My hon. Friend anticipates my next point. If an ATM is removed, it costs between £7,000 and £10,000 to reinstall. That high capital investment means that, once closed, an ATM is difficult to replace, due to concerns that the investment may not pay off.
LINK sought to reassure the Payment Systems Regulator that the spread of free-to-use ATMs would not be damaged, because it would use its financial inclusion programme to protect ATMs in areas where there was not another free-to-use machine within 1 km. However, although it is well-intentioned and well funded, that programme relies on communities or operators reporting vulnerable ATMs to LINK and nominating them for extra funding, which, as my hon. Friend alluded to, they do not have to do.
The problem is that the existence of the financial inclusion programme is not well communicated, and there is concern that take-up has been poor. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the process for accessing the programme is not well known or straightforward, meaning that communities, operators and councils are often delayed in applying for funding.
I spoke recently to Tesco about its network of more than 4,000 ATMs. As I am sure Members know, many of those ATMs are in groups of two or three outside stores. Tesco told me that in some cases, those two ATMs are the last two in the town, but neither falls under LINK’s financial inclusion programme because both are right beside another free-to-use ATM.
As a consequence of the poor deployment of the financial inclusion programme, more than 100 ATMs with “protected” status have closed. We see examples of the programme failing in Scotland. Just outside Edinburgh, in the EH18 postcode, the nearest free-to-use machine is now 1.3 km away. In the PH24 postcode in the Cairngorms, the nearest machine is 6.6 km away. In TD10 in the Scottish Borders, some consumers must travel 10.9 km to withdraw their cash without charge.