The UK is increasingly heading in the direction of a cashless society, with the use of physical money declining.
Figures show that over the last two years, there has been a substantial decline in free-to-use cash machines across the UK – with one part of Coventry among the worst effected.
What’s more, it suggests that in the Coventry North East constituency area, there has been a 24 percent decrease in free ATM machines.
What’s more, the study shows that in the same area, cash use was nearly halved during lockdown, down by 41 percent.
The data comes from LINK, the company responsible for the UK’s network of cash machines – and according to ATM operator Cardtronics, it is the drop in the number of free machines which had resulted in the drop-off in cash use during the pandemic.
They argue that despite receiving reassurance from LINK that the cut to the interchange fee would level out the playing field in the distribution of free-to-use ATMs across the country, they claim that the Midlands has been disproportionately affected.
Figures show that between July 2018 and February 2020, this region has seen the most severe decline in free access to cash.
The data, analysed at constituency level, shows that Coventry, Birmingham and Nottingham have all been badly affected by the decline of free-to-use (FTU) ATMs in the whole country over the last couple of years.
Worst hit constituencies the Midlands (percentage of free cash machines and cash use during lockdown)
Birmingham, Hall Green – 45 percent decrease in FTU ATMs / -46 percent cash use in lockdown
Forest of Dean – 34 percent decrease / -50 percent cash use in lockdown
Nottingham East – 33 percent decrease / -57 percent cash use in lockdown
Meriden – 31 percent decrease / -57 percent cash use in lockdown
Birmingham, Hodge Hill – 29 percent decrease / -35 percent cash use in lockdown
Birmingham, Northfield – 29 percent decrease / -45 percent cash use in lockdown
Birmingham, Selly Oak – 29 percent decrease / -48 percent cash use in lockdown
West Bromwich, East – 28 percent decrease / -48 percent cash use in lockdown
Birmingham, Yardley – 26 percent decrease / -41 percent cash use in lockdown
Charnwood – 25 percent decrease / -53 percent cash use in lockdown
Warley – 25 percent decrease / -37 percent cash use in lockdown
Coventry North East – 24 percent decrease / -41 percent cash use in lockdown
What has been said about the findings?
Marc Terry, international managing director of Cardtronics, said: “ The Midlands has lost more free ATMs than almost any other region, and the pandemic has exacerbated this trend further with the area seeing a drastic reduction in cash use during lockdown. Local businesses that rely on cash have been suffering hugely at this time, and their customers need free access to cash if the economy is to return to growth. This problem has been caused by LINK’s unjustified interchange cuts which have resulted in large regional differences in free access to cash.
“Our data shows that an overwhelming majority of people withdraw their cash through ATMs, and most people believe that banks should pay for the service. According to Which? the shift away from free to use ATMs is saving the banks £120m a year and this cost is being passed on to consumers through ATM charges because banks pay the ATM operators nothing when their customers use a pay-to-use machine.
“The UK’s fragile cash ecosystem is under threat, which is why, for the last for two years, we have been asking LINK to reverse their interchange cuts immediately and work with us to introduce a fairer way to set the fees banks pay for this service.
“So far, our calls have been ignored, but the time has come for LINK and the banks to work with the ATM operators to repair our failing cash infrastructure. 85 percent of consumers agree with us that the government should guarantee free access to cash. So, we are also calling on the PSR, FCA and HM Treasury to live up to its promise in the budget and fast-track legislation that will protect free access to cash, or risk irreversible damage to the Midlands’ economy.”
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