On 11 July 2012 the APPG on Debt and Personal Finance hosted a breakfast seminar to launch a new report from Citizens Advice called Access to Cash – Don’t Bank on It.
Director of Policy and Advocacy at Citizens Advice, Teresa Perchard, argued that after a decade of progress, with the development of a free cash machine network and basic bank account provision, the situation was now in reverse.
She highlighted that taxpayer-owned RBS and Natwest had pulled access to rivals’ ATMs for basic bank account customers. Looking to the future, Ms Perchard argued that the UK could be at the start of a slippery slope if more banks imposed the kind of measures made by RBS and NatWest on their basic bank account customers.
The Co-operative Bank’s Head of Payments, David Fawell, said that in 2011, the Co-operative opened 8 percent of all UK basic bank accounts, despite having a much lower overall market share. This was putting pressure on the Co-operative which could not support all customers’ cash needs by itself. Fawell said that all banks needed to commit to retaining a strong LINK network.
Chief Executive of The Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL), Mark Lyonette, said that pre-paid card users were still charged at free cash points and were not able to get cashback in shops. He went on to say the UK was on the edge of a revolution in payments: the introduction of Universal Credit meant people would receive larger sums of money less often and, as a result, the commercial sector might see an increase in “bill and budget accounts”.
The Chair, Yvonne Fovargue summarised that there was a need for action from a “community of concern”, including banks, cash machine network providers and consumer groups. The report highlighted the very real issue of access to cash which was under pressure from a commercial network that had started to engage in “social dumping”.