Cashmageddon: Burnley loses one in nine cash machines over last two years
Despite their being approximately 120 cash machines in Burnley at the end of 2017 according to data from cash machine network Link, by February 2019 that figure had fallen to 107, a reduction of 11%, with 95 free to use.
While data is collected by parliamentary constituency meaning that some cash machines could be across the border in a neighbouring local authority, an independent review into the accessibility of cash in the UK published in March warned that millions of people could be left behind if the country "sleepwalks into a cashless society".
Some 17% of the UK population are still reliant on cash and would struggle to cope in an entirely digital economy. These included people in rural communities, those on a low income who may struggle to budget without cash, and older people or people with disabilities who rely on cash for their independence.
"There are worrying signs that our cash system is falling apart," said Natalie Ceeney, chair of the Access to Cash Review. "ATM and bank branch closures are just the tip of the iceberg – underneath there is a huge infrastructure which is becoming increasingly unviable as cash use declines. We need to guarantee people’s right to access cash, and ensure that they can still spend it.”
A recent report by consumer watchdog Which? found almost 1,700 previously free cash machines had begun charging users between January and March of this year, with Cardtronics, the UK's biggest cash machine operator, blaming a recent move by Link to cut the fee operators receive from banks for providing free cash.
Link had been planning to reduce the fee from 25p per withdrawal to 20p over the course of four years and so far, the fee has been reduced to 23p, with Link stating it had cancelled the next phased reduction.
A spokeswoman for Cardtronics said: "We have been forced into charging a fee for cash withdrawals on some of our machines where Link's cuts have left us with no choice. As banks continue to execute their strategy of branch closures nationwide, this leaves independent ATM deployers to fill the gap by providing local cash access for communities.
"Worryingly, vulnerable people and rural communities are disproportionately affected as the cost of cash access is passed on to consumers," they added.
A spokesman for Link said the UK continued to have an excellent ATM network, with 50,000 free-to-use machines – 10,000 more than in 2010, explaining: “As more consumers use alternative payment methods to cash, it’s important that we continue to have a broad, extensive UK-wide free-to-use network.
"That means fewer ATMs in built-up areas where they are often over-serviced and protecting ATMs in rural and remote areas."