Community Access to Cash Pilots go live across the UK

Hay on Wye

Despite a substantial move to card payments, and the introduction of nifty new machines from companies such as Square-up, allowing one-(wo)man-bands and microbusinesses to accept cordless payments, millions of people and large numbers of communities continue to depend heavily on cash.

This is especially true across counties such as Gloucestershire and Worcestershire which are home to thousands of rural businesses.

Now, The Community Access to Cash Pilot (CACP) initiative has announced eight locations across the UK that will be participating in trials to help address challenges of improving cash access and acceptance, including Hay-on-Wye, on the Herefordshire border.

The town was chosen because of its many independent retailers and visitors, making businesses’ ability to access and deposit cash vital, and its annual book festival, which attracts around 100,000 people over a two week period. Such large numbers of people need to access a limited cash infrastructure for a short period.

The pilot follows the recent report from UK Finance showing cash use now represents less than one-quarter of all payments in the UK, a fifteen percent drop year-on year. These numbers were taken before the Coronavirus Crisis with LINK, the UK’s main cash machine network, showing a 60 per cent year-on-year fall in volumes during the early part of the lockdown.

The successful communities will be working with the banking industry to find ways of keeping cash viable for individuals and businesses. This will include supporting local businesses to accept and bank cash, ensuring that individuals can access cash, working with local councils to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place, education and support on digital inclusion, and working with new and existing financial services providers to create innovative solutions to meet needs.

CACP is chaired by Natalie Ceeney, the author of the Access to Cash Review and brings together the resources and expertise of the financial services industry with those of the Access to Review panel. The panel will also work closely with a wide range of consumer groups and charities to bring in depth expertise to help support the work.

Alongside Hay on Wye, the pilot is also being rolled out in Ampthill (Bedforshire), Burslem (Staffordshire), Botton Village (North Yorkshire), Cambuslang (South Lanarkshire, Scotland), Denny (Falkirk, Scotland), Lulworth (Dorset) and Rochford (Essex).

These sites were chosen based on the location, the issues the communities faced, the strength of their submission and commitment to the pilot. A small number of further sites will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Natalie Ceeney, Chair, Community Access to Cash Pilot, said: “Over the past decade we’ve seen a massive shift from cash to digital payments, and Covid-19 has accelerated that trend further. But we know that digital payments don’t yet work for everyone, and for many individuals and communities, cash remains essential. But the world is changing – we can’t just magic back our old bank branch and ATM infrastructure. Instead, we need to use innovation to develop new solutions as well as harness tried and tested approaches to meet people’s needs.

“We’ve selected communities which all have a cash need, but which face different challengesSome locations may need an ATM or a place for retailers to deposit cash locally, others may look for a shared bank branch or a means to improve digital skills. Our aim is both to support communities right now, and also to learn lessons for sustainable solutions which can be used more widely across the UK, particularly as the government considers legislation to support the cash infrastructure”.

John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister, added: “Digital payments have brought huge benefits, but we know that cash remains important to many people’s lives. So I welcome today’s announcement of the locations of the pilots, which will help inform the most effective ways of protecting access to cash at the local level, at a time when our communities mean more to us than ever. I look forward to seeing the progress made by the pilots, as the Government develops legislation to protect access to cash, and would like to thank Natalie Ceeney CBE for her work on this important issue.”