Express & Star

Campaigners welcome new Government plans on ‘free access to cash’

The changes were introduced in amendments put forward by ministers late on Thursday to the Financial Services and Markets Bill.

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Campaigners have welcomed a u-turn from the Government, after it moved to back calls to empower regulators to ensure free access to cash.

Amendments to the Financial Services and Markets Bill, published late on Thursday night, would give the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) new powers to ensure the public have free access to cash.

Concerns about access to cash had been raised by opposition parties as the Bill made its way through the Commons.

The closure of local bank branches and a decline in free-to-use ATMs have seen campaigners call on ministers to take action.

The amendments empower the FCA to ensure reasonable provision of free cash access services, covering both deposits and withdrawals.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Griffith told the Daily Express: “The convenience and speed of digital payments opens a world of opportunity for people and businesses, but the reality is that for the foreseeable future many still depend upon the ability to withdraw or deposit cash.

“That is why we are bringing forward new laws that will ensure everyone has reasonable access to be able to withdraw and deposit cash for free.

“This is especially important for those living in rural communities, the elderly and households who rely upon physical cash to manage their finances.”

Which? has been among those campaigning on the issue and it welcomed the move by the Government.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Whether it’s to buy everyday essentials or to keep track of spending during the cost-of-living crisis, cash is hugely important for millions of consumers.

“With bank branches and ATMs continuing to close at rapid rates, those who are not yet ready or able to make the switch to digital payments can’t be left behind.

“Which? has campaigned tirelessly to ensure that new laws protect free access to cash and we are delighted that the Government agrees that people should not have to pay fees just to access their own money.”

Labour said that the Government needed to now “go further” and protect face-to-face banking services.

Tulip Siddiq, shadow city minister said: “After months of the Government opposing Labour calls to protect free access to cash, and voting against our amendments they have finally u-turned.

“The Conservatives have run out of their own ideas, and are yet again following Labour’s lead.

“If the Government is serious about ensuring that no one is cut off from the services they need, they must go further and now adopt Labour’s policy to protect face-to-face banking services.”

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