With the UK at risk of losing thousands of ATMs, MPs and influencers met to discuss Positive Money’s latest research, that recommends that the Government gives regulators the role of protecting access to cash, and the power to stop ATM closures.
This Tuesday, Positive Money launched a new report which urges the Government and Payment Systems Regulator to do more to protect people’s access to cash and ability to spend it, and urges the Bank of England to issue a digital currency.
These recommendations were made following a poll commissioned by Positive Money and undertaken by YouGov this month, which asked 22,028 British adults for their views on free-to-use ATM’s and found that over three quarters (77%) view access to these machines as “essential”.
The launch event saw speeches from Labour MP Catherine West, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Drew Hendy, Toynbee Hall’s Carl Packman, Positive Money’s Fran Boait, as well as the report’s author, Positive Money’s David Clarke.
Catherine West MP said: “Cash helps a great number of people as a budgeting tool. It’s not just people on low incomes, some people on higher incomes prefer to use cash for this or other reasons too… Banks shouldn’t be allowed to close their local branches without ensuring that an adequate number of ATMs are in the same area.”
“I supported this report from the moment I picked it up.” Carl Packman said, adding “It speaks to the experiences of a range of people who are often left behind. The kind of people who are not kept in mind when financial services and products are being formed.”
Drew Hendry MP, who is the SNP spokesperson for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said “It’s important that we support people’s choice to spend how they wish. It won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution; people in their own communities should be able to determine what they need”.
He also spoke of the value of physical notes and coins, adding: “I remember getting my financial education through cash. At school they gave us plastic money. It’s a great way to introduce children to money as a tangible reward, and it’s a useful tool to teach people about how to manage their finances”.
David Clarke, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Positive Money, highlighted that cash is not just valuable as an educational or budgeting tool, but a necessity for certain people. “There are a lot of reasons why people may not be able to or want to go cashless, including reasons to do with credit status, mental health, age, and access to the internet”, he said.
“Being able to access cash to pay for your everyday needs is as important as access to water or electricity’, he added.
The event ended with a lively discussion with the audience, and the report’s final proposal for the Bank of England to issue digital cash was met with much enthusiasm. “We’re seeing really exciting opportunities with the development of cryptocurrencies and blockchain, and it is incumbent upon the Government to make a positive out of this” report author David Clarke commented. Going on to add: “We need to make sure the Government and the Bank of England are not lazy, or what we are calling for doesn’t get quashed by vested interests or the finance sector. We want to protect access to cash, but digital cash also provides exciting opportunities to break away from reliance on high street banks. I believe these are battles worth fighting.”
The Future of Cash report was funded by Barrow Cadbury Trust and authored by David Clarke. It can be viewed in full here.