the University of Bristol say there are “stark differences” to the availability of cash machines after carrying out a detailed study of the city.

They found in one of Bristol’s wealthiest areas – Clifton – just 29% of cash machines are privately run, the majority being free-to-use bank-run ATMs.

In one of the poorest areas – Easton – 89% are run by private operators, many charging people to withdraw cash.

Co-author of the report Sara Davies told Sky News: “It just seems as though this is another example of the poverty premium, where the poor pay more for access to essential services. I think the worrying thing is it can have a knock on for local businesses as well.”

A man uses a TSB cash machine in Ashford, Kent
Image:
A man uses a TSB cash machine in Ashford, Kent

The report also highlights the high number of cash machines converting from free to charging.

It shows more than two-thirds of cash machines that changed to fee-charging between October 2018 and March 2019 were in deprived neighbourhoods.

Earlier this month, consumer group Which found that between January and March this year nearly 1,700 cash machines became fee charging. It predicts the number of free-to-use cash points could fall by 15% by the end of 2019.

Ron Delnevo, European director of the ATM Industry Association, said the situation is a crisis.

He said: “It’s not simply about ATMs and cash itself, it’s about the vibrancy and viability of local communities and many communities – that’s suburbs, villages, small towns – are going to be shattered by this change and it is not acceptable and that’s why we need legal action, we need legislation to protect the British public.”

One of the reasons more cash machines are now charging is because of something called the interchange fee – the amount of money banks pay cash-machine companies per withdrawal.

That amount has recently dropped, and the biggest private cash machine operator – Cardtronics – told Sky News that means some machines are no longer sustainable being free.

It added: “Introducing a charge is not one we have taken lightly, but until we can find a sustainable way of maintaining the service, we have no choice on some of our machines.”

Earlier this month the government announced a new working group to safeguard the future of cash and access to it.

Chair of the Treasury select committee Nicky Morgan said: “The first thing is for the industry and companies running cash machines and banks to be called in to the Treasury and asked to look the chancellor in the eye and explain why it is fair for people who are often struggling to make ends meet to pay to access their own money.”

Locals shopping in the Bristol suburb of Easton told Sky News the rise in fee-charging machines is noticeable.

A butcher who did not want to be named said: “Personally using them myself I’ve noticed, but also the effect on our customers because we have a lot of customers that realise they’ve only got a card and they pop to the cash machine and it’s charging so they’re not wanting to use the cash machine anymore.”

Another shopper said: “This area is for the poor people. They don’t have more money. That’s why I’m angry.”

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