Notes on free-to-use cash machines in Parliament are reminding MPs their constituents have to pay as much as £2 to withdraw money at the vast majority of British high street ATMs.
The stunt by Labour MP Ged Killen, who is bringing forward a private member’s bill to ban cash machine charges, is aimed at getting the issue on Westminster’s agenda in the wake of alarming new research by Which?
The consumer watchdog has published a long list of streets in UK cities where there is only one fee-charging ATM.
However, in Parliament there are two free-to-use machines in one corridor and a further four just a couple of minutes’ walk away.
Which?’s list of areas with only fee-taking ATMs includes high streets in Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, Bristol, York, Coventry, Milton Keynes, London, Brighton, Belfast, Cardiff and Swansea.
Cuts to the number of free-to-use machines, due to be implemented on Sunday, could also lead to huge swathes of the UK becoming “cash machine deserts”, says Killen.
The MP said: “I accept that we are moving towards a cashless society, however the rate and spread of these closures could see those who rely on cash be left behind.
“The closures are uneven rural communities have been hit the hardest, with some local authorities having lost as many as 11% of their ATMs in just a five-month period.
“The findings by Which? are deeply concerning. When they announced a cut in funding to free to use ATMs LINK said that that would offer protections for rural communities and those communities more than 1km away from the nearest ATM. This has not happened.”
Which? also analysed data from LINK, the interbank network, and found that around 300 ATMs closed every month (1418 total) between November and April, with rural areas and Scotland the worst affected.
ATMIA, the ATM industry body, has warned that if the full 20% cut was implemented as many as 30,000 ATMs could close - 40% of the total UK network.
Killen is also fighting cuts to the funding for free-to-use ATMs, due to be implemented on Sunday. These will be the first of four rounds of cuts that will reduce the funding by 20% by 2023.
“Rural communities have borne the brunt of reductions to free-to-use ATMs while there are multiple cases of ATMs closing with the next nearest being significantly more than 1km away,” said Killen.
“Rural Scotland has suffered the worst of these reductions and there are now real fears we could see cash machine deserts created across the UK.
“LINK has so far failed to meet its promises and it is time for the Payment Systems Regulator to seriously look at stepping in.”
The Treasury is consulting on the issue of cash and digital payments in the new economy, as the public increasingly relies on contactless cards or cashless payments via mobile phones.
A spokesman for LINK told HuffPost UK: “Over the last 10 years cash payments have fallen by 33%, during the same period free ATM numbers have grown 18,000 (50%).
“This disconnect is not sustainable and needs addressing now to protect LINK and future access to cash for consumers.
“In the period between Jan & June 2018 cash withdrawal volumes were down 6% on the same period last year (2017). Volume of cash withdrawn by consumers was also down 2.7% on the same period. Cash is forecast to drop from 34% of payments in 2017 to 16% in 2027.”