The UK’s top financial watchdog will be granted fresh powers to ensure that banks provide access to cash as Britain’s high street lenders move to slash branch numbers across the country.
Ministers said today that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will be given new powers to intervene and address issues with cash access “at both a national and local level”.
The new measures will be legislated for as part of the upcoming financial services bill, announced by the government in the Queen’s Speech last week, with ministers now set to announce what it considers a “reasonable distance” for people to travel for cash withdrawals.
City minister John Glen said today that cash access was threatening those most vulnerable in society.
“Millions of people across the UK still rely on cash, particularly those in vulnerable groups, and today we are delivering on our promise to ensure that access to cash is protected in communities across the country,” he said.
“I want to make sure that people are still able to use cash as part of their daily lives, and it’s crucial to ensure that no person nor community across the UK is left behind as we embrace a more digital world.”
Cash is the second most frequently used method of payment in the UK, and around 5.4 million adults rely on cash, the Treasury said.
The move to protect cash access comes after a rapid shift to digital banking during the pandemic and a move from lenders to slash their physical footprint around the country.
Lloyds Banking Group was the latest lender to announce a swathe of branch cuts, announcing yesterday that 20 Lloyds and eight Halifax branches would be shuttered between August and November this year.
Around 5,000 bank branches have disappeared from UK high streets since 2015, nearly half of the country’s branch network, according to consumer group Which?.