Towns 'under-served' by banks could benefit from access to cash laws

The government plans to protect peoples access to cash

The government plans to protect peoples access to cash, but fears have been raised that bank branch closures could still cause problems. - Credit: PA

People's access to cash is set to be protected under new laws - but fears have been raised that bank closures will still leave rural areas underserved.

As part of its access to cash legislation, the government said it expected the Treasury to be given powers to ensure cash can be accessed within a certain distance.

It also says shops providing cashback without a purchase could play an important role.

Many bank branches have disappeared from smaller towns in recent years, with places like Hadleigh going from several branches to none in just a few years.

Its Barclays closed in 2018, while TSB shut this year. 

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Frank Minns, mayor of Hadleigh, said: "A lot of older people in particular prefer to get money out over the counter rather than the use a machine — my mother, for example."

Frank Minns, mayor of Hadleigh, urged residents to download the NHS app and "redouble" efforts to pr

Hadleigh mayor Frank Minns said the town is 'under-served' when it comes to banking facilities - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Mr Minns said that people in the town were still able to use ATMs and the post office to get cash out.

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"At the most basic level, we can make it work," he said.

"But I think, as far as the range of banking services that people would like to have in a town of 8,500 people, I think we're under-served at a time when the town is being made ever larger."

Mr Minns said that banks have a "social duty" to serve smaller less profitable towns.

Brian Wilson, director of not-for-profit research organisation Rural England, said: "I think it's useful that the issue is being taken seriously.

"There is a growing concern around access to cash, particularly from a rural context.

"It does affect certain age groups, in particular, but also some low income households.

"There is a need to retain a certain amount of cash in the system just for things like paying small traders — whether it's a gardener or a window cleaner.

"And let's not forget community events. Whether it's sort of fetes, jumble sales, charity boxes, all those kind of things largely depend on people having cash in their pocket."

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