LOCAL shops could replace ATMs as cash dispensers in towns and villages where there aren’t any.
The suggestion is part of an new initiative launched by the financial services industry to help improve access to cash.
The new Community Access to Cash Pilots will help to work out ways to meet local access to cash needs by speaking to those who are most affected.
ATM and bank branch closures have fuelled fears that “cash deserts” are being created, particularly in rural and deprived parts of the UK.
Nearly 500 cash machines, including 250 free-to-use ATMS, are being axed every month leaving millions unable to withdraw funds, according to figures from Which?.
Part of the problem is that the fees ATM providers receive from banks was cut in July 2018 by network operator LINK, making it less profitable for them to offer the service for free.
The chair of the pilots, Natalie Ceeney, is asking for communities to volunteer to take part in the scheme.
Successful applicants, which could be individuals or local organisations, will work with payments experts to come up with solutions.
The new approaches may include ways to help local shops like newsagents to give cashback, support those who struggle to make digital payments or ways to support small businesses to dispense cash.
The launch of the pilot follows a report titled 2019 Access to Cash Review, which found 17 per cent of Brits still rely on cash.
Ms Ceeney, who also chaired the Access to Cash Review, said: “With the UK becoming an increasingly cashless society, we need to make sure that digital payments work for everyone, but we also need to support communities who rely on cash, so that no-one gets left behind.
“We are very keen to hear from local communities and work with them to identify solutions, acting as a testbed for the type of measures that could be rolled out more widely.”
Trade association UK Finance has predicted that within a decade only one in 10 payments will be made in cash as the popularity of digital payments surges.
Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, said: “”There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to achieve this and so understanding the needs of local communities is critical.”
Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry added that pilots like this are “exactly what we need” to prevent more cash deserts.
Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “Millions of people are at risk of being cut off from the cash they need to pay for vital goods and services and while industry-led initiatives are encouraging, they are not enough to stem the tide of bank branch and cash machine closures in the long run.