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Britain has one last chance to save the cash economy, consumer champions warned yesterday. 

They said millions of people would lose easy access to their own money without urgent government action.  

Almost half of bank branches have closed since 2015 and one in four free ATMs have vanished since 2018, according to research by Which? 

Jenny Ross, editor of Which? Money, said: ‘While many consumers have embraced digital banking, there are still millions, including the elderly, vulnerable and isolated, who aren’t yet ready or willing to make that switch – and they must be protected. 

‘Our research highlights the devastating impact widespread bank branch and ATM closures have had on communities. With just two weeks to go until the Queen’s speech, it really is now or never to halt the cash crisis.’ 

Britain has one last chance to save the cash economy, consumer champions warned yesterday. They said millions of people would lose easy access to their own money without urgent government action (stock image of woman at cash point)

Britain has one last chance to save the cash economy, consumer champions warned yesterday. They said millions of people would lose easy access to their own money without urgent government action (stock image of woman at cash point)

Britain has one last chance to save the cash economy, consumer champions warned yesterday. They said millions of people would lose easy access to their own money without urgent government action (stock image of woman at cash point)

The situation is now so bad that seven parliamentary constituencies have been left with no banks at all including Bradford South, Erith and Thamesmead and Sheffield Hallam. Pictured: A branch of Lloyds Bank

The situation is now so bad that seven parliamentary constituencies have been left with no banks at all including Bradford South, Erith and Thamesmead and Sheffield Hallam. Pictured: A branch of Lloyds Bank

The situation is now so bad that seven parliamentary constituencies have been left with no banks at all including Bradford South, Erith and Thamesmead and Sheffield Hallam. Pictured: A branch of Lloyds Bank

The Which? research identified 17 more constituencies, accounting for more than 1.5million people, that have particularly poor access to cash. Pictured: A shop in Lechlade in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

The Which? research identified 17 more constituencies, accounting for more than 1.5million people, that have particularly poor access to cash. Pictured: A shop in Lechlade in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

The Which? research identified 17 more constituencies, accounting for more than 1.5million people, that have particularly poor access to cash. Pictured: A shop in Lechlade in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

It is thought that as many as five million people, particularly the elderly, continue to rely on cash to help them budget, particularly against the background of the cost of living crisis. 

Which? found there were 4,685 fewer bank branches than in 2015 and 12,178 free ATMs than in 2018. 

The situation is now so bad that seven parliamentary constituencies have been left with no banks at all including Bradford South, Erith and Thamesmead and Sheffield Hallam. 

The research identified 17 more constituencies, accounting for more than 1.5million people, that have particularly poor access to cash.

The consumer group said: ‘These range from rural areas where the patchy public transport system makes the problem of dwindling cash access worse for an older than average population, to relatively deprived urban areas where residents struggling during the cost of living crisis might need to use cash for day-to-day budgeting.’

Banks have made some voluntary efforts to help customers by, for example, supporting the setting up of shared banking hubs.

However, Which? said this was not enough to plug the gaps. It called for legislation to be announced in next month’s Queen’s speech to avoid the collapse of the cash infrastructure. 

Martin McTague of the Federation of Small Businesses said: ‘With our bank branch infrastructure further decimated over the pandemic, this Queen’s speech is the last-chance saloon where access to cash is concerned. 

‘Four in ten small high street businesses say cash is the number one payment method among customers, and six in ten need to make regular cash deposits. Notes and coins are still important to the lives of millions of consumers, not least disabled people.’ 

The major banks insist the closures are a reflection of customers preferring to manage finances online and through phone apps. 

Trade body UK Finance said the industry would ensure ‘there is continued access to cash for those who need it, when they need it’. 

Source: Daily Mail

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