Village cash points are at risk of closing as a rescue scheme for those in rural areas is expected to exclude two thirds of them.
Unprofitable cash machine operators are from April to be given subsidies to help keep those in the most remote areas from shutting down, Link, the UK’s main cash machine network, has said.
The so-called “super premium” will be paid by banks to 1,000 ATM operators in some places where cash machines are situated in remote and less well-off parts of the country. However, as it will only be paid to those that are losing money, Link admitted that cash machines turning a small profit could still be scrapped.
Villages and small towns across the country have already been decimated by bank branch closures, with the elderly and disabled particularly at risk of financial exclusion.
At present machine operators receive a subsidy of up 30p for each transaction made on a rural machine, but from April this will rise to £2.75. However, campaigners say villagers remain at the whims of banks and third party providers as to whether their cash points remain open and free.
Only 2pc of the cash machines in the UK will be eligible to receive the subsidy, and those could still be closed if a bank no longer wished to operate the machine.
Mike Cherry of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “The need for these super premiums serves to once again highlight the fundamental failures of our ATM market.
“A lot of remote, vulnerable communities – where a high proportion of shoppers want to use cash – are having to battle bank branch closures alongside Link’s cuts to cash machine funding.”
Mr Cherry said more than half of small businesses were already located more than a kilometre (0.62 miles) from their nearest free cash machine. One in seven are more than five kilometers away from their local machine, leaving shoppers miles away from accessing cash.
Jenni Allen of Which?, the consumer campaign group, said previous attempts to prevent cash machine closures had failed.
“Boosting premiums for machines in remote areas has so far not been enough to stop cash points closing around the country, including in more remote areas where they are desperately needed so we hope this latest move from Link is enough to arrest this alarming trend,” she said.
Meanwhile Which? has called on Government intervention to ensure that cash machine operators have a legal obligation to protect access to cash.
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