New figures from LINK, the UK’s largest cash machine network show that 250 ATMs are vanishing each month, including many in rural areas which are meant to be protected.
The figures show that between February and July, the number of free to use ATMs have fallen by 1,300, an 8% drop. This includes 76 protected ATMs, which are more than a kilometre from any other and which were not subject to the interchange fee cut. LINK have committed to maintaining the geographical spread of ATMs so that rural communities did not lose access to cash.
In January LINK announced plans to cut the fee paid to ATM operators by 20% over the next 5 years. Organisations including Which? and FSB raised concerns that this change could result in thousands of cash machines shutting down across the UK, as they become no longer financially viable.
As a consequence, the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), which helps protect access to cash, required LINK to publish figures on changes to the ATM network, in particular on any changes to ATMs which are more than 1km away from the nearest ATM.
Now the regulator has warned LINK, saying they must do better to protect ATMs where there are no nearby alternatives to access cash.
A number of communities across the Borders rely on a single ATM, and are facing the prospect of losing access to cash, including Chirnside, Cockburnspath, Newtown St Boswells, St Boswells, Earlston and Burnfoot. If the RBS in Melrose does close at the end of the year, they will also be left with only a single ATM.
Local MP John Lamont is calling on the regulator to get tough with LINK if any further closures occur.
Commenting, John Lamont MP, said: “These figures are deeply worrying, not least because they apply before the fee paid to ATM operators was cut by LINK.
“Even the machines which are supposed to be protected are being lost, which is hugely disappointing. The regulator is there to help protect consumers and if LINK are not fulfilling their promise to rural customers, the PSR needs to get tough with them.
“The fear is that this is just the beginning and we are set to lose even more rural ATMs. Bank branch closures have already means ATMs have been taken away from communities across the Borders and we’ve seen the effect this has.
“Access to cash is vital to local businesses in the Borders. The loss of an ATM encourages locals to travel elsewhere and puts visitors off. In Coldstream some businesses suffered a 20% fall in sales when they lost their cash machine and I don’t want to same to happen to other communities in the Borders.”