We face an impending crisis as free-to-use ATMs are being increasingly cutback across the UK
The closure of over 3,000 banks across the country makes it more vital than ever to have free ATMs, particularly in rural communities, writes Lord Naseby.
This is my second Oral Question to the Government about the crisis facing at least 8 million of our citizens. The importance of an Oral Question is that the person asking can target an issue then ask a supplementary question without necessarily forewarning the Minister involved. Additionally, other Lords can ask their probing Questions within a 7 minute time frame which usually means a further 7 or 8 other Lords can ask Questions on the same topic.
I first raised this topic on 3 April 2019 when I did not receive very satisfactory answers so I made a note to follow up around the same time but as it happened we now have a new Government lead by an energetic Prime Minister gifted to get to the nub of a problem.
The key points in the Ministers answer last time was that he said: ‘Last year we launched a call for evidence on cash and digital payments in the new economy. We will publish a summary of responses in due course’, but here we are 2 years on and as far as I can find out nothing has been published and certainly there have no new proposals to tackle the key issues; in fact matters have gone from bad to worse.
The key problem is the withdrawal of banks from retail banking, just take my own town where I live Sandy in Bedfordshire population about 13,000 used to have three banks, now zero and just one ATM in McColls convenience store. The closure of banks, already over 3,000 branches, will continue making it ever more vital to have ATMs particularly in rural areas.
Matters have gone from bad to worse as free to use ATMs are being withdrawn primarily, I am told, because of a change in the ATM Interchange Fee making it less profitable for those providing the ATM’s. On top of this convenience stores, garages & others have to pay Business rates for ‘through the wall’ ATMs.
It seems to me that the The Payments Systems Regulator (PSR) responsible for regulating LINK, has failed to ensure that the interchange fees properly account for operating costs and commercial viability of the free to use ATM network.
In my judgement we are facing a potential crisis. Just reflect on the impact across the country. Places like Brecon & Radnorshire have seen a 38% reduction of its free to use ATMs since July 2018 even nationally it is at least 12%. These cutbacks affect millions of people particularly in rural areas. Those who suffer are the vulnerable groups especially the elderly; 2.2 million people only use cash across the UK; 8 million would struggle in a cashless society and 11.7 million consumers would abandon local high streets if there was no access to cash.
My task as an active Backbencher on the Government side is to highlight this impending crisis & put pressure on Ministers to take action, starting with business rates in the Budget just 6 weeks away.
Lord Naseby is a Conservative Member of the House of Lords.