Post Office

Retailers and other stakeholders have criticised Barclays Bank’s decision to stop the over the counter cash withdrawals at Post Office branches from New Year.

NFRN national president Stuart Reddish, himself a Subpostmaster in Sheffield in Yorkshire, said the move will hit elderly and vulnerable people, especially in rural areas.

“Barclays has made the wrong decision and needs to understand the massive impact this will have.  It must reverse that decision now,” he said.

“With all the other high street banks continuing to offer services through the Post Office, there is no reason why Barclays cannot continue to do so,” he added.

Chairs of two Commons committees have come down heavily against the decision.

Rachel Reeves, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, asked the bank to “think again,” terming the step as “deeply retrograde.”

“This decision comes at a time when, across the banking sector, high-street branches are closing and free cash-points are under threat. It’s essential that the future viability of the post office network is secured and unfortunately this decision from Barclays suggests they are forgetting their wider social responsibilities,” Reeves said.

Catherine McKinnell, interim chair of the Treasury Committee, said the bank’s decision is “hugely disappointing” and asked the government to step in to ensure free access to cash.

“As the Access to Cash Review pointed out earlier this year, over eight million adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society. If banks aren’t going to act, the government must do so immediately,” she said.

“Banks cannot be left to dictate what happens to people’s ability to access their cash. The use of cash cannot be left to wither on the vine.”

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has also asked the bank to reconsider the decision.

“Post offices provide such a lifeline for so many people particularly in rural areas where there has been a tendency not to be a bank anyway,” she told reporters. “The opening hours tend to be longer than at banks. Access to finance is so useful for elderly people and people without transport.

“The Post Office has been really helpful to people getting access to cash and carrying out their day-to- day financial transactions so, yes, I am disappointed.”