Cash remains vital to the day-to-day lives of individuals in local communities across our country, and particularly to those in rural areas.
At present, LINK, the scheme responsible for ATM provision in our country, provides a top-up subsidy for free-to-use ATMs in remote areas. The upper limit on these top-up subsidies rose from 30 pence to £2.75. This is expected to benefit up to 3,500 free-to-use ATMs across the country. As of September 2019, there were approximately 45,000 free-to-use cash machines across the UK, which represents a 13 per cent increase from a decade ago.
UK Finance launched its Community Access to Cash initiative to help local communities to identify and secure access to cash and payment services. This follows UK Finance’s engagement with consumer representatives, local authority representatives and market participants on the cash needs of local communities.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury has met key parties of interest so that communities can engage with UK Finance to ensure that people have access to cash. The Payment Systems Regulator has previously used its power to hold LINK to account over its commitment to communities, ensuring that there is a continued high level of access.
The Financial Conduct Authority has been made ultimately responsible for ensuring the cash system works for consumers and businesses. Following this, in September 2020, the FCA published guidance setting out expectation that firms should consider the impact of branch and ATM closures on their customers’ everyday banking needs and consider the availability and provision of alternatives.
The Government legislated through the Financial Services Act 2021 to facilitate the widespread adoption of cashback without a purchase. Further work is ongoing to prepare future legislation designed to protect access to cash and ensuring that the UK’s cash infrastructure is sustainable for the long term.