There's no denying the use of cash has been declining for some time. This has only been accelerated by the pandemic. However, that change is not taking place equally across all parts of society. In recent years we've seen major high street banks closing their branches in Gorseinon, Pontarddulais, Clydach and Mumbles, resulting in many of us losing access to cash across Gower.
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) research shows that five million adults use cash for most of their purchases. The Bank of England found that 1.2 million adults in the UK did not have bank accounts, and an analysis from Which? showed that one in six people have struggled with the shift towards cashless payment as a result of the pandemic.
This is much more likely to impact lower-income households and those in rural areas that do not have or cannot use the internet as readily.
Even as technology advances, therefore, there is still an important duty to maintain an easy-access and free-to-use cash network. We do not want to see people cut off from full participation in society, unable to access goods and services. We must also not force small businesses to go cashless simply because it becomes too inconvenient to work with cash. An unmanaged drift towards a cashless society clearly risks seriously disadvantaging these people, businesses and communities. It is vital that we find ways to manage and protect access to cash and that the Government ensures the decline in cash use does not contribute to inequality.
Having promised to bring forward legislation on this issue in 2020, the Government finally published a consultation on proposed changes to the law on access to cash on 1 July 2021. It sought views on geographic access requirements for providing access to cash withdrawals and deposits, on which firms should be required to provide access and on proposals to ensure the FCA has the appropriate power and responsibilities to hold firms to account on this issue. The consultation closed on 23 September and the Government says it is analysing the feedback received.
I have long supported calls for the Government to bring forward legislation on this issue and I will continue to support efforts and press the Government for a serious plan of action now for protecting access to cash. Any further delay risks leaving behind the most vulnerable in our society.
Find out more about the Post Office's "Save our Cash" campaign at: