Wigan has lost almost one in nine cash machines in less than two years, figures suggest, amid warnings that the UK’s cash system is “falling apart”.
There were thought to be 382 cash machines in Wigan at the end of 2017, according to data from the cash machine network Link.
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But latest figures show this had fallen to 341 by February 2019. The majority of the remaining machines were free to use.
An independent review into the accessibility of cash in the UK published in March warned that millions of people could be left behind if the country “sleepwalks into a cashless society”.
The report found that around eight million adults – 17 per cent of the population – were still reliant on cash and would struggle to cope in an entirely digital economy.
These included people in rural communities, those on a low income who may struggle to budget without cash, and older people or people with disabilities who rely on cash for their independence.
Natalie Ceeney, chairman of the Access to Cash Review, said: “There are worrying signs that our cash system is falling apart. ATM and bank branch closures are just the tip of the iceberg – underneath there is a huge infrastructure which is becoming increasingly unviable as cash use declines. We need to guarantee people’s right to access cash, and ensure they can still spend it.”
A recent report by consumer watchdog Which? found almost 1,700 previously free cash machines had begun charging users between January and March of this year.
Cardtronics, the UK’s biggest cash machine operator, blamed a recent move by Link to cut the fee operators receive from banks for providing free cash. The fee was reduced from 25p per withdrawal to 20p.
A Link spokesman said the UK continued to have an excellent ATM network, with 50,000 free-to-use machines: 10,000 more than in 2010.
He added: “As more consumers use alternative payment methods to cash, it’s important that we continue to have a broad, extensive UK-wide free-to-use network. That means fewer ATMs in built-up areas where they are often over-serviced and protecting ATMs in rural and remote areas.”