Nine towns and villages will take part in a new experiment designed to stop the growth of 'cash deserts' across the UK.
The project will see churches and empty shops transformed into 'financial hubs', in towns and villages where there are no banks or cash machines available.
The Community Access to Cash Pilot (CACP) hopes to find the best ways to keep cash and banking services available to people after 'huge changes' to the banking sector has led to the closure of many ATMs and bank branches.
According to UK Finance, which represents the banking industry, the number of Brits who have gone 'cashless' (defined as less than one cash transaction per month) has grown to 1 in 6 in some younger age groups.
Yet 1.9 million people, mostly on lower incomes, still depend heavily on cash, and an independent review in 2018 found that 8 million people would struggle to cope in a cashless society.
CACP hopes that its pilot will find the best ways to prevent communities from becoming accidentally cashless.
The rapid switch to digital is threatening the viability of today's cash infrastructure. This can lead to consumers left without cash access or forced to leave their own village or town to get cash elsewhere, often at significant inconvenience and cost. In turn, local retailers lose custom, as consumers spend their case elsewhere, and then struggle to bank their cash takings without shutting up shop to drive to a bank branch some miles away, losing revenue and frustrating customers.Said: CACP Chair, Natalie Ceeney
Overall, there are seven different cash solutions that will be trialed in different combinations in various locations.
These include a new cashback scheme, allowing people to get cash at some local pubs and shops- without having to buy anything first; free-to-use ATMs; digital banking education programs; automated cash-drops for local business and pop-up Post Offices.
Everyone should have the right to use cash and be able to easily and securely access it wherever is most convenient to them. Our Postmasters who are taking part will be in a position to share important insights that will make a real difference as to how we continue to best meet peoples' cash needs in the future.said Post Office CEO Nick Read
Although united by a lack of local banking services, the locations were chosen for the pilot scheme range from sleepy villages to bustling towns.
Botton Village is a supported living facility for adults with learning difficulties and other disabilities in North Yorkshire. It is the smallest community taking part in the trial, with a population of just 700 people. As part of the Botton pilot, CACP will install a disability-friendly cash machine, financial education tailored to residents, and Post Office cash deposit and collection services run from a pop-up box at the local shop.
Meanwhile, Burslem in Staffordshire is one of the largest towns taking part in the pilot, with a population of around 20,000. In 2018, it became the first town with a population of more than 20,000 to not have an ATM or bank on the high street.
The town will trial a partnership with the Methodist Church to provide debt advice and financial support, as well as seven other initiatives, including a 'Click & Collect' cash service with local shops.
Eric Leenders is the managing director of Personal Finance at UK Finance, which represents the banking industry. Speaking about the project, he said:
While growing numbers of customers are increasingly choosing to pay digitally, the banking and finance industry is committed to ensuring that access to cash remains free and widely accessible to those who need it. The Community Access to Cash Pilot is an important initiative, which will offer sustainable alternative solutions to branches which meet the needs of communities and individuals. The range of innovative ideas announced today marks a key next step in the progress of the pilots.
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