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    MPs join trade bodies in push for Budget proviso to secure access to cash

    Photo: iStock

    Sixteen Conservative MPs have supported industry groups in their push to secure long term access to cash in next week’s Budget.

    MPs today (5 March) wrote a private letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, joining forces with organisations including the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), British Retail Consortium (BRC), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Positive Money and Responsible Finance.

    It is reliably learnt that the MPs have urged the Chancellor to reverse the cuts to interchange fees paid by banks to fund the network and exempt free to use ATMs from business rates bills in the Budget to be presented on 11 March.

    They have also demanded to recognise ATMs as the only infrastructure through which to guarantee national access to cash.

    “Ordinary people need access to cash, local shops want to be able to accept money. We all have a responsibility to stop short term ‘efficiency’ interfering in local trade for local benefits,” commented Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West and Father of the House.

    Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, added: “There is a danger of cash deserts emerging in areas where there are no ATMs or bank branches. I hope the Chancellor and his team at the Treasury consider what steps need to be taken to address these trends”.

    MPs join trade bodies in push for Budget proviso to secure access to cash
    Photo: iStock

    Data from LINK, the ATM network body, shows that over 500 free to use ATMs are closing every month and one in ten areas no longer have free access to cash via an ATM despite LINK’s commitments under the Financial Inclusion Programme.

    “We acknowledge the growth in digital payments but access to cash remains crucial for the millions who still rely on it for essential purchases. We need a planned approach to changing payment methods instead of the haphazard removal of free to use ATMs from communities,” said James Lowman, ACS chief executive.

    Research commissioned by the Payment Systems Regulator shows that ‘the majority of consumers use cash regularly’ while the Access to Cash Review has found that eight million adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society.

    “Cash accounts for almost 40 percent of retail transactions and is important to many vulnerable people, especially as a tool for budgeting and control. Government should safeguard consumers’ access to cash by ensuring retailers are fairly rewarded for providing cashback services to customers and protecting the viability of free to use ATMs,” said Andrew Cregan, head of payments policy at BRC.

    Mike Cherry, national chairman of FSB, added: “There are some straightforward steps that the Chancellor can take on Wednesday to bolster our rapidly declining cash infrastructure. Removing business rates on free-to-use cash points is a good starting point. This a prime example of the many stifling quirks that exist within the archaic rates system.

    “Equally, if the Treasury wants more small businesses to offer cashback, it must ensure they are given sufficient financial support to take that on.”

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