person holding brown leather wallet and banknotes

In 2019, we saw the publication of an Access to Cash review commissioned by the Government. Then, just 30% of transactions were made using cash, and it predicted by 2033 just 10% would. At the time eight million adults said they would struggle without access to cash.

The pandemic has in some ways accelerated this. We have increased our online shopping habits, and many of our local and national retailers have moved to cashless operations in the name of “COVID secure” shifts in behaviour. But what does this mean for the digitally and financially excluded?

In Tipton, the Black Country town near to where I grew up, there are, in theory, six free-to-use cash points across its central ward of Tipton Green. However, many of these are inside shops. Come 6pm, just one remains accessible until 9am the next morning. If the single free cash point on the High Street runs out of cash, or it’s gone 1pm Saturday, or any time on Sunday, what then for the residents who can’t travel easily to another area on a wild goose chase across the town looking for a cash point in use?

We know many low-paid prefer to spend in cash because it makes keeping track of outgoings easier. So now, at 2pm on a Saturday with no free-to-use cashpoint available on the high street, they have to resort to a pay-for cash machine, charging £2 per transaction. Why should they be asked to pay 20% fees on a £10 transaction just to access their own money? They should not, and we should not accept this.

Levelling-up, across the entire UK, means not leaving those already on the fringes of our increasingly technology based society even further behind with no means to catch-up. Government must act now.