Barclays has pulled out of an agreement that would see its customers able to withdraw and deposit cash into their bank accounts over Post Office counters
The decision has not been well received, with many concerned that it undermines efforts to provide banking services to many communities that have seen their local bank branches and ATMs disappear over the last few years.
Which?, the consumer group, said that Barclays move was a "shocking decision". The group have been concerned about the UK’s cash system and our shift towards a cashless society for a while, and are calling on the government to introduce legislation that will guarantee that customers can use and access cash for as long as necessary.
Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, Rachel Reeves, called the decision ‘unjustifiable’ and urged Barclay’s to ‘think again’ about going back on their agreement with Post Office.
Ms Reeves said: "This decision comes at a time when, across the banking sector, High Street branches are closing and free cashpoints are under threat.
"It's essential that the future viability of the Post Office network is secured and unfortunately this decision from Barclays suggests they are forgetting their wider social responsibilities."
The Payment Systems Regulator, which oversees the cash system, said it was "concerned about the impact" and have announced that they will be monitoring Barclays as a result of their move "[reducing] the number of places their customers can go to get cash".
According to Natalie Ceeney, Barclays customers make a combined 1.2 million cash withdrawals from Post Office counters each month.
Ceeney, who wrote an Access to Cash Review this year, says that “the cash system that supports them must be cherished, not undermined" and is calling on the bank to reconsider its decision for the benefit of those who still rely predominantly on cash.
Barclays have said that they will not allow customers to withdraw money from their accounts via the Post Office, but cash deposits can still be made. Their reasoning for opting out of the scheme is that it would be more efficient for them to find alternative ways for their customers to bank.
Instead, Barclays plans to launch a cashback scheme within small businesses in areas in which there is no branch or ATM within a 1km radius. They have also vowed to freeze the closure of remote branches for two years, as well as ‘last-in-town’ branches.
They claim that 99% of Barclays customers who make cash withdrawals from the Post Office already reside in an area in which they have a branch or a free-to-use ATM available.
The bank says they are “committed” to its partnership with the Post Office and will continue to allow customers to deposit cash at its branches.
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