– Access to Cash Review may have accelerated closures
– Consumers & businesses face near extinction of cash unless urgent action is taken – including turning every National Lottery Terminal into a free ATM as part of the next lottery licence – at no cost to tax payers/consumers
Sonect, a fintech innovator which can turn every shop cash register into an ATM, has identified glaring weaknesses in the plans announced in late 2021 meant to safeguard access to cash services for the UK public and businesses.
Financial Services veteran and cash thought-leader Ron Delnevo, the UK Director of Sonect, believes that the outcome of Access to Cash Review, set up in 2018 and chaired by Natalie Ceeney CBE, has actually been to accelerate the trend of bank branch and ATM closures.
Delnevo comments: “The end game of this protracted review has seen the LINK ATM Network left to pick up the pieces when communities around the UK are deprived of cash infrastructure. Yet the scope of solutions available to LINK are wholly inadequate.”
Delnevo cites as an example Leatherhead, a bustling town in Surrey.
By the end of 2022, Leatherhead town centre will have lost a dozen free-to-use ATMs and five bank branches in the space of less than two years. All that will be left is one ATM in a failing shopping centre; a part-time Building Society branch with no ATM; and a small Post Office, hidden away in the back of a nightclub.
Ron Delnevo notes: “Leatherhead will be left with around 5% of the cash withdrawal facilities the town enjoyed last year and nowhere convenient for the public or businesses to deposit cash. Even during the pandemic, cash use only fell by 30% – yet towns like Leatherhead are having 95% of their cash infrastructure ripped out. And there is no tool in LINK’s armoury to correct such a dramatic change.”
There are thousands of communities like Leatherhead around the UK, communities which used to enjoy bank branches with counter access to cash and free-to-use ATMs – and now have none.
Ron Delnevo is clear as to what needs to be done to guarantee the long-term cash withdrawal and deposit facilities the UK public and businesses require. “Firstly, National Lottery Terminals need to become the ATMs for every community in the UK. The technology already exists to make this happen. The Government needs to stipulate this innovation as part of the next ten year lottery licence, effectively DOUBLING the number of ATMs in the UK, at no cost to the tax payers. Secondly, in relation to cash deposits, the Treasury and Financial Conduct Authority needs to insist that already identified innovations which could see deposit facilities provided in every significant community in the UK are quickly implemented, rather than being blocked by vested interests. Finally, a Payment Choice Act is required to compel businesses to accept cash for in-person payments.”
An analysis of statistics produced by UK Finance – the banks’ own trade body – reveals that 40 million adults continue to use cash regularly. Meantime, a survey carried out on behalf of the Post Office highlighted that more than half of the small businesses in the UK ONLY accept cash.
Delnevo concludes “No rocket science is needed to safeguard access to cash infrastructure and the UK public’s right to Payment Choice. The solutions already exist. The Government needs to demonstrate it cares enough to insist they are implemented. Now. In 2022.”