The Rt. Hon Steve Barclay M.P
Secretary of State for
Health & Social Care
St Margaret’s Street
OUR REF: RES 3 HEAD OFFICE
Date as postmark:
THIS ASSOCIATION IN CONFERENCE ASSEMBLED URGES HIS MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT TO INTERVENE TO STOP BANKS, BUILDING SOCIETIES, RETAIL OUTLETS, RESTAURANTS, CAFES, PUBLIC TRANSPORT ETC FROM IMPOSING A CASHLESS POLICY ON THEIR PATRONS.
In 2007 Barclays introduced the first contactless system with their ONEPULSE card with a maximum of £10 on it. Other banks soon followed suit. Over the years since the introduction of this scheme banks began to slowly close their branches and ‘Which’ magazine has found that almost half the UK’s bank branches have closed since 2015 and over 11,500 free to use ATM’s have vanished.
The Covid pandemic has hastened a process which had already begun. Cash was found to be a potential carrier of the virus, and as a result restaurants, Cafe’s, and retail stores, quite understandably, began to prefer card payments. The maximum on the Contactless cards across the years has now risen from £10 to £100 – how convenient for retailers and banks alike.
Our case is that there should be choice, there are millions of people across the country who rely on cash to pay for everyday essentials, and as a tool to manage their finances. Those living on a fixed income often would prefer, and in fact many need to be able to ‘see’ their money thus knowing how much they have left to cover their outgoings. They require cash to pay for Carers, those doing their shopping for them, cleaners and everyday spending. These are mostly, we admit in the older age group, but it will also have a big impact on the vulnerable and disabled.
John Howells, chief executive at the UK’s cashpoint network LINK has been quoted as saying that the use of notes and coins was down by 40% since Covid and still falling as people switched to cards, and they had no choice if cash was no longer accepted at their chosen retailer.
The machines a retailer has to purchase in order to accept these payments can be bought for as little as £19.99 plus VAT, with such terminals working for both credit and debit cards. There is no denying the convenience for the retailer, handling less cash, or having to keep cash safe on the premises etc, less manpower to reconcile cash taken, but we strongly feel customers should have a choice, and not have the method of payment dictated to them.
Many communities now have no actual banks at all in their midst. Banks have brought in shared ‘hubs’ with the Post Office but these however are voluntary and subject to change based on commercial decisions. Banks are fond of pointing out changes in consumer behavior as a reason for their actions, yet in July of this year the Post Office handled over £800 million in personal cash withdrawals, the most since records began 5 years ago, so proof that cash is still, and would still be preferred in many circumstances.
However, ‘Contactless and cash can co-exist’, reports Rocio Concha of ‘Which’ magazine. ‘Because whether it is the elderly or those in more isolated communities, small business owners or those on limited incomes, those trying to keep a grip on spending as card trasactions particularly those on credit cards can become too tempting if you previously only carried cash and left the cards at home. Cash is a vital lifeline that is needed as a choice and option, therefore the right to continue accessing it requires urgent protection’, for so many varied reasons.
We await your response on this important issue with interest, in order that we can report back to our members.