I acknowledge that we are not seeing the end of cash. The challenge is how we adapt to the different mode and frequency of its use. There is no simple single solution. Clearly, creating a complete network in sparsely populated areas will not always be the right answer.
Although Yvonne Fovargue is not in her place, for general edification I will respond to her point about the lack of notice when ATM operators move. They have a duty to inform LINK that a protected ATM will close. LINK can offer premiums to all its members to incentivise the replacement of the machine. It has set up a publicly available monitoring tool on its website that shows ATM availability. It has the power to mandate and directly commission an ATM deployer where one is necessary.
LINK’s measures aim to reduce the duplication that I mentioned earlier and to intervene where necessary. It aims to incentivise broad, national coverage of free ATMs and to protect every community across the UK from losing free ATM access. Specifically, LINK has ensured that free ATMs that are 1 km or more from the nearest free ATM are exempt from any reductions in the interchange fees that fund free ATMs. It has put in place specific arrangements to protect free ATMs more than 1 km away from the nearest free ATM, including boosting the interchange fee available in those areas. It has also enhanced its financial inclusion programme by tripling the interchange fee available to the lowest-income areas of the UK, to ensure that they all have at least one free ATM. Some 93%—an all-time high—of the most deprived areas in the UK have a free ATM.
That fact has to be seen in the context of the £2 billion of investment in the Post Office since 2010. The £370 million that is earmarked for 2018-21 is designed to maintain the last post office in the village and ensure that consumers can use the over-the-counter option to secure cash.