Home Money JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Access to cash remains crucial to the fabric of our society

JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Access to cash remains crucial to the fabric of our society

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Essential: Access to cash remains part of the fabric of most high streets across the country.

It’s been five long years since a crucial report on the future of cash was published. It was a stark document – ​​the Cash Access Review – calling on the Government, banks and regulators to act quickly to protect access to cash against a rising wave of digital banking. Without urgent action, the authors claimed, the cash would soon become extinct.

There is no doubt that the report has managed to keep cash on the map and ensure that those who rely on it (for example, many older people) can still access it to carry out their daily lives.

Although they have been unable to stop banks from stepping up branch closures and removing hundreds of free-to-use ATMs, access to cash remains part of the fabric of most high streets across the country.

This is largely due to the array of consumer representatives who made up Access to Cash Review (people like businesswoman Natalie Ceeney and consumer lobbyist James Daley). They presented suggestions for a cash infrastructure network that could mitigate the impact of branch and ATM closures.

Without their innovative work, we would now have no legislation to safeguard cash. More importantly, there would be no Cash Access UK, an organization responsible for ensuring that when a city is left without banks, access to cash is maintained, whether through a banking centre, the installation of a free-to-use ATM or a cash deposit service. (vital for many retailers).

Essential: Access to cash remains part of the fabric of most high streets across the country.

As I report below, the banking center idea came too late for Ambleside because its last bank (NatWest) closed in 2017, two years before Access to Cash Review made its recommendations.

But maintaining a nationwide cash network is here to stay, at least for the near future.

Research by ATM network Link (coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the Cash Access Review) indicates that more than 70 per cent of people still partly rely on cash for their daily needs.

Additionally, consumers continue to withdraw £209 million a day from ATMs. As Ms Ceeney told me last week: “We are certainly not ready to become a cashless society.”

However, it seems that we have to accept that large-scale digitalization of banking services is on the horizon.

As Link’s latest research also confirms, the number of people no longer carrying cash has tripled since 2019, and although daily cash withdrawals from ATMs may be £209 million, they are still 33 per cent less than Five years ago.

Additionally, nearly half of all consumers (48 percent) believe they will witness a cashless society in their lifetime.

When this digital ‘society’ finally arrives (hopefully not in my lifetime), it is imperative that it works for everyone.

Consumers who, for example, do not have access to a smartphone or a bank account, cannot be left on the sidelines.

Any digital society that evolves must be inclusive and must also be much more robust against the threat of scams and fraud than it currently is.

Scam that’s too good to be true

My intrepid scam detector, Doug Brodie, has discovered another mistake: a corporate bonus that’s too good to be true.

Doug, managing director of retirement income planning firm Chancery Lane, received details of the bonus a week ago via email. It was for a sustainable growth cooperative bond that paid a fixed interest rate.

The rate depends on how much you are willing to invest: i.e. 6.25 per cent on a minimum deposit of £10,000, 9 per cent on a minimum of £15,000 and 9.5 per cent on £20,000 or more ( which is the “premium option”. “Your investment directly drives our food and sustainability goals, driving positive changes for our planet and our communities,” the email says.

Could not be farther from the truth. It is no different to similar shipments of bonds supposedly issued by companies such as Centrica and the National Health Service. It is a scam, a fact confirmed by Co-operative Group. As the Co-op told me, the only thing you will gain by taking on these criminals is the loss of your hard-earned savings. Please leave him alone.

A majestic environment abandoned by the shores

I’ve spent the last three or so days in the Lake District in the rain, admiring newborn lambs frolicking and a small group of brave runners completing ten marathons in ten days.

All quite therapeutic in a wet, strange way. A far cry from the hustle and bustle of London, that’s for sure.

My love story with the Lagos goes back more than 30 years. Every time I return, I am struck by its majestic beauty – the tranquility of Loughrigg Tarn, in the shadow of Loughrigg Fell, is something to behold. I get goosebumps every time I visit (and that’s before swimming in its cold waters).

Uphill battle: beautiful Loughrigg Fell and Rydal Water

Uphill battle: beautiful Loughrigg Fell and Rydal Water

But, like much of the UK, it is an area that is not without its problems.

Take Ambleside in the South Lakes, the town I always base myself in whenever I come to run, walk and swim in open water.

Despite its advantageous position next to Lake Windermere and being just a short walk (along the old Coffin Road) from Wordsworth’s Grasmere, the busy town struggles to maintain a vibrant high street.

Although it is home to several fine dining establishments, shops come and go, meaning there are always outlets to rent (this time there seemed to be more). The banks, of course, have not helped matters, closing branches without regard for the collateral damage their actions cause to the local community.

As a result, Ambleside has been without banks since 2017. An insane situation that is not going to change anytime soon: the banks would claim that the town is too small to house a new-style banking center serving local businesses and personal customers. they could use to carry out their banking operations. I disagree. Among the country’s phalanx of financial institutions, only the local Cumberland building society and a post office now have a presence on Ambleside’s main streets. The Cumberland branch is only open three days a week.

It’s all quite discouraging, but it’s not the only problem negatively affecting the city. Its bed and breakfast community is also rapidly declining, a result of the growth of Airbnb alternative accommodation and the disproportionate fees that major booking websites now demand if a B&B uses their services.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I love staying in a B&B where the owners can’t do enough for you. The cooked breakfasts I received last week at the Hillsdale B&B were as hilly as some of the moors. As for the welcome extended by owners Caz and Steve (soon to be married), it was effusive; They even invited me on the last night to share a curry with them (it was magnificent).

I hope the cozy B&Bs don’t go the same way as the big banks.

As for local water company United Utilities, they should be fined (and fined again) for polluting Lake Windermere in February (a story that surfaced when I was there last week). Banners reading “Save Windermere” are more prominent in Ambleside than bankers.

I usually swim in its waters when I come to the Lakes, but not now. I value my health too much. It is time for the Environment Agency to hold this company to account for its destructive actions.

Finally, and to end on a high note, it was fantastic to be in the Lakes last week to see the 19 runners on their Brathay 10 in 10 journey – 262 miles in ten days. They were doing it partly because they’re a little angry (I should know: I completed the challenge in 2012).

But the main reason was to raise money for the Brathay Trust, a brilliant charity that helps equip disadvantaged young people with the tools to make their way in the world. Visit brathay.org.uk for more details.

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