British cash system may collapse by 2035, chancellor warned

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FILE PHOTO: Wads of British Pound Sterling banknotes are stacked in piles at the Money Service Austria company's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

Campaign group calls on chancellor to include measures to protect cash, which they say helps society’s most vulnerable. Britain’s cash system could collapse within a decade without protection from the government, a campaign group warned the new British chancellor of the exchequer Wednesday ahead of his budget presentation next month.

Rishi Sunak has been urged by the Access to Cash Review to include measures to protect cash in his budget such as forcing banks to provide suitable cash access.

Card payments overtook their cash competitors in 2017. Since then, the gap has only widened, with 13% of free ATMs closing and 25% of all ATMs now charging withdrawal fees as less and less people use them.

By 2030, less than 10% of payments across the U.K. will be made by cash, and by 2035, the U.K. could become an entirely cashless society.

However, the elderly, disabled, vulnerable and those in rural areas are all more reliant on cash than the rest of society and risk being left behind.

Nearly two million Brits also do not have a bank account, locking them out of the card payment ecosystem.

“The U.K. is fast becoming a cashless society – without knowing what this really means for consumers or for the U.K. economy. Many people may want a completely digital future, but we need to make sure that this shift doesn’t leave millions behind or put our economy at risk,” said Natalie Ceeney, chairwoman of the Access to Cash Review.

“Regulators currently don’t have the tools that they need to ensure that everyone who needs cash can get it. Now is the time for the government to protect cash and allow us to look ahead to how we can prepare for a digital future which includes everyone.”

Jenny Ross, the editor of Which? Money magazine, said: “The cash network has already been dramatically eroded, and, unless urgent action is taken in the Budget, it’s clear that it will crumble completely.

“Some industry-led initiatives are encouraging, but they cannot stem the tide of bank branch and cash machine closures alone, and without legislation, many more communities will be cut off from cash or forced to pay hefty fees to access their own money.”

A Treasury spokesman said that “technology has transformed banking for millions of people, but we know that many still rely on cash.

“That’s why we’ve invested £2bn to ensure everyday banking services are available at 11,500 Post Office branches across the U.K.

“We’re also working closely with industry and regulators to ensure everyone who needs cash can access it.”

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