Meg Hillier Labour & Co-operative MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch and Chair, Public Accounts Committee 22nd September 2021 Blog Economy Share Tweet Photo by Eduardo Soares on Unsplash Amidst the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk to those who depend on access to cash for the essentials cannot be ignored. The accelerated transition to contactless transactions and the continued closure of local bank branches makes this even more vital. COVID has exacerbated the differences between those who are able to manage the shift to a cashless society, and those who still rely on physical money for many of their day-to-day essentials. Many retailers and businesses have been encouraging the use of online and contactless payments, with some declining cash transactions altogether. Meanwhile, aside from its increasingly restricted use, cash itself is becoming more difficult to access. Nearly 9,000 cash machines have closed in the last two years and a quarter of those that remain charge people as much as £2 to access their own money. On our high streets anchor institutions, such as bank branches and post offices, are also disappearing. This leaves those who require cash, as well as our wider communities, to lose out. This all points to an increased risk that too many people are being left behind. The Government has acknowledged this crisis in our communities and maintains an avowed policy of protecting access to cash. Yet these commitments have failed (so far) to translate into concrete legislative solutions. It is vital we have our say in the consultation on this issue that will shortly be closing. See here to find out more and have your say. The deadline is 11:45pm on Thursday 23rd September. The Public Accounts Committee has also looked at this and pressed government officials on the declining use of cash. See here to read the report in full, including our recommendations. We’ve urged the Government to undertake a detailed assessment of the spread of cash machines that charge for withdrawals. We’ve also called for a single body to be given overall responsibility for the cash system and for a clear action plan, including draft legislation, that will secure access to cash across the UK. But it’s critical that you have your say too and let the Government know just what an impact this move to a cashless society is having on you and your community. Respond to the consultation here before it’s too late, and we will continue to work towards safeguarding access to cash for all.