Bank branch and cash machines closures leave seven constituencies as ‘cash deserts’

Elderly people and those in rural communities have been hit hardest by the closures. Which? found.

Consumers over the age of 65 made up a quarter of people living in the 17 constituencies with poor access to cash. According to charity Age UK, this group relies on cash more than any age group.

Also hardest hit are those in rural communities, where residents often have to travel miles to reach the nearest alternative source of income.

Since 2015, the banking network in rural constituencies has been reduced by more than half, compared to 47.3 percent in urban areas.

Digital infrastructure can be poor in rural areas, making it difficult for residents to use online banking and payments.

Jenny Ross, of which?, said: “While many consumers have embraced digital banking, there are still millions, including the elderly, vulnerable and isolated, who are not yet ready or willing to make that switch, and they need to be protected will.

“Our research shows the devastating impact of widespread bank branch and ATM closures on communities. While proposals for action from the banking industry are welcome, what is most needed are the government’s promised cash protection laws.”

Remaining bank branches are increasingly restricting their opening hours. Last week, Santander announced that branches would now close at 3pm on weekdays, an hour and a half earlier than they currently do.

This is despite a recent report from the Royal Society of Arts warning that 10 million people, or one in five adults, would struggle to get by in a cash-free society.

Meanwhile, small business experts said the lack of high street bank branches has made it harder for local retailers to deposit or access notes and coins. This has led to more people rejecting cash as a means of payment altogether.

Martin McTague of the Federation of Small Businesses, a trade organisation, said: “Banknotes and coins are still essential to the lives of millions of consumers, not least the disabled, the elderly and those on a tight budget. Physical currency is also an important backup when digital systems fail.

“Often in areas where consumers rely most on notes and coins, pay-to-use machines are popping up – every pound spent on access to cash is a pound not at the local little ones companies on which our recovery will depend.” Bank branch and cash machines closures leave seven constituencies as ‘cash deserts’

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