Fund to allow local areas to request free-to-use cash machines

A new fund has been launched to enable consumers and community groups to request a free-to-use cash machine in their area.

The initiative has been set up by ATM network Link in response to concerns that it was becoming harder for people to access cash.

Link has set up the Community Access to Cash Delivery Fund with an initial £1m.

It said applications would be looked at on a case-by-case basis depending on factors such as distance to the nearest free-to-use cash machine, availability of a local Post Office, and site security.

An application is unlikely to be successful if there is another free ATM within 1km that is relatively easy to access.

Link said the move builds on a commitment to protect free access to cash for every high street in the UK.

In August it announced five new pilot sites – funded by a levy on banks and building societies – in Battle, Bungay, Nuneaton, Tywyn and Durness.

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Others that have been identified that are also set to be given a new ATM are in Deal, Ebbw Vale, Margate, Middleton, Wilmslow and York.

Link said the new fund would launch in November.

Chief executive John Howells said: “This is an important development which will allow communities to directly contact Link and get things done to help consumers.”

A report from Which? earlier this year found that free-to-use cash machines were being converted to charge fees “at an alarming rate”.

The consumer group has also found they were disappearing faster from poorer areas than more affluent ones.

Some operators have blamed a fall in the interchange fee – the amount they are paid by banks per withdrawal – for making the operation of some free-to-use machines unsustainable.

In March, the Bank of England launched a shake-up of the UK’s cash system after a report found signs it was “falling apart” – and that moving to a cashless society would see millions left behind.

Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry said: “The vulnerable, elderly and those in rural communities rely on having free access to cash, so this move from Link and the Community Access to Cash Delivery Fund is a promising step in the right direction.

“However, this is just one proposal in a range of solutions needed to tackle the growing access to cash problem, because cutting the number of free to access cash machines has an impact on footfall in town centres.”