Treasury committee demands answers on cash machine closures

The UK’s cash machine network has been asked by the head of the Treasury select committee to clarify how many of the country’s 55,000 free-to-use ATMs will close as a result of proposed changes to the way the system operates.

The industry lobby group, the ATM Industry Association, has warned the changes put forward by the Link network could lead to parts of the UK becoming ‘ATM deserts’ with at least 10,000 free-to-use cash machines at risk.

Nicky Morgan, the Conservative head of the influential parliamentary committee, has asked the chair of the network to outline how many machines will shut and how to ensure vulnerable customers are not left at a disadvantage by the closures.

Link is consulting on cutting the interchange fee that card providers pay to machine operators every time a customer withdraws cash from 25p to 20p.

Morgan said that “it seems intuitive that some machines will become economically unviable”. In a letter to Link chair Sir Mark Boleat she asked what processes Link had in place to determine whether the closure of an ATM would cause consumer detriment.

Ron Delnevo, director of the ATM Industry Association, said the select committee had a “history of defending free access to cash for the British public” and called on Link to address the MPs’ concerns.

The Federation of Small Businesses said cash was still important for “thousands of small firms, particularly those in tourist hot spots and rural areas with poor connectivity” while convenience store operators urged Link to think carefully.

Boleat said: “The UK currently has around 70,000 ATMs, with around 55,000 of them being free-to-use. We do not envisage any scenario where there will be areas of the UK which will not continue to have free access to their money”.