The UK Government is to set up a ‘Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group’ to ensure continued access to notes and coins as the country drifts towards a digital economy.
The ongoing removal of bank branches and ATMs from Britain’s high streets has led to a rowdy debate about the consequences for a disenfranchised segment of the populace – estimated to comprise eight million individuals – who would struggle to cope in a cashless society.
In recent evidence to the Treasury Committee, Charles Randell, chair of the Payment Systems Regulator, said that the whole system of access to cash needs to be looked at afresh.
At Spring Statement 2018, the UK Chancellor announced a call for evidence into cash and digital payments in the new economy. In total, 218 respondents provided feedback, including 132 members of the public and 86 organisations, charities and businesses.
Whilst respondents were keen that the government continues to support digital payments, they also reflected on the importance of cash in many people’s daily lives.
With this in mind, the Treasury has pledged to set up the new cash strategy group to provide “comprehensive oversight of the overall cash infrastructure, including steps to make this infrastructure more resilient and efficient, and consider how best to ensure access to cash for those who need it”.
The Government has also confirmed that earlier plans to scrap low denomination 1p and 2p coins have been abandoned, saying that it has no plans to alter the current make up of UK coins and notes in circulation.
Chancellor Phillip Hammond says that the decision was made to reflect the value placed on cash as a symbol of independence and important budgeting tool, particularly for elderly and vulnerable people.
“It is clear that many people still rely on cash and I want the public to have a choice over how they spend the money,” he says.
The UK’s influential Treasury Committee has called on the Government to go further, urging a review into the incidence of shops that do not accept cash.
“Any significant reduction in access to cash is unacceptable,” says Treasury Committee chair Micky Miorgan. “The new JACS Group is a welcome step, but the Government must ensure that it implements the Access to Cash Review’s recommendations urgently, and in full, to protect access to cash.
“Additionally, HM Treasury should undertake an analysis of the incidence of shops and other service providers not accepting cash, and the Chancellor should make cash policy an explicit responsibility of the relevant Treasury minister.