Residents and small businesses in nine UK communities are taking part in a series of pilot schemes which aim to improve access to cash in rural and disadvantaged areas, where individuals remain dependent on cash but where bank branches and ATMs have closed down and local cash infrastructure is under threat.
The Community Access to Cash Pilots (CACP) enable residents and businesses to test different ways of withdrawing and depositing cash locally rather than having to travel to access banking services .
Solutions being trialled include local ‘banking hubs’ in high street retail stores, pop-up post office services, purchase-free cashback from local stores, restaurants, pubs, in-store bill payment counters and app-based digital services, and new free-to-use ATMs, as well as digital education services for those needing help with accessing digital banking services.
“Cash remains critically important to both individuals and communities across the UK,” says Natalie Ceeney, chair of the CACP. “The rapid switch to digital is threatening the viability of today’s cash infrastructure.
“This can lead to consumers left without cash access or forced to leave their own village or town to get cash elsewhere, often at significant inconvenience and cost.
“In turn, local retailers lose custom, as consumers spend their cash elsewhere, and then struggle to bank their cash takings without shutting up shop to drive to a bank branch some miles away, losing revenue and frustrating customers.
“The work we’ve done with local communities has shown us in some detail what is needed. It’s clear that to keep communities viable, people need to be able to get cash easily, in a variety of ways.
“ATMs are important but don’t meet everyone’s needs, particularly the most vulnerable, so being able to get cash over a counter, in a safe space, is still important to many.”
“These pilots will use innovative technology to help people access and deposit cash,” Ceeney adds. “The pilots will also work with key existing service providers to explore how they can support the cash infrastructure.”
The trial solutions will be fully operational by the end of 2020 and will be piloted for six months before being evaluated for a potential wider rollout across the UK.