Banks will be banned from leaving cities if this means residents cannot withdraw cash, according to new FCA powers

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Banks will be prevented from withdrawing their services from towns and villages left without access to cash thanks to new powers given to the UK financial regulator.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will have the power to order large banks and construction companies to continue to offer services such as ATMs and mobile hubs so that residents can withdraw money on a regular basis.

With the new powers, which will be included in the next bill on financial services and markets, banks will still be able to close branches even when the latter are available in a given community.

However, they will have to replace them with alternative services under certain conditions and make sure they are easily accessible, leaving almost every Briton within two miles of a free cash dispensary.

More than 4,700 bank branches have closed since 2015 and another 227 are expected to close by the end of this year as banks try to switch to more digital services.

John Glen, Minister of the Treasury at the Treasury, said: throughout the country.

“I want to make sure that people can still use cash as part of their daily lives and it is vital to ensure that no individual or community across the UK is left behind as we embrace a more digital world.”

The move was welcomed by the Scottish Government, given the large number of relatively remote communities in Scotland at risk of losing easy access to cash.

A spokesman said: “The Scottish Government welcomes this much-needed legislation to protect consumers’ access to cash.

“This is especially important for rural communities and is a lifeline for consumers, especially small businesses and the most vulnerable.”

Martin Kearsley, Managing Director of Post Office Banking, said: “A strong regulator that ensures the rights of millions of people based on money can be easily and securely accessed for many years to come is something we and many others have sought. .

“We welcome the announcement of the government and we want to see legislation that protects the entire cash cycle, including cash withdrawals to the penny, as many more people choose to control their family budgets by spending only what they have in their homes. .

The exact extent of the FCA’s powers – such as which banks and construction companies will be included and the maximum distance between ATMs – will be revealed when the bill is published.

By the end of the year, ministers are also expected to submit proposals to ensure that, in addition to cash withdrawals, people can deposit them without undue distance.

The UK cash is running out

The steady rise of online and mobile banking means that bank branches are closing rapidly across the country.

According to his research Which?, almost half of the country’s banking branch network has been closed since 20153f. Meanwhile, in the last four years alone, 12,178 free ATMs have disappeared from main roads.

Some areas have become virtual cash deserts, although Link, the UK’s largest ATM network, estimates that 5.4 million people still rely on physical money.

The most vulnerable groups in society are more likely to rely on cash, such as the elderly, low-income people and those living in rural communities where residents often have to travel miles to reach the nearest source.

Digital infrastructure is often poorer in these areas, making it more difficult for residents to adopt online banking and payments.

Lack of access to both cash withdrawals and deposit facilities can also affect companies that use bank branches to exchange shares and remove accounts and currencies from facilities for security reasons.

Scotland was the first UK to see more than half of its banks close, with 545 of its 1,040 branches already closed. I realizes that one of its most remote ATMs on Britain’s northernmost island, Unst, has recently closed.

Wales’ Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituencies have seen the largest number of bank branch closures since 2018, according to Which?. From an initial 15 only two are left.

But more urban areas have also been affected by the closure. The Sheffield Hallam in South Yorkshire saw the closure of each of its bank branches during the same period. With 25 ATMs still operating in the area – which has a population of almost 92,000 – only 1.85 ATMs are available for every 10,000 inhabitants.

Amy Walker

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