Chancellor said to protect free cash machines in budget

Free cash machines are disappearing across the UK, according to Which?. (PENNSYLVANIA)

The Chancellor is urged to protect free cash machines in the next budget as new figures show they are disappearing across the country.

Consumer group Which? on Wednesday called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce new measures to protect the UK’s treasury network in next month’s budget.

Around 9,500 free ATMs have been cut in the past two years alone, according to Which?, leaving many people with no choice but to pay to access their money through pay-to-use ATMs.

Areas such as Royston Heath in North Hertfordshire, East Malling in Kent and Essington in South Staffordshire no longer have free ATMs, which ones? said. Parts of Birmingham, meanwhile, have seen the number of free ATMs drop by 80% to 91% in recent years.

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Who? created a tool for people to request free ATMs in their area. The group said it has received more than 3,100 requests so far covering the whole country.

“On the Verge of Collapse”

Gareth Shaw, finance manager at Which?, said the figure showed “countless communities across the UK calling for free access to cash”.

“Many people have been left to grapple with the double whammy of ATM and bank branch closures – and suffered from industry mismanagement that has left the UK cash landscape on the verge of collapse. collapse,” Shaw said in a statement.

Britain's lawmaker Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson tightened his grip on the government on Thursday with a cabinet reshuffle Cabinet that triggered the unexpected resignation of its head of the Treasury, the second most powerful figure in the administration.  (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Britain’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London, on February 14, 2020. (Alberto Pezzali/AP)

Shaw’s warning came just the day after HSBC announced further branch closures across the UK and less than a week after a warning that Britain’s cash system could collapse.

A review last year found Britain’s treasury system was at risk of collapsing without government intervention and its authors said last week things were deteriorating faster than expected.

Read more: Taxpayers may have to pay to keep the money alive

“This budget will decide the future of money,” Shaw said. “The Chancellor has a huge opportunity here to protect the money of the millions who depend on it.”

“A vital lifeline”

Other groups supported Which?’s call to action.

“Cash remains the payment method of choice for millions of small business customers, and for many it is still an essential part of the payment mix,” said Mike Cherry, President of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) .

Cherry said the decline of free ATMs and the rise of pay-to-use vending machines made it “harder for small businesses to compete.”

Read more: UK treasury system ‘at risk of collapsing’

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a left-wing think tank, said 8 million people depend on cash in the UK.

“Money remains a vital lifeline for families on a tight budget, those who rely on caregivers to help them manage their money, or workers in the informal economy,” said Rachel Statham, senior researcher at the IPPR, in a press release.

“For many, the benefits of cash payments – in terms of control, trust and privacy – have yet to be replicated by digital alternatives.”

Former Chancellor Philip Hammond set up a joint task force to protect access to money last year, but the group has yet to make any formal recommendations.

A report commissioned by the Bank of England last year suggested the government may need to fund ATMs to keep the network running.

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